Afghan National Army

Afghan National Army
Afghan National Army
Afghan National Army emblem.svg
Emblem of the Afghan National Army.
Active 1880 (current form: 2002)
Country Afghanistan
Size Contested. Between 100,000 and 170,000 (October 2011)[1]


Headquarters Kabul
Colors Black, Red and Green             
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi

The Afghan National Army (ANA) is a service branch of the military of Afghanistan, which is currently trained by the coalition forces to ultimately take the role in land-based military operations in Afghanistan. As of October 2011, the Afghan National Army is divided into seven regional Corps. The strength of the Afghan National Army is contested by experts. The U.S. Department of Defense claims a strength of around 170,000 active troops.[2] Critics, however, cite the annual reenlistment rate of less than 50 percent, the annual desertion rate of over 25 percent, the basic training drop-out rate of 30 percent, and the number of annual recruits to show mathematically that the actual number of men present for duty cannot ever exceed 100,000 men. [3] The Afghan Ministry of Defense claims to be expanding the ANA to about 260,000 troops by 2015, a move supported and funded primarily by the United States Department of Defense.[4] There were more than 4,000 American military trainers in late 2009 and additional numbers from other NATO states, providing advanced warfare training to the ANA.[5]

Afghanistan's army was first organized in 1880 with British support, during Emir Abdur Rahman Khan's reign.[6][7] Prior to 1880, the national army was composed of private militia forces belonging to different regional commanders, as well as a special army force under the ruler of the country.[8][9][10][11] During World War I and World War II, the Afghan army was supplied by Germany but Afghanistan remained a neutral state. From the 1960s to the early 1990s, the army of Afghanistan 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 government in the mid 1990s, which had their own militia-style forces.

After the removal of the Taliban in late 2001, the new Afghan National Army was created with support from NATO, mainly the United States. Since 2002, billions of dollars worth of military equipment, facilities, and other forms of aid has been provided to the ANA. Most of the weapons arrived from the United States, which included Humvees, M-16 assault rifles, body armored jackets as well as other types of vehicles and military equipment. It also included the building of a national military command center, with training compounds in different parts of the country.[12] To thwart and dissolve anti-government militant groups, the Karzai administration has offered cash and vocational training to encourage members to join the ANA.



Jaanbaz, or Afghan cavalry, with horse, bearing implements for smoking
Afghan Army infantry soldier in 1890
Afghan army in 1920.

The national army of Afghanistan was officially formed in 1880 when the country was ruled by Emir Abdur Rahman Khan.[6][7] 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 cavalry were known as Jaanbaz (life gamblers), the cavalry in the Shah's service often became mercenaries in the British army. Heavily armed, and very often professional robbers, they became soldiers when it suited them and were described as naturally restless and independent people, and according to one of their own proverbs, ready to bear hunger, thirst, cruelty and death, but never - a master; however they were not as disciplined as the regular British Cavalry men. [8][9][10][11] The Afghan army was modernized by King Amanullah Khan in the early 1900s just before the Third Anglo-Afghan War. King Amanullah and his Afghan army fought against the British in 1919, after which Afghanistan declared full independence from them over its foreign affairs. The Afghan army was further upgraded during King Zahir Shah's reign, starting in 1933.

Afghan army soldiers in the 1950s.

From the 1960s to the early 1990s, the Afghan army was trained and equipped mostly by the former Soviet Union. Before the April 1978 Saur Revolution, according to military analyst George Jacobs, the armed forces included "some three armored divisions (570 medium tanks plus T 55s on order), eight infantry divisions (averaging 4,500 to 8,000 men each), two mountain infantry brigades, one artillery brigade, a guards regiment (for palace protection), three artillery regiments, two commando regiments, and a parachute battalion (largely grounded). All the formations were under the control of three corps level headquarters. All but three infantry divisions were facing Pakistan along a line from Bagram south to Khandahar."[13] After the coup, desertions swept the force, affecting the loyalty and moral values of soldiers, there were purges on patriotic junior and senior officers, and upper class Afghan aristocrats in society.

