Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Army Commander Doubts West Willing to Pay for Afghan Army after 2014: Will West Pay for Afghan Army Post-2014?

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Army Commander Doubts West Willing to Pay for Afghan Army after 2014: Will West Pay for Afghan Army Post-2014?

Article excerpt

OTTAWA - The commander of the Canadian army says he doubts the international community will have the cash or the political stomach after 2014 to sustain the sprawling Afghan security force being trained by NATO allies.

Lt.-Gen. Peter Devlin, the chief of land staff, recently returned from Kabul where roughly 950 Canadians have settled in for a three-year stint under the newly-established training mission.

Some of the questions on his mind during a round of meetings with NATO commanders involved whether the Afghan government will have the means of paying for an army and a police force that is expected to top out at 352,000 members. Devlin also wondered if the perceived threat from Taliban insurgents required building a force of that size.

Current estimates from the country's defence minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, see the Afghans spending over $6.2 billion a year to pay and equip their forces. That's in a country where the budget of the entire federal treasury is $4 billion much of that foreign aid.

Devlin, who commanded NATO's multi-national brigade in Kabul in 2003-04, said the shortfall needs to be recognized.

"Is the international community willing to pay for that?" he asked, rhetorically, in a recent interview with The Canadian Press. "And I'm unsure they will be able to pay for that .... It's my sense."

The ongoing European debt crisis, budget gridlock in the U.S. and even the Harper government's war on the deficit in Canada could all take their toll as western combat forces slowly untangle themselves after more than a decade of fighting.

"My opinion is that the population in those (donor) countries will have a tough time seeing, identifying, feeling the threat that the governments are trying to manage on their behalf," said Devlin.

"There are governments that are trying to deal with the wishes of their people and are dealing with the fiscal reality of 2014. And I'm uncertain there will be the resources and the willingness to pay for the delta that will exist between the Afghan government's ability to pay and the cost of an Afghan National Army."

Such a scenario might be uncomfortable, but Devlin said it could force the Karzai government to take more ownership of security forces and their budget than in the past. …

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