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Afghan Security Force Members Demobilize, Recommit

American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Jan. 10, 2006 – Nearly 300 members of the Afghan Security Force demobilized in ceremonies last week in Afghanistan's Paktika province, and many of them joined the country's growing army and police force, military officials reported.

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Former members of the Afghan Security Force wait in line to speak with recruiters from the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police in Afghanistan's Paktika province after an ASF demobilization ceremony Jan. 6. Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Jason M. Cauley, USA
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The ceremonies were the second and third of their kind, following a similar demobilization Nov. 6 for several hundred ASF members who served in the Nangarhar province, officials said.

The Afghan Security Force has worked with U.S. forces since 2003. Its members were trained to provide base camp and mission security for coalition forces throughout Afghanistan. Officials credit the recent history of successes in the stabilization of the Afghan government and the strengthening of the still-growing Afghan National Army with making the ongoing ASF demobilization possible.

"The ASF filled a void in the fight against the enemies of Afghanistan," said a coalition special operations servicemember who assisted in planning both ceremonies in Paktika. His name cannot be released for security reasons.

"The demobilization ceremonies honor their service while simultaneously reinforcing the aspect of the government of Afghanistan's ability to stand on its own," he said. The ceremonies afforded coalition leaders the opportunity to personally thank the ASF for their service, he added.

The demobilizing ASF members were given 500 to 2,000 U.S. dollars in severance pay, depending on length of service. They were also given official documentation of their service, and each member was awarded the "Heart of a Lion" Medal. The medal, officials said, symbolizes their dedication to duty and the sacrifices made in the war on terrorism.

"Because you have the courage and the heart of a lion, today we want to recognize you for your courage," said a commander during his speech at the ceremony Friday. The commander is also a Special Forces member whose name cannot be revealed for security purposes. "I thank you all for your service. I honor you for your courage."

A $500 sign-up bonus was offered as an incentive to retain the skilled members of the ASF who joined the ANA or the Afghan National Police following the ceremonies. The lines to the recruiters' stations nearby grew instantly after the respective ceremonies concluded.

Looking at the eagerness of the newly demobilized ASF to join the formal Afghan forces, one might assume the bonus was the driving force behind the long lines. But a coalition servicemember who trained and served alongside the ASF members said this assumption would be in error.

"These men aren't in it for the money," he said. "All they want is to defeat the enemy. I know these guys. The money is great, but that is not why they're in line."

Nor Muhammad, a young Afghan waiting in line to join the ANA, supported the coalition servicemember's statements.

"I want to continue to help my country, to make it better," he said. "I don't care about money. I only care about my country being free of enemies and becoming a safe place for our people."

Regardless of their motivation, 89.4 percent of the demobilizing ASF pledged their continuing service to their country by enlisting in either the ANA or the ANP. Of the 292 ASF members demobilized last week, 180 enlisted in the ANA and 71 joined the ANP.

"They bring with them significant combat experience, patriotism and true leadership skills," said the coalition servicemember.

An estimated 1,800 ASF members remain to be demobilized.

(From a Combined Forces Command Afghanistan news release.)

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Combined Forces Command Afghanistan

Click photo for screen-resolution imageMujahd Abdoor Rahman, a former Afghan Security Force member, speaks with an ANA recruiter about his future in the Afghan National Army following an ASF demobilization ceremony Jan. 6 in Afghanistan's Paktika province. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason M. Cauley, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA member of the Afghan Security Force receives his severance pay Jan. 5 after a demobilization ceremony in Afghanistan's Paktika province. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason M. Cauley, USA  
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