Sunday, February 7, 2010

Karzai considers introducing Afghan conscription

BBC News

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has told a conference of the world's top defence officials in Germany that he is considering introducing conscription.

The Afghan president said at the summit in Munich he wants to build an army and police force of 300,000 by 2012.

His comments come as US-led forces are poised to launch a major offensive in Helmand province against the Taliban.

The Nato commander, General Stanley McChrystal, said the operation would "send a strong signal".

Mr Karzai told the Munich conference that a number of Afghan community leaders had urged him to consider conscription.

"Afghanistan should be able to provide security for its people, so we are no longer a burden on the shoulders of the international community and the partners that are there with us today," he said.

The idea of reintroducing a military draft - which was used in Afghanistan until 1992 - has been suggested before.

Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said last week there was no need for conscription as the army had no lack of recruits.

'Prepare for casualties'

The Nato commander in Afghanistan, Gen McChrystal, promised a major offensive about to begin in central Helmand would send a "strong signal that the Afghan government is expanding its security control".

Thousands of coalition and Afghan troops are converging for the operation to capture the town of Marja, a Taliban stronghold.

The attack - codenamed Moshtarak, which means "together" in the Pashtun language of southern Afghanistan - is expected to begin any day.

UK Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said on Sunday the British public should be ready for military casualties once the offensive begins.

"We shouldn't deny or pretend to people that ... casualties are not a very real risk on these kind of operations and people have to be prepared for that," he said.

Planning has been under way for weeks, with Nato helicopters dropping leaflets on the area warning residents to flee.

Provincial officials said about 35,000 residents of Marja were taking the advice and heading to other parts of Helmand.

One Marja resident, Gul Muhammed, told AFP news agency why he had left town.

"There are Taliban all over the place and foreign troops around Marja," he said. "So I was scared that we might get hurt."

1 comment:

  1. Send Ainsworth to the front line.
    He wouldn't be so keen on the prospect of British casualties then.
    Particularly when there is no need for any.
    An aerial bombardment would do the job without any risk to troops.