Being an Afghan General Is Nice Work if You Can Get It. And Many Do.
Afghanistan may struggle to recruit enough soldiers for its armed forces, but it’s swimming in generals.
The country has close to 1,000 officers of general rank on its books — more than the United States, whose military is three times as large. And off the books? No one knows.
New names are added to the roster at a rate far out of proportion to battlefield realities, where the Afghan armed forces — the army, national police and intelligence forces, numbering 350,000 in all — have been steadily losing soldiers and territory to the Taliban. Meanwhile, retirements are rare.
The United States government, which picks up much of the tab for the Afghan military, can’t pin down the number of generals. “We still don’t know how many police and how many soldiers we’re paying salaries for,” said John F. Sopko, the United States special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. “We don’t even know how many generals. It is pretty pathetic, and here we are, 15 years into this.”
美国政府承担阿富汗军队的很大一部分费用，但却无法确定将军的人数。“我们依然不知道自己在给多少警察和士兵支付薪水，”美国阿富汗重建特别监察长约翰·F·索普科(John F. Sopko)说。“我们甚至不知道有多少名将军。这很可悲，因为我们已经在这里15年了。”
It’s nice work if you can get it, with fairly good pay, fringe benefits and a pension. So how do you become an Afghan general?
Some of them have climbed the command ladder for decades, working hard and surviving purges by successive governments. But others took much easier routes.
Suppose you are the young son of a former warlord who has just died. Along with condolences, the government will make you a general, as if the rank were hereditary. Commissions are also handed out as political thank-yous to male relatives of important figures. And in the golden age of general-making — the 1990s civil war — they were sometimes distributed in lieu of pay.
In the anarchy that followed the Soviet withdrawal, hundreds of generals were born overnight. Sibghatullah Mujadidi, the interim president of the mujahedeen government, which was backed by the Central Intelligence Agency, had little to offer the disheveled fighters who crowded his waiting room, so an aide kept note of whoever asked to become a general.
在苏联撤离的混乱时期，一夜之间诞生了成百上千名将军。中央情报局(Central Intelligence Agency)支持的圣战组织政府的临时总统西卜加图拉·穆贾迪迪(Sibghatullah Mujadidi)无以回报挤满等候室的衣冠不整的战士，所以让助手记下所有想当将军的人的名字。
According to Abdul Hafiz Mansour, who ran state television at the time and is now a member of Parliament, a confidant of the president — often his son — would turn up at the studios every evening to hand the news anchor a list of new generals to declare. One night, he said, there were 38 names.
阿卜杜勒·哈菲兹·曼苏尔(Abdul Hafiz Mansour)当时是国家电视台的主管，现在是一名议员。他说，总统的心腹——通常是他儿子——每天晚上会出现在播音室，递给新闻主播一份需要宣布的新将军的名单。他说，有一天晚上，共宣布了38名将军。
“The list would be handwritten on a plain sheet of paper — there was no logo, no official stationery,” Mr. Mansour said.
The list sometimes grew mysteriously on the way from the president’s office to the studio. Mr. Mansour said he knew of current generals who had gotten their rank in those days through a little clandestine photocopying and the stroke of a pen.
In response to the TV announcements, rival factions across the country would summarily declare their own generals. The former warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, who now serves as vice president of Afghanistan, awarded stars to many of the men closest to him, and even printed his own currency to pay them. The joke was that among General Dostum’s bodyguards, there were no colonels.
作为对电视上宣布的将军的回应，阿富汗各地的敌对派系会立刻宣布自己的将军。前军阀、现阿富汗副总统阿卜杜勒·拉希德·杜斯塔姆(Abdul Rashid Dostum)曾给自己的很多亲信颁发军衔，甚至用自己印刷的货币作为酬劳。当时的一个大笑话是，杜斯塔姆将军的警卫队里没有上校。