Gradually the army's three armoured divisions (4th and 15th at Kabul/Bagram and 7th at Khandahar) and now sixteen infantry divisions dropped in size to between battalion and regiment sized, with no formation stronger than about 5,000 troops.[14] During the 1980s Soviet war in Afghanistan, the national army of Afghanistan was involved in fighting against the mujahideen rebel groups. A big problem in the Afghan army became deserters or defectors. The Afghan army's casualties were as high as 50-60,000 and another 50,000 deserted the armed forces. The Afghan army's defection rate was about 10,000 per year between 1980–89, the average deserters left the Afghan army after the first five months.[15]

By 1992, after the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan and the fall of the communist regime in Kabul, the Soviet-trained army splintered between the government in Kabul and the various warring factions.[16] By mid 1994 for example, there were two parallel 6th Corps operating in the north. Abdul Rashid Dostam's 6th Corps was based at Pul-i-Khumri and had three divisions. The Defence Ministry of the Kabul government's 6th Corps was based at Kunduz and also had three divisions, two sharing numbers with formations in Dostum's corps.[17] During that time local militia forces were formed or the former Soviet era national army units 'regionalised;' both 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.

The Afghan Army 1978[18]

  • Central Corps (Kabul)
    • 7th Division (Kabul)
    • 8th Division (Kabul)
    • 4th and 15th Armoured Brigades
    • Republican Guard Brigade
  • 2nd Corps (Kandahar)
  • 3rd Corps (Gardez)
  • 9th Division (Chugha-Serai)
  • 11th Division (Jallalabad)
  • 12th Division (Gardez)
  • 14th Division (Ghazni)
  • 15th Division (Kandahar)
  • 17th Division (Herat)
  • 18th Division (Mazar-i-Sharif)
  • 20th Division (Nahrin)
  • 25th Division (Khost)

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 began training its own army troops and commanders, some of whom were secretly trained by the intelligence agency (ISI) or Pakistani Armed Forces in the border region on the Durand Line. After the removal of the Taliban government in late 2001, private armies or militia forces took over security around the country. Formations in existence by the end of 2002 included the 1st Army Corps (Nangrahar), 2nd Army Corps (Kandahar, dominated by Gul Agha Sherzai and his allies), 3rd Army Corps (Paktia, where the US allegedly attempted to impose Atiquallah Ludin as commander), 4th Army Corps (Herat, dominated by Ismail Khan), 6th Army Corps at Kunduz, 7th Army Corps (under Atta Mohammad Noor at Mazar-i-Sharif in Balkh Province[19]), 8th Army Corps (at Shiberghan, dominated by Dostum's National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan) and the Central Army Corps around Kabul.[20]

The first batch of graduates of the new Afghan National Army (ANA) in 2002.

The new Afghan National Army was founded with the issue of a decree by President Hamid Karzai on December 1, 2002.[21] Upon his election Karzai set a goal of an army of at least 70,000 men by 2009.[22] However, many western military experts as well as the Defense Minister of Afghanistan, Abdul Rahim Wardak, believed that the nation needed at least 200,000 active troops in order to defend it from enemy forces.[23]

The first new Afghan battalion was trained by British Army personnel of the International Security Assistance Force, becoming 1st Battalion, Afghan National Guard.[24] Yet while the British troops provided high quality training, they were few in number. After some consideration, it was decided that U.S. Army Special Forces might be able to provide the training. Thus follow-on battalions 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 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 and Dari (Persian) and some Arabic due to the very diverse ethnicities.[25]

By January 2003, just over 1,700 soldiers in five Kandaks (Pashto for battalions) had completed the 10-week training course, and by mid 2003 a total of 4,000 troops had been trained. Approximately 1,000 ANA soldiers were deployed in the US-led Operation Warrior Sweep, marking the first major combat operation for Afghan troops. 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. 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.

In March 2004, fighting erupted in the western city of Herat between Ismail Khan's private army and the Defense Ministry's 4th Corps militia.[26] Ismail Khan's son Mirwais Sadiq was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade during the military standoff between his father and the Defense Ministry's Herat Division commander, General Abdul Zaher Nayebzadah. The death toll from the fighting was estimated at 50 to 100 people. In response to the fighting, about 1,500 Afghan National Army troops were deployed to Herat. The ANA were sent to the garrison of the 17th Herat Division of the Defense Ministry's 4th Corps - General Abdul Zaher Nayebzadah's headquarters. The 17th Division headquarters had been overrun by Ismail Khan's private militia on 21 March.

