The Afghan military today is an all volunteer force. As of 2012 the approved end-strength for the Afghan National Army [ANA] the projected end-strength required to support transition to Afghan security lead was 195,000 personnel by October 2012. The 195,000 end-strength goal would give Afghanistan the world's 22nd largest Army, nearly even with Taiwan's 200,000, but ahead of the 190,000 of Thailand and Brazil. Afghanistan is the 10th poorest county in the world.
In May 2012 there were reports that NATO's defense ministers had prepared a draft agenda for the may 2012 Chicago summit at a meeting on 02 February 2012. It was reported that budgetary constraints would cause the force that will soon reach its combined goal of 352,000 uniformed personnel (both Army and Police) to be rapidly cut back starting around 2015 to 228,500 [a suspiciously precise number, according to some]. This would appear to reflect a return to something like the force goals set in 2008 and achieved in 2010, implying an end-strength for the Afghan National Army of about 135,000 soldiers.
Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said "I have told them that this number is too little in comparison to forces in regional countries and they will not be able to maintain security on their own after foreign troops' withdrawal." Minister of Interior Bismillah Mohammadi told the Afghan parliament that the government would ask NATO states at the May 2012 summit to delay reduce the strength of Afghan security forces to 2017.
The initial goal was reaching a critical mass of 20,000 troops, which would imbue the ANA with considerable influence in the political landscape, was achievable, but was dependent on increased international support and improved recruitment. Also, an ANA of this size would be far from sufficient to guarantee security on a countrywide level.
The 2001 Bonn Agreement established the goal of a 50,000-person ANA and a 62,000-person Afghan Naitonal Police (ANP). The Bonn II Agreement in December of 2002 expanded the ANA target end-strength to 70,000 personnel.
As of February 2005, around 24,000 people had been recruited in the ANA since its creation in 2002 and 28,000 people in the ANP. The country planned to have a trained 70,000-strong army and 50,000-strong police force by 2006. At that time there were 20,000 people on standby in 34 ANA recruitment centers. The ANA could recruit 3,000 every month, but could only recruit 100 applicants from each province every month to maintain the ethnic balance of the Army. In addition to ex-poppy growers, many of the demobilised ex-combatants had also chosen to join the ANA.
As of 2007 the Afghan National Army was 36,000 strong and on its way to an end-strength of 70,000. Since the Bonn Agreements and the international declaration of the Afghanistan Compact in 2006, security conditions had evolved, with a resurgence of activity by insurgents and anti-government elements. Consequently, in May 2007, the international community's Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) approved an increase to 82,000 authorized ANP. Similarly, with the endorsement of the JCMB on 5 February 2008, the authorized ANA force structure increased to 80,000 personnel, with an additional 6,000 allotted for the trainee, transient, hospital, and student account.
In September 2008, the JCMB, co-chaired by the Afghan government and the United Nations, agreed to increase the total strength of the ANA to 122,000 personnel with a 12,000 man training margin. As of February 2009, the ANA had an actual strength of 79,300 personnel. This represented 59 percent of the 134.000 approved strength, which was scheduled at that time to be reached by the end of 2011. Operationally, the ANA was fielding 5 Corps Headquarters, a Capital Division responsible for the security of the Kabul area, and an ANA Air Corps providing the essential air support to the ANA brigades deployed throughout Afghanistan. Over 90 percent of ISAF operations were conducted in conjunction with the ANA.
On 10 September 2008, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs announced that the expansion of the Afghan army would change from a goal of some 85,000 men to 162,100 troops. "We can train and help grow the Afghan security forces ... and we are. In fact, they are on track to reach total end strength of 162,000 troops by 2010.... But until those Afghan forces have the support of local leaders to improve security on their own, we will only be as much as a crutch, and a temporary one at that."
