The Afghan National Army: Sustainability Challenges beyond Financial Aspects

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Note: In “The Afghan National Army: Sustainability Challenges beyond Financial Aspects”, published by AREU on 21st May 2014, Dr. Antonio Giustozzi and Peter Quentin provide an assessment of the Afghan National Army’s organizational resilience and maturity in measuring the likelihoods of its sustainability beyond 2014.

With international military assistance to Afghanistan reducing gradually after 2014, a key question facing Afghanistan is how it might bring about the much needed sustainability into its national army; a force that is funded, designed and trained by the western allies of Afghanistan, ever since the 2001 western intervention.

The ANA is commonly viewed as one of the post-2001 Afghanistan’s strongest institutions, if not the strongest. However, with the imminent withdrawal of international forces, the ANA’s ability to stand on its own and successfully confront its enemies faces its first major test. This study shows that crucial weaknesses and flaws continue to undermine the ANA’s readiness; these could derail its efforts to contain or defeat the ongoing insurgency.

The debate on sustainability of the Afghan armed forces has focused mainly on financial concerns. This paper however, strives to go beyond financial aspects. Although the ANA and Afghan political leadership have some reason to complain about the under-equipping of the ANA, by 2013 it was clear that there was little that could be done about that in the short term. Instead, the ANA would do better to make the best use of what it has and manage it as efficiently as it can in 2015, in order to gain sufficient credibility to persuade external donors to keep investing in it. For the same reason the ANA needs a realistic deployment plan, in order to avoid exposing its greatest weaknesses, including logistics. To speed up the development of components such as logistics and administration, the ANA should devise incentives to attract more high school graduates.

Overall, of major challenges that ANA faces in the near future, some are the result of long-term neglect and cannot be quickly rectified. Others, however, are the result of political interference and patronage network building, which could be addressed if there was the political will to do so.

“The Afghan National Army: Sustainability Challenges beyond Financial Aspects” is available for download at:
  • Please note that Dari and Pashto copies of this study will be available soon.

  • This research and publication was made possible by generous support of government of Finland.

About AREU

The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) is an independent research organisation based in Kabul. AREU’s mission is to inform and influence policy and practice through conducting high-quality, policy-relevant research and actively disseminating the results, and to promote a culture of research and learning. To achieve its mission AREU engages with policymakers, civil society, researchers, and students to promote their use of AREU’s research and its library, to strengthen their research capacity, and to create opportunities for analysis, reflection, and debate. AREU was established in 2002 by the assistance community working in Afghanistan.

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