Newly trained ANA officers recite the oath ceremony of the first term bridmals at the Ghazi Military Training Center in Kabul.
Newly graduated recruits from its Basic Warrior Trainee course at Regional Military Training Center (RMTC) in Kandahar.
Troop levels
Soldiers As of
90,000 1978[27]
100,000 1979[28]
25,000 1980[28]
25-35,000 1981[15][27]
25-40,000 1982[15]
35-40,000 1983[15]
35-40,000 1984[15]
40,000 1985[29]
1,750 2003[30][31]
13,000 2004 [32]
21,200 2005 [33]
26,900 2006 [34]
50,000 2007[35]
80,000 2008
90,000 2009
134,000 2010[36]
164,000 2011[37]

Soldiers in the new army initially received $30 a month during training and $50 a month upon graduation, though the basic pay for trained soldiers has since risen to $165. This starting salary increases to $230 a month in an area with moderate security issues and to $240 in those provinces where there is heavy fighting.[38] About 95% of the men and women serving in the military are paid by electronic funds transfer.[39]

Current status

The Afghan National Army is funded mainly by the United States through the U.S. Department of Defense, and is trained and supplied by different branches of the United States armed forces. Other NATO nations have also made contributions to the rebuilding of the military of Afghanistan. As reported by the ANA soldier Nur Muhammad of 4th Brigade, 205th Corps in 2011, the ANA has progressed a lot in Southern Provinces, especially in Uruzgan Province, 4th Brigade (Brigadier General Zafar Khan), 205th Corps (General Abdul Hamid). In the past year, ANA Soldiers living on the LSA have moved from temporary tents to newly constructed permanent wood-frame structures. Future plans include a parade field and gym where Soldiers can relax in their off-duty hours. On any given day there are an estimated 10,000 Afghan National Army trainees crawling through mud, busting down doors, maneuvering through obstacle courses and driving over the rugged terrain that makes up the 20,000 acres (81 km2) of the Kabul Military Training Center.

Issues with new trainees

Lt. Gen. Aminullah Karim speaks to three companies of soldiers in a parade review during a deployment ceremony held in 2009.
Col. Shirin Shah Kowbandi giving a speech to soldiers during an awards ceremony in the Helmand province.

According to a December 2009 news report, the Afghan National Army is plagued by inefficiency and corruption.[40] U.S. training efforts have been drastically slowed by the corruption, widespread illiteracy, vanishing supplies, and lack of discipline.[41] Jack Kem, deputy to the commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, stated that the literacy rate in the ANA will reach over 50 percent by January 2012. What began as a voluntary literacy program became mandatory for basic army training in early 2011.[37]

U.S. trainers have reported missing vehicles, weapons and other military equipment, and outright theft of fuel provided by the U.S.[42] Death threats have also been leveled against some U.S. officers who tried to stop Afghan soldiers from stealing. Some Afghan soldiers often find improvised explosive devices and snip the command wires instead of marking them and waiting for U.S. forces to come to detonate them. The Americans say this just allows the insurgents to return and reconnect them.[42] U.S. trainers frequently must remove the cell phones of Afghan soldiers hours before a mission for fear that the operation will be compromised by bragging, gossip and reciprocal warnings.[43]

In other cases American trainers spend large amounts of time verifying that Afghan rosters are accurate — that they are not padded with “ghosts” being “paid” by Afghan commanders who quietly collect the bogus wages.[44]

Soldiers of the Afghan National Army, including the ANA Commando Battalion standing in the front.

The Afghan Army has limited fighting capacity. Even some of the best Afghan units lack fully comprehensive training, strict discipline and adequate reinforcements. In one green unit in Baghlan Province, soldiers have been found cowering in ditches rather than fighting.[45] Some are suspected of collaborating with the Taliban against the Americans or engaging in reciprocal exchanges on offensives or unsanctioned psychological warfare through boasts or using their knowledge to communicate with friends or family in the battlezone. "They don’t have the basics, so they lay down," said Capt. Michael Bell, who is one of a team of U.S. and Hungarian mentors tasked with training Afghan soldiers. "I ran around for an hour trying to get them to shoot, getting fired on. I couldn’t get them to shoot their weapons.".[42] For example, in multiple firefights during the February, 2010 NATO offensive in Helmand Province, many Afghan soldiers did not aim — they pointed their American-issued M-16 rifles in the rough direction of the incoming small-arms fire and pulled their triggers without putting rifle sights to their eyes. Their rifle muzzles were often elevated several degrees high.[46]

Desertion is also a problem in the new Afghan Army. One in every four combat soldiers quit the Afghan Army during the 12-month period ending in September 2009, according to data from the U.S. Defense Department and the Inspector General for Reconstruction in Afghanistan.[47] The problem is so severe that the Army is forced to write off 2,000 soldiers and officers in a usual month. In order to filter potential deserters from the rank, some of the soldiers are trained by being deployed in real operations.[48]

Included in the controversy of developing the ANA, Germany alleges that the US military took 15% of €50 million the German government gave to a trust fund to build up the ANA.[49]

As of October 2011, manpower of the ANA is around 170,000 personnel which is expected to reach 260,000 in the coming years.[2] Facilities and capacity planning efforts are rapidly adjusting to the significant increases in national recruiting efforts to meet manpower needs.


