Ghani axe on generals

2000 army commanders to make way for new blood

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Kabul: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani plans to retire more than 2,000 army generals and other senior officers, aiming to bring new blood into the military's top ranks to battle a resilient Taliban insurgency, officials said.

Many of the existing commanders are "too old to keep up with modern warfare", a senior military official said, adding that the US military had been pressing for a clear-out of the ranks. The army structure is top-heavy with senior officers, reflecting a country that has been at war for nearly 40 years.

But the plan is causing resentment among the veteran officers, many of whom fought in US-backed mujahideen against Soviet occupation in the 1980s, the civil war in the 1990s, or were part of the 1990s Northern Alliance opposition to Taliban rule.

"We have more generals and colonels than the US army ... generals and senior officers going back generations who can't fight, can't lead and have occupied their posts for years," said a senior government official.

"The shake-up is absolutely necessary because our allies, particularly the Americans, have clearly told that us they won't be able to win with this current set-up," said the official, who declined to be identified.

Dawlat Waziri, spokesman at the ministry of defence, said 164 generals and other senor officers were retired last week, adding that about 2,100 more generals and colonels would be retired in phases over the next 18 months.

Younger officers had been frustrated by a lack of promotion for years, Waziri said.

"They were stuck in one post and could not get promotion and it was hurting their morale," he said.

Retiring officers would get $250 for every year of service, plus a pension of several hundred dollars a month, the first official said.

Younger officers welcomed the plan.

"I knew one day the government would realise that we need to rise up the ranks as we shoulder most of the fighting," said Lt-Col Mohammad Rasuli, a squad leader in the army's 215 Corps based in the southern province of Helmand.

"This decision will give our young officers hope and better morale to defend their country," Rasuli, 29, said by telephone from Lashkar Gah.

A spokesman for the Nato-led mission in Afghanistan said the government was fully responsible for the Afghan security forces and their reform. Reuters


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