Monday, November 13, 2006

Another Article

From the LATimes comes an article on the Afghan National Army (ANA). Particularly interesting is the discussion about the focus on making a multi-ethnic army, aimed at providing a unifying symbol for Afghanistan. This is something, as the article notes, that never existed before. Something I still find confusing is the "Afghan" identity and what it means to those claiming it. Similar issues, of course, come up with may nations in the region carved from colonialism. But Afghanistan, with it not being under the brits or any other recent colonizers, I find particulary interesting and difficult to understand.

The article discusses some of the disparities between the US soldiers training and operating with the ANA, and are somewhat expected. More interesting to me was the info and insights on the internal issues of the ANA and how the soldiers are dealing with the "unified army". The aspirations seem noble and provide some hope, though as the article notes, achieving that will depend on the actual existence and growth of the ANA (which goes back to the more technical issues the ANA faces).

Either way, and interesting read. I'd love to hear what some Afghans think about the article and the aims of the ANA for providing a "unified Afghan" identity (Hamesha?, HIK?). Also, I wonder if the US army is using it's own history of integration efforts and lessons learned there, and also the benifits of such, in its work with the ANA.


hamesha said...

This is a very interesting topic, Q. It used to be (under the monarchy and even later) that non-Pashtun Afghanistanis could not rise in rank above a certain threshold in the army. The composition and proportional representation of minorities in the national army was distorted and a matter highly political.
Speaking from the standpoint of social engineering, I think that the successful recruitment, training, and retaining of a truly multi-ethnic national army is one of the biggest steps towards forging a national identity -without getting into the question of whether this is desireable or possible in Afghanistan. It is probably up there with equitable political representation and nationally syndicated newspapers and a common vernacular. But social engineering has had its notable setbacks in many societies, and is considerably harder to implement in this day and age. Besides, I am not sure whether the desire to forge a truly representative ANA is a sincere one or whether it will survive so many fractious tendencies.
As to who is an Afghan, well, it is a longer story. True, Afghanistan has not been colonized per se, but we are in a sense victims of colonialism in the same way as so many colonized societies in Africa. The principal raison d'etre of Afghanistan as a nation was not any desire on the part of its people to be a unified country but rather the need for a buffer zone between the great powers of the time, in the late 19th century. This resulted in an unwilling amalgam of various ethnicities that have not struck upon a viable national agenda or social contract ever since and whose long history of internecine conflict (whether cold or hot) has been interrupted by intermittent intervention from foreigners. I am of the opinion that a Swiss constitutional model (a unique brand of confederalism called consociationalism) is the best we can hope for in Afghanistan, but many are not amiable to that suggestion and in fact fear it and deem it a betrayal of the still undefined and unrealized 'national' cause.
So who is an Afghan? Well, incidentally I am wondering about the same question in one of my posts today -after I came across this infuriating concept of "Afghaniyat" somewhere.

janet said...

"Unified Afghan" HAHHAHAHAHAH

homeinkabul said...

hamesha, very well thought-out and insightful. I'll be honest, I haven't thought about it properly to make a contribution to this discussion...but I often think that muhajerat (being a refugee) may help our disjointed society more than anything else. I think we may be the closest one could get to a sincere 'afghaniyat' than others.

But then I read Janet's blog and am depressed. An Afghan-American girl who identifies herself as Tajik rather than Afghan.

Never mind what I said about 'Afghaniyat'