During the 1960s to the early 1990s, the Afghan army was trained and equipped by the Soviet Union. By 1992 the national army fragmented into regional militias under local warlords. This was followed by the Taliban rule in 1996, which had their own armed forces. After the removal of the Taliban in late 2001, the new Afghan National Army began to be created with the support of US and other NATO countries.
The ANA is being equipped with modern weapons and provided with newly-built state-of-the-art housing facilities. Since 2002, billions of US dollars worth of military equipment, facilities, and other forms of aid has been provided to the ANA. Most of the weapons come from the United States, which includes 2,500 Humvees, tens of thousands of M-16 assault rifles, body armored jackets as well as other types of vehicles and weapons. It also includes the building of a national military command center, with training compounds in different parts of the country.
To thwart and dissolve former militias or Taliban supporters, the government of Afghanistan has offered cash and vocational training to encourage members to join the ANA. As of May 2008, the Afghan National Army comprises at least 76,000 active troops.
The Afghan National Army has existed since at least 1880s when the country was ruled by Emir Abdur Rahman Khan. Prior to that, from 1709 to 1880, the army of Afghanistan was usually a mixture of tribesmen and militia forces, as well as a special army force under the ruler of the country. The Afghan National Army was modernized by King Amanullah Khan in the early 1900s just before the Third Anglo-Afghan War. King Amanullah and his Afghan army defeated the British on August 19, 1919, in which Afghanistan declared full independence from the UK over its foreign affairs. The Afghan army was further modernized or upgraded during King Zahir Shah's reign, starting in 1933.
From the 1960s to the early 1990s, the Afghan army was being trained and equipped mostly by the former Soviet Union. In the 1970s, the number of troops in the Afghan army was at its peak with approximately 200,000 personnel.
During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, in the 1980s, the National Army of Afghanistan was involved in fighting against the mujahideen rebel groups. Many of them began deserting or defecting because the great majority of the Afghan people favored the rebels. By 1992, after the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan and the fall of the communist regime in Kabul, the Soviet-trained army ceased to exist. During that time local militia forces were formed and provided security for their own people living in the territories they controlled. The country was factionalized with different warlords controlling the territories they claimed, and there was no officially recognized national army in the country.
This era was followed by the Taliban regime in 1996, which removed the militia forces and decided to control the country by Islamic Sharia law. The Taliban also had their own army troops and commanders, some of whom were secretly trained by the intelligence agency (ISI) or military of Pakistan and CIA of USA in the border region on the Durand Line. After the removal of the Taliban in late 2001, the new Afghan National Army was founded with the help of US and NATO countries.
Upon his election the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai set a goal of an army of at least 70,000 men by 2009. However, many western military experts as well as the Defense Minister of Afghanistan, Abdul Wardak, believe that 70,000 is insufficient and that the nation needs at least 200,000 active troops in order to defend the country from the Taliban, al-Qaida, and other threats.
The first battalions of this new army were recruited and trained by 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group of Ft. Bragg, NC, under the command of LTC McDonnell. 3rd SFG built the training facilities and ranges for early use, using a Soviet built facility on the eastern side of Kabul, near the then ISAF headquarters. The first training commenced in approximately late May 2002, with a difficult but successful recruitment process of bringing hundreds of new recruits in from all parts of Afghanistan. Early training was done in Pashto, Tajik and some Arabic due to the very diverse ethnicities.
By January, 2003 just over 1,700 soldiers in five Kandaks (Pashto for battalions) had completed the 10-week training course, and by June 2003 a total of 4,000 troops had been trained. Initial recruiting problems lay in the lack of cooperation from regional warlords and inconsistent international support. The problem of desertion dogged the force in its early days: in the summer of 2003, the desertion rate was estimated to be ten percent and in mid-March, 2004 estimate suggested that 3,000 soldiers had deserted.
Soldiers in the new army initially received $30 a month during training and $50 a month upon graduation, though pay for trained soldiers has since risen to $120. Some recruits were under 18 years of age and many could not read or write. Recruits who only spoke the Pashto language experienced difficulty because instruction was usually given through interpreters who spoke Dari.
