KABUL -- The Afghan Ministry of Defence has launched a programme to offer support, including condolences, cash and food, to the families of slain Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers.
"The purpose of this programme is not only to provide assistance but also for Ministry of Defence authorities to visit the families of the martyred soldiers, check on them and tend to their problems," said Rohullah Ahmadzai, a ministry spokesman.
"This programme has begun starting in the eastern zone, and ... our assistance will be distributed province by province in Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar, Herat and Balkh to the families of martyred members of the ANA," he said, adding that the initiative will continue in all areas of Afghanistan.
"Assistance includes both cash and food," he said.
Supporting the heroes of Afghanistan
Gen. (ret.) Dawlat Waziri, a former spokesman for the Defence Ministry, welcomed the launch of this programme, calling it an important initiative.
"ANA soldiers are the real heroes who fight terrorists to defend the freedom of this country," he said. "The families of the martyred army members deserve assistance."
The assistance programme will boost soldiers' morale and should have been implemented years ago, said Farooq Bashar, a Kabul University law professor and political analyst.
"This programme should continue both until the widows of the martyred soldiers are no longer alive and until their children have reached the age of 18," he said.
"This will have a positive impact on the morale of other soldiers, giving them the confidence that if they get killed or injured, their families won't remain hungry and their children will be able to go to school," he said. "This will boost the morale of soldiers."
Nadar Khan Katawazi, a representative of Paktika Province in the Wolesi Jirga, praised the initiative, which comes at a time when a majority of Afghans are facing difficult economic conditions and a shortage of food.
Providing support to the families of fallen ANA members will have a positive effect on the morale of other soldiers, he said.
"This programme will have an even stronger impact if the assistance is provided honestly to the families of martyred ANA soldiers in a transparent manner," he said.
Boosting morale, deterring terrorism
Besides having a positive impact on other soldiers and their families, supporting the families of fallen ANA soldiers can help anti-government elements realise that their fight against the government is a mistake, said Bashar.
Those who join the Taliban, the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) and al-Qaeda do so to earn some money and provide for their families, he said.
It is the responsibility of every government and organisation to tend to the families of their soldiers, Bashar said, noting that the Taliban leadership uses its foot soldiers as machines and do not check on their families once they are dead.
"If the insurgents stop fighting, abandon their enmity toward civilians and join the government, obviously the government will support them," Bashar said.
Ahmad Behruz, a Kabul-based political analyst, agreed.
"We have witnessed throughout the years that the Taliban use their fighters only to kill innocent civilians," he said.
"We have not seen Taliban leaders or even their commanders come out of their safe havens and visit the families of their slain fighters in past years," he said. "This is because they only use them."
Behruz shared an example of the Taliban abandoning the families of slain fighters.
"Once I ran into an old mother in one of the hospitals in Kabul who had come from Maidan Wardak Province and was seriously ill," he said. "I paid for her doctor's fees as she asked for help, saying she did not have money to pay for her treatment."
"She told me that the breadwinner of her family was her only son who was killed while serving with the Taliban, forcing them to live in dire poverty now," he said.
Taliban members should know that they have a negative reputation among the Afghan people, Behruz said, adding that they will be killed in the war and their leaders will not help their families.
"It is quite clear that legitimate regimes improve their processes of supporting ordinary civilians and their militaries as they gain strength. One example of this is helping the families of martyred ANA soldiers," Behruz said. "But terrorist groups use the people under their command until they don't need them anymore."