The basic unit in the Afghan National Army is the kandak (battalion), consisting of 600 troops. Kandaks may be further broken down into four toli (company-sized units).[50] Although the vast majority of kandaks are infantry, at least one mechanized and one tank battalion have been formed; more may be planned. Every ANA Corps will be assigned an ANA Commando Brigade 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. The size and limits of the ANA were specified in the Bonn II Agreement, signed in 2002. This agreement called for the establishment of the ANA and formal development of Afghan forces under NATO doctrine.[citation needed]


A total of 14 brigades that will primarily be regionally oriented are planned for 2008. According to Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan (CSTC-A) thirteen of these brigades are to be light infantry, one will be mechanized and one will be commando.


Afghan National Army Organization (incomplete graphic; not necessary correct)
Soldiers of the 205th Corps in Zabul Province.
Soldiers of the 215th Corps

Currently the Afghan National Army maintains seven corps; each corps is responsible for one major area of the country. Each corps has three to four subordinate brigades, and each brigade has four infantry battalions as its basic fighting unit. Each infantry battalion is assigned a specific area for which it is responsible, the battalion's mission is to secure its area from internal and external threats. Originally, the four outlying corps were assigned one or two brigades, with the majority of the manpower of the army based in Kabul's 201st Corps. This was superseded by a buildup in which each corps added extra brigades. Establishment of the corps started when four regional corps commanders and some of their staff were appointed on 1 September 2004.[51]

Five, plus a newly forming corps, serve as regional commands for the ANA:

  • 201st Corps (Kabul) - 1st Brigade is at the Presidential Palace. 3rd Brigade, at Pol-e-Chakri, is to be a mechanised formation including M-113s[52] and Soviet-built main battle tanks.[53] Later information from places most of the 3rd Brigade at Jalalabad, Second Brigade at Pol-e-Charkhi, and only a single battalion of First Brigade at the Presidential Palace.[54] The corps is charged with operation in eastern Afghanistan, including Kabul, Logar, Kapisa, Konar, and Laghman. It’s battlespace includes the Afghan capital of Kabul as well as vital routes running north and south, and valleys leading from the Pakistani border into Afghanistan. Currently the Third Brigade of the 201st Corps is the only unit that has control of an area of responsibility in Afghanistan without the aid or assistance of U.S. or coalition forces for its command system.[55][56]
  • 203rd Corps (Gardez) The original Gardez Regional Command was established on 23 September 2004.[57] As of 2009, First Brigade, Khost, Second Brigade, Foreword Operating Base Rushmore, Sharana, Paktika Province, Third Brigade, Ghazni.[58] On 19 Oct 2006, as part of Operation Mountain Fury, two embedded training team members mentored and advised a D30 artillery section from Fourth Battalion, Second Brigade, 203rd Corps, to conduct the first artillery missions during combat operations with harassment and indirect fires.[59] 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 artillery fire in ANA history.[citation needed] The corps is supported by the Gardez Regional Support Squadron of the ANAAC, equipped with 8 helicopters: 4 transport to support the corps' commando battalion, two attack, and two medical transport.[60]
  • 205th Corps(Kandahar) - has the responsibility for the provinces of Kandahar, Zabul, and Oruzgan under Brigadier General Zafar Khan's control.[61] It consists of four brigades, a commando battalion and three garrisons. The corps has integrated artillery and airlift capacity, supplied by a growing Kandahar Wing of the ANAAC.[62]
  • 207th Corps (Herat) - 1st Brigade at Herat, 2nd Brigade at Farah, and elements at Shindand (including commandos).[63] The corps is supported by the Herat Regional Support Squadron of the ANAAC, equipped with eight helicopters: four transport to support the corps' commando battalion, two attack, and two medical transport aircraft.[60]
  • 209th Corps (Mazari Sharif) - Works closely with the German-led Regional Command North, and has 1st Brigade at Mazar-i-Sharif and, it appears, a Second Brigade forming at Kunduz. An Army Corps of Engineers solicitation for Kunduz headquarters facilities for the Second Brigade was issued in March 2008.[64] The corps is supported by the Mazar-i-Sharif Regional Support Squadron of the ANAAC, equipped with eight helicopters: four transport to support the Corps' commando battalion, two attack, and two medical transport helicopters.[60]
  • 215th Corps (Lashkar Gah) - The Afghan government has approved a new seventh corps of the Afghan National Army — Corps 215 Maiwand — to be based in the Helmand capital of Lashkar Gah where the first fresh U.S. troops are expected to arrive.([5][dead link]) The 215th is a new unit, developed specifically to partner with the Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Helmand.[65] On 28 January 2010, Xinhua reported that General Sayed Mallok would command the new corps. (Military Corps formed to strength security in Taliban hotbed) The corps will cover all parts of Helmand, half of Farah and most parts of southwestern Nimroz province. The corps was formally established on 1 April 2010. 1st Bde, 215th Corps, is at Garmsir, partnered with a USMC Regimental Combat Team.[66] Elements of 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps, have been reported at Forward Operating Base Delaram, Farah Province. 3rd Bde, 215th Corps, partnered with the UK Task Force Helmand is at Camp Shorabak.[67]