Growth continued, however, and the Afghan National Army had expanded to 5,000 trained soldiers by July 2003. That month, approximately 1,000 ANA soldiers were deployed in the US-led Operation Warrior Sweep, marking the first major combat operation for Afghan troops.
|1,750||January 9, 2003|
|6,000||September 29, 2003|
|6,000||January 22, 2004|
|8,300, plus 2,500 in training||April 30, 2004|
|12,360||June 29, 2004|
|13,000||August 8, 2004|
|13,500, plus 3,000 in training||September 13, 2004|
|17,800, plus 3,400 in training||January 10, 2005|
|26,000, plus 4,000 in training||September 16, 2005|
|26,900||January 31, 2006|
|36,000||January 10-22, 2007|
|46,177||April 12, 2007|
|50,000||June 6, 2007|
|50,000||October 18, 2007|
|57,000||December 2, 2007|
|76,600||May 14, 2008|
The basic unit in the Afghan National Army is the Kandak (Battalion), consisting of 600 troops. Although the vast majority is infantry, at least one mechanized and one tank Battalion have been formed; more may be planned. An elite special forces unit modelled on the U.S. Army Rangers is also being formed. The plans are to include 3,900 men in six battalions under French and U.S. tutelage. Every ANA Corps will be assigned an ANA Commando Battalion with the sixth designated as a special national unit under the Afghan Defense Ministry's purview.
As of September 2005, 28 of the 31 Afghan National Army Battalions were ready for combat operations and many had already participated in them. At least nine brigades are planned at this time, each consisting of six battalions. By March 1, 2007, half of the planned army of 70,000 ANA soldiers had been achieved with 46 of the planned 76 Afghan battalions operating in the fore or in concert with NATO forces. A total of 14 brigades that will primarily be regionally oriented are planned for 2008. According to CSTC-A (Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan) thirteen of these brigades are to be light infantry, one mechanized and one commando.
The army has about six Corps. Five Corps serve as regional commands for the ANA: the 201st Corps based in Kabul (of which the 3rd Brigade, at Pol-e-Chakri, is to be a mechanised formation including M-113s and Soviet-built main battle tanks, the 203rd Corps based in Gardez, the 205th Corps led by Gul Aqa Nahib based in Kandahar, the 207th Corps in Herat, and the 209th Corps in Mazari Sharif. Each of the four outlying Corps will be assigned one brigade with the majority of the manpower of the army based in Kabul's 201st Corps. Establishment of the corps started when four regional corps commanders and some of their staff were appointed on 1 September 2004. The sixth Corps is the "Air Corps", which is the old Afghan Air Force. Plans exist to separate this Corps again and reclaim the old Afghan Air Force role as a separate branch of the Afghan military.
On 19 Oct 06, as part of Operation Mountain Fury, Embedded Training Team Members CPT Andy Schouten and SFC Jerry Ressler mentored and advised a D30 artillery section from 4th Bn 2nd Bde 203rd Corps (ANA) to conduct the first indirect artillery fire missions during combat operations with harassment and indirect fires. Three days later, they successfully conducted counterfire (with assistance from a US Q-36 radar) that resulted with ten enemy casualties, the highest casualties inflicted from indirect artillery fire in ANA history.
In July 2007 the Afghan army graduated its first battalion of commandos. The commandos underwent a grueling three month course being trained by American special forces. They received training in advanced infantry skills as well as training in first aid and tactical driving. They are fully equipped with US equipment and have received US style training. By the end of 2008 the six ANA commando battalions will be stationed in the southern region of Afghanistan assisting the Canadian forces. There are also female soldiers being trained. The Afghan parachutist Khatol Mohammadzai became the first female general in the Afghan National Army on 19 August, 2002.
Due at least in part to its close cooperation with, and monitoring by, US forces the Afghan National Army has, unlike the Afghan National Police, been relatively unaffected by corruption.
Members of the coalition forces in Afghanistan have undertaken different responsibilities in the creation of the ANA. All these various efforts are managed on the Coalition side by Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan (CSTC-A), a two-star level multi-national command headquartered in downtown Kabul. On the ANA side, as of July 2006 all training and education in the Army is managed and implemented by the newly-formed Afghan National Army Training Command (ANATC), a two-star command which reports directly to the Chief of the General Staff. All training centers and military schools are under ANATC HQ.
Each ANA HQ above battalion level has an embedded Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT) of NATO trainers and mentors acting as liaisons between ANA and ISAF. The OMLTs co-ordinate operational planning and ensure that the ANA units receive enabling support.
Individual basic training is conducted primarily by Afghan National Army instructors and staff at ANATC's Kabul Military Training Center, situated on the eastern edge of the capital. The ANA are still supported, however, with various levels of CSTC-A oversight, mentorship, and assistance. The US military assists in the basic and advanced training of enlisted recruits, and also runs the Drill Instructor School which produces new training NCOs for the basic training courses.
