Al-Ahram Weekly Online   23 - 29 September 2010
Issue No. 1016
Reader's corner
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Readers' corner

What's the big deal?

Sir-- Why are you trying to make your president something he is not? If he was walking in the back, then he was walking in the back. And, by the way, what's the big difference? He was just a couple of feet behind. That doesn't make him any less important.

Susan Maskett

Bad job

Sir-- I read an article about how the daily Al-Ahram doctored a photo to have Mubarak standing out in front of Obama. I personally don't care who is in front or if the photo is altered but the image I saw was horribly done.

Robert Cordle
New Jersey

When parking the wrong way

Sir-- Parking horizontally in a vertical parking space may seem simple but when multiplied in number, it can cause mayhem. It takes more space, people have less space to park, they're forced to park where they shouldn't, the number multiplies, the roads get crowded, some could be late for an exam, some could be late for work, some could lose their jobs, ambulances could be caught in this traffic jam, some could lose their lives. It seems so surreal, so improbable, yet there is no reason it wouldn't happen. A simple break-out from a simple rule can cause total chaos.

Sherif Khairi

Cutting corners

Sir-- The US government's public statements that it is "accelerating" the training of the Afghan National Army (ANA) are misleading. In 2004, ANA training was legitimately accelerated when the number of recruits undergoing training was doubled. Currently, the acceleration in training is being accomplished by shortening the training from 14 weeks (six weeks of basic training, six weeks of advanced infantry training and two weeks of collective training) to a dismally short eight weeks.

While the criteria for graduating a recruit apparently remain classified, the concept is to graduate members who pass a minimum number of validation exercises successfully.

Recruits can fail a number of tests and still graduate. In other instances, the tests may have been doctored. Minimal marksmanship scores are up. That would seem to be a good thing until one examines this statistic. One cause for this "improvement" is that American trainers shortened the target lengths from 300 metres to 250 metres. It is not clear whether other tests have likewise been adjusted. After reviewing the available public information, there is no way to properly assess whether the Pentagon's new training programme for the ANA is producing minimally capable soldiers, or simply producing cannon fodder.

For example, the ANA's recruit literacy levels remain under 15 per cent. How can a professional army function if no one can read orders or manuals or write reports?

While American mass production techniques have produced, on paper, an Afghan army of 134,000, that army is plagued with a desertion rate somewhere between 14-20 per cent per year, which is staggering. The entire Afghan army essentially deserts over a five-to six-year period.

Matthew Nasuti

Al-Ahram Weekly reserves the right to edit letters submitted to Readers' Corner for brevity and clarity. Readers are advised to limit their letters to a maximum of 300 words.

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