In late 2008 it was announced that the 201st Corps' former area of responsibility would be divided, with a Capital Division being formed in Kabul and the corps concentrating its effort further forward along the border.[68] The new division, designated the 111th Capital Division, became operational on April 21, 2009.[69] It has a First Brigade and Second Brigade (both forming) as well as a Headquarters Special Security Brigade. [70]


Soldiers of the 7th Commando Battalion (Kandak).

In July 2007 the Afghan army graduated its first 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.[71] 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 first female Afghan parachutist Khatol Mohammadzai, trained under the Soviets, became the first female general in the Afghan National Army on 19 August 2002.[72] Afghan commandos are expected to increase significantly in number by 2011, when the army will double in size. They will also receive more advanced equipment from NATO.[4] NATO hopes that elite Afghan commando units can help in the fight against the Taliban, especially around the mountainous Durand Line border region.

Special Forces

ANA special forces

The first Special Forces team finished training in May 2010, the soldiers were selected from the ANA Commando Brigade. The team is based on the U.S. Army Special Forces teams.[73][74][75][76] Initially all the Special Forces candidates will come from the Commando Battalion only requiring 10 weeks of training, after that Special Forces recruiting will be conducted throughout the army, and initial Special Forces training will be 15 weeks. Commando graduates of the special forces course with retain their 'commando' tab and will also have a' special forces' tab on top of the commando tab and they also receive a tan beret. They were attached to teams of U.S. Special Forces operating in Kandahar province in the 2010 operation.[77][78] In May 2010 the first class of the ANA Special Forces graduated from their 10 week qualification course and moved on to the operational portion of their training. In November 2010, the ANA Special Forces Class 1 received their tan berets in a ceremony at Camp Morehead, Kabul Province, after completing 26 weeks of on-the-job training partnered with U.S. Special Forces. The initial selection involved taking the 145 commandos who volunteered, putting them through a one week qualification process (similar to the one used in the United States), and finding, as in the U.S., that only about half (69) passed. These men formed the first four A-Teams (of 15 men each). Some of them who passed the 1st are being used to help American Special Forces train the 2nd class of candidates.[79] Special Forces soldiers are trained to focus on interaction with the population through jirgas with village elders, but capable of unilateral operations.[80] A second ANA Special Forces class completed training on December 3, 2010.[81]

Quick Reaction Forces

The M1117 Guardian Armored Security Vehicle, or ASV.

Seven Quick Reaction Forces battalions will be built, approximately one Quick Reaction Forces battalion for each of the ANA's corps. They will be created by converting existing infantry battalions into Quick Reaction Forces battalions. The Quick Reaction Forces battalions will be organized as motorized infantry and will be equipped with M1117 armored personnel carriers in order to enhance their mobility and protection. Orders were placed in 2011 for 490 M1117's,[82] with deliveries to begin in November 2011. All 490 will be delivered by the end of December 2012. The first Quick Reaction Forces battalion will be trained and fielded by the spring of 2012, and the last one around the spring 2013. This will be the first major deployment of armored vehicles into the ANA.[83]

ANA Combat Support Organizations

As the ANA has grown to almost its full size the focus has now changed to further development of the force so that it becomes self sustainable. One program is the development of the ANA Combat Support Organizations, The Corps Logistics Battalions (CLB) and the Combat Support Battalions (CSB)

Combat Support Battalions (CSB) provide specialized services for infantry battalions. While most ANA Battalions have a CBS they are underdeveloped and do not fit the requirements of a growing army. The CBS role includes motor fleet maintenance, specialized communications, scouting, engineering, and long range artillery units. Eventually one fully developed CBS will be assigned to each of the 24 ANA Combat Brigades.