By 2010 the Afghan National Army had grown from 97,000 to 138,164, while the police force rose from about 95,000 to 120,500. In 2011 the end-strength was 171,600. The 135,000 end-strength goal discussed in early 2012 would give Afghanistan the world's 26th largest Army, just behind Japan which has 152,000 soldiers, even with Ethiopia's 135,000 soldiers, and ahead of the 130,000 soldiers of France. No trustworthy statistics regarding the strength of the Afghan army are available, but there does not appear to be any moment in history in which Afghanistan had so large an army.
When the Afghan armies of Ahmad Shah Abdali were overrunning the Punjab, and threatening Hindustan, neither the Moghuls nor the Mahrattas ever troubled themselves about the Afghans until the invaders reached Delhi. Ahmad ShahAbdali died in 1773, and his sons were too much occupied in fighting one another for the throne to attempt a renewal of their aggressions on Hindustan. In the mid-18th century the strength of the Afghan army was 60,000, half of which were the Afghans-Abdali tribe's troops. In the mid-19th century the cavalry was the traditional strength of the Afghan army. The main strength of the Afghan army was in the Douranee [Durrani] horse. The Douranee tribes had been settled in Western Afghanistan by Nadir Shah. He had first conquered, then taken them into his service.
As of 1876 the strength of the Afghan army was calculated at 57 regiments of infantry of a nominal strength of 650 bayonets [that is, 37,000 troops]. Fifty of these regiments were thought to be properly equipped. There were 16 regular cavalry regiments, each composed of four troops of 100 men each, for 6,400 total. Of irregular cavalry there were 8,000 horsemen. Besides these, there were about 3,500 irregular infantry or jezailohees, aud a local militia, of whom not more than from 1,000 to 1,500 could be got together at one place. At that time, the population is estimated at 2,500,000 souls.
Beginning in the late 19th century, Afghan rulers introduced conscription to address challenges of manpower within the army and to unify the country's fractious social groups and regions. Because the Afghan state was weak and the tribes strong, Afghan rulers had to negotiate with the tribes to secure manpower for the army. Tribal leaders often selected sub-standard recruits, usually the least wanted among the tribe. In the year 1900, including tribal levies, the effective war strength of the Afghan army was supposed to exceed 50,000 men. In 1906 it was said to number between 60,000 and 90,000 men, including 9,000 cavalry. In 1919 the strength of the Afghan army was placed at about 98,000 men, including 18,000 cavalry, at which time the control of foreign policy rested entirely in the British government of India.
From 1939 to 1953, Muhammad Daud Khan, commander of the Kabul Army Corps under King Zahir Shah, resumed efforts to build a modern conscript army. Armed revolts were common - especially among Pashtun tribes in the south and east. Bribery and corruption were common. By the 1950s, approximately half the military budget was lost to corruption and waste; meanwhile, the army was disintegrating. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Afghan army relied increasingly on the Soviet Union for training and organization. These efforts were to no avail, leading up to the collapse of Afghanistan's communist government in 1979 and the Soviet invasion.
The combat readiness of the Army of the Democratic Republicof Afghanistan plunged as government purges swept the officer corps. Soldiers, units and entire regiments deserted to the resistance and by the end of 1979, the actual strength of the Afghan Army was less than half of its authorized strength of 90,000. One estimate held that the numerical strength of the Afghan Army eroded from about 80,000 in 1978 to as low as 25,000 by the end of 1980. By another estimate, in the 1980s the strength of the Afghan Army had dwindled from 110,000 to less than 40,000. Rand Corporation estimated in 1980 that, as a result of defections and purges, the troop strength of the Afghan army had fallen from 120,000 to about 40-50,000. Some US intelligence experts believed the functioning strength of the Afghan army had dropped to 30,000 men in early 1984. Yet another source reports that before the 1978 coup, the strength of the Afghan army was placed at 100,000 men - by the end of 1980, this figure had fallen to 30,000, and only 10,000-15,000 of these were valued as an effective fighting force.
Asian Defence News