Conscription practices after the fall of the Taliban; exemptions, and availability of alternative service; travel restrictions for those who have not compelted service [AFG38725.E]

The Research Directorate was unable to find reports of a new or continuing conscription policy under the current Afghan government among sources consulted for this response.

According to a Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers global report published during the Taliban period:

Afghanistan's 1990 Constitution did not specifically provide for compulsory or voluntary military service, but the status of this document is unclear given the contested nature of the Afghan state. (According to one source, the Constitutions of 1924, 1931, 1964 and 1976 set the age for conscription at 22 with military service lasting two years. In the 1980s, however, the former government lowered the conscription age from 22 to 18 under a state of emergency law (11 June 2001).

A number of reports from November 2001 however do cite incidents or fears of "forced conscription" by the Taliban regime, including among internal refugees and those who left the country (US DOS 2 Nov. 2001; UNHCR 2 Nov. 2001; UN OCHA Situation Report 26 Oct. 2001; HRW 11 Nov. 2000). The UNHCR indicated that the interim Afghan Repatriation Minister, Enyatulah Nazir, "reacted positively to UNHCR's suggestion that amnesty be granted" for refugees outside of Afghanistan who fear repatriation because "they could face prosecution for offences such as avoiding conscription" (UNHCR 24 Jan. 2002).

The interim, post-Taliban Afghan government began development of a national army by holding its first "boot camp" for recruits in February 2002 (CBS News 25 Feb. 2001). Thus far however, "the interim government has struggled to extend its authority beyond Kabul ... [which] tends to be eclipsed by a variety of local warlords, whose loyalty to the central authority can be described as fickle" ( 12 April 2002). This authority was the result of the 27 November to 5 December 2001 UN negotiations held in Bonn that specified that it would hold power until the "Transitional Administration" is elected at the Loya Jirga (UNIC 6 Dec. 2001). The Loya Jirga is a "traditional assembly of provincial elders and powers" (ibid.), to be held 10-16 June 2002 ( 4 Apr. 2002) and empowered to "elect a Head of State for the Transitional Administration and ... approve proposals for the structure and key personnel" (UNIC 6 Dec. 2002).

In a report to the Secretary General of the United Nations dated 18 March 2002, the Security Council described the process of development and recruitment of the Afghan national army as resulting from:

an intense debate over the size and structure of a future Afghan army, following the publication of two papers produced respectively by the International Security Assistance Force, which proposed a force of 50,000, and the Ministry of Defence, which suggested a force of 200,000, training of the first battalion of the new Afghan National Guard by International Security Assistance Force started on 17 February. The [Afghan] Ministry of Defence was asked to provide 20 men from each of Afghanistan's 32 provinces and to ensure that they reflected Afghanistan's ethnic balance. After a worryingly slow start and grossly imbalanced ethnic composition, the programme is now satisfactorily under way. The National Guard will be based primarily in Kabul and will be responsible for guarding the Presidential Palace and the ministries.

In terms of recruitment, this army intends to draw "from all the country's provinces and numerous ethnic groups ... [with men] chosen by local governments and approved by the Defense Ministry of Afghanistan's fledgling interim administration" (CBS News 25 Feb. 2002). Recruitment "remains under the control of the Defense and Interior Ministries" dominated by ethnic Tajiks (RFE/RL 28 Mar. 2002) who also control the "selection and the screening of the soldiers taking part in training " (ibid. 27 Feb. 2002). At the same time, the interim Foreign Minister, Abdullah Abdullah is quoted as saying that there is also a "process for the demobilization and reintegration of armed groups which are not part of the national army and will not be a part of the national army" (ibid. 28 Mar. 2002).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


CBS News. 25 February 2002. "Afghan National Army is Born." [Accessed 24 Apr. 2002]

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. 11 June 2001. Child Soldiers Global Report 2001. [Accessed 24 Apr. 2002] 12 April 2002. Eurasia Insight. Camelia Entekhabi-Fard. "Interim Afghan Government Attemts to Bolster Image of Authority." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2002]

_____. 4 April 2002. Afghanistan's Loya Jirga Special Report "Procedures for the Elections of the Members of the Emergency Loya Jirga." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2002]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 11 November 2001. "Refugee Crisis in Afghanistan: Pakistan, Tajikistan Must Reopen Borders to Fleeing Afghans." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2002]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Features. 28 March 2002. Ron Synovitz. "Afghanistan: Despite U.S. Pledge, Building of National Army Far Behind Schedule." [Accessed 24 Apr. 2002]

_____. Features. 27 February 2002. Ron Synovitz. "Afghanistan: Efforts to Build National Security Force Off to Slow Start." [Accessed 24 Apr. 2002]

United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). 24 January 2002. "UNHCR and Afghanistan's Repatriation Minister Reach Accord on Return of Refugees." [Accessed 24 Apr. 2002]

_____. 2 November 2001. "UNHCR Briefing on Afghanistan Humanitarian Situation, Nov. 2." (Washington File) [Accessed 25 Apr. 2002]

United Nations Information Center (UNIC), Bonn. 6 December 2001. "Agreement on Provisional Arrangements in Afghanistan Pending the Re-Establishment of Permanent Government Institutions." [Accessed 13 Apr. 2002]

United Nations, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). 26 October 2001. "Afghanistan OCHA Situation Report No. 15" (ReliefWeb) [Accessed 25 Apr. 2002]

United Nations Security Council (UNSC). 18 March 2002. (A/56/875-S/2002/278). "The Situation in Afghanistan and Its Implications for International Peace and Security: Report to the Secretary General."(ReliefWeb) [Accessed 24 Apr. 2002]

_____. 6 December 2001. (SC/7234). "Security Council Endorses Afghanistan Agreement on Interim Arrangements Signed Yesterday in Bonn, Unanimously Adopting Resolution 1383 (2001)." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2002]

US Department of State (DOS). 2 November 2001. "Fact Sheet: Taliban Actions Imperil Afghan Civilians." [Accessed 25 Apr. 2002]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB Databases


World News Connection