A French army advisory team oversees the training of officers for staff and platoon or company command in a combined commissioning/infantry officer training unit called the Officer Training Brigade, also located at Kabul Military Training Center. OTB candidates in the Platoon and Company Command courses are usually older former militia and mujaheddin 'officers' with various levels of military experience.
The United Kingdom also conducts initial infantry officer training and commissioning at the Officer Candidate School. While OCS is administratively under OTB's control, it is kept functionally separate. OCS candidates are young men with little or no military experience. The British Army also conduct initial and advanced Non-Commissioned Officer training as well in a separate NCO Training Brigade.
The Canadian Forces supervises the Combined Training Exercise portion of initial military training, where trainee soldiers, NCOs, and officers are brought together in field training exercises at the platoon, company and (theoretically) battalion levels to certify them ready for field operations. In the Regional Corps, line ANA battalions have attached Coalition Embedded Training Teams that continue to mentor the battalion's leadership, and advise in the areas of intelligence, communications, fire support, logistics and infantry tactics.
Formal education and professional development is currently conducted at two main ANATC schools, both in Kabul. The National Military Academy of Afghanistan, located near Kabul International Airport, is a four-year military university, which will produce degreed second lieutenants in a variety of military professions. NMAA's first cadet class entered its second academic year in spring 2006. A contingent of US and Turkish military instructors jointly mentor the NMAA faculty and staff. The Command and General Staff College, located in southern Kabul, prepares mid-level ANA officers to serve on brigade and corps staffs. France established the CGSC in early 2004, and a cadre of French Army instructors continues to oversee operations at the school. A National Defense University will also be established at a potential site in northwestern Kabul. Eventually all initial officer training (to include the NMAA) as well as the CGSC will be re-located to the new NDU facility.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) made numerous unsuccessful helicopter rescue operation attempts in early 2005. But when technology failed, the Afghan National Army responded with boots on the ground.
Following the crash of Kam Air Flight 904 on February 4, 2005, the Ministry of Defense ordered the ANA's Central Corps to assemble a team to attempt a rescue of victims presumed to be alive. The crash site was at an altitude of on the peak of the Chaperi Mountain, east of the Afghan capital of Kabul.
ANA and Pakistani troops exchanged fire in the Kudakhel area of the Mohmand Agency on March 2, 2007. The Afghan army fired rockets on a Pakistani army border post in the Kudakhel area.
The Afghan army caught the senior Taliban leader Mullah Mahmood near Khandahar, who was wearing a Burkha. Mahmood was suspected of organizing suicide attacks in Kandahar province. More than forty-nine Taliban fighters were killed by the Afghan forces in one of the independent operations carried out by the Afghan forces.
In a rescue operation, the Afghan National Army deployed their Mi-8 helicopters and evacuated flood victims in the Ghorban district of Parwan province. Afghan soldiers safely evacuated 383 families to safer places.
The Afghan National Army may be equipped with Leopard main battle tanks in order to enable it to carry out independent operations against the Taliban, without any external assistance. If this is carried out, Canada and/or Norway will supply the tanks.
On July 12, 2006 Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak stated that for the Afghan National Army to be able to secure Afghanistan on its own it needed to grow to a troop level of 150,000-200,000 soldiers. Without such a number of troops Wardak said that ANA could not put down the Taliban and defend the country from outside threats.
According to statements made by Col. Thomas McGrath on October 19, 2007 the coalition supporting the build-up of the ANA has seen progress and is pleased with the Afghan performance in recent exercises. Col. McGrath estimated that the ANA should be capable of carrying out independent brigade-size operations by the spring of 2008.
On December 23, 2007, the CTV and CBC television network reported that Canada's military will supply the Afghan National Army with surplus C7 assault rifles in order to bring the ANA up to NATO equipment standards.
At the moment Afghanistan is in the process of improving the ANA and the Afghan Police Force. The ANA is expected to have over 86,000 soldiers by 2009 and the National Police to have 82,000 officers by 2008.
The Afghan National Army has a contract with International Trucks. It will provide a fleet of 2781 trucks which can be used for transporting personnel, water, petroleum and a recovery truck. The Afghan National Army has already received 374 out of the 2781 trucks.
The Afghan National Army is to take over the UK's post in Helmand province by the end of 2008.
On August 2008, Robert Gates has endorsed expanding the size of the ANA, with the cost ranging between $17-20billion.
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