Corps Logistics Battalions (CLB) and Combat Service Support Battalions (CSSB). In order enable the ANA to be self sufficient, Brigades will be equipped with a CLB which will be responsible to providing equipment to the 90 Infantry Battalions. The CSSB will be responsible for the maintenance of the new heaver equipment including APCs. [84]


ANA soldiers undergoing training on how to conduct air assault missions in 2007.
Soldiers in training at Kandahar in 2008.
Soldiers training on how to clear improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on roads.

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 three-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. The coalition forces are partnered with the ANA to mentor and support formal training through Task Force Phoenix. This program was formalized in April 2003, based near the Kabul Military Training Center coordinating collective and individual training, mentoring, and Coalition Force support.

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.[85]

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. Basic training has been expanded to include required literacy courses for recruits who don't already know how to read.

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 leaders 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.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Kane Mangin of the Australian-led of the International Artillery Training Team, the Afghan National Army (ANA) Artillery Training School in Kabul is expected to train enough officers and NCOs for about 23 artillery batteries, using the D-30 howitzers of the ANA Artillery Branch.


A platoon of ANA soldiers at a rescue operation in February 2005.

Following the crash of Kam Air Flight 904 on February 4, 2005, The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) made numerous unsuccessful helicopter rescue operation attempts. But when technology failed, Afghan National Army soldiers searched for the plane. 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 11,000 feet (3,400 m) on the peak of the Chaperi Mountain, 20 miles (32 km) east of the Afghan capital of Kabul.[86]

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.[87] More than forty-nine Taliban fighters were killed by the Afghan forces in one of the independent operations carried out by the Afghan forces.[88]

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.[89]

The Afghan Army has already begun small independent operations[90] which were expanded to large-scale operations in spring 2009.[90] One operation included a small retaliation and invasion[91] and firing at Pakistan.[92] This incident was fueled by anti-Pakistani tensions in Afghanistan[91] and the rising animosity between the two nations.[91] The Afghan army fired rockets on a Pakistani army border post in the Kudakhel area, after the Pakistani army attempted to build a post in Paktika province, Afghanistan.[91]

Operation Achilles

The Afghan National Army along with the ISAF successfully engaged Taliban extremist strongholds. This operation was launched on March 6, 2007, to stabilize northern Helmand province for the government to start the reconstruction work.[93]

Battle of Musa Qala

After 10 months in Taliban hands, the town of Musa Qala was retaken by Afghan National Army backed by ISAF and coalition support. Taliban insurgents had scattered mostly to the north.[94]

Operation Panther's Claw

Operation Panchai Palang, or Panther's Claw, was a United Kingdom-led military operation of the War in Afghanistan in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. United Kingdom, Afghanistan, Denmark and Estonia contributed a total of 3,000 soldiers for the operation. The alliance targeted Afghan and Pakistani-based Taliban involved in the drug trade. The battle ran, for a period of time, simultaneously with the US-Afghan Operation Strike of the Sword.

Operation Khanjar (Strike of the Sword)

Operation Strike of the Sword or Operation Khanjar is an ongoing US-led offensive in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. About 4,000 Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade as well as 650 Afghan soldiers are involved, supported by NATO planes. The operation began when units moved into the Helmand river valley in the early hours of July 2, 2009. This operation is the largest Marine offensive since the battle of Fallujah, Operation Phantom Fury, in 2004. The operation is also the largest airlift offensive since the Vietnam War.


Since the early 1970s, the Afghan army has been equipped with the Russian AK-47 assault rifle as their main service rifle. In 2008, the ANA replaced its AK47s in favor of the US M16 rifles, and Canadian Colt Canada C7 rifles, as part of a force modernization effort that will change not only how the soldiers handle their weapons but possibly how they fight. They are also swapping their pick-up trucks for US Humvees as well as adopting other NATO weapons into their arsenal.[95][96] Some ANA special forces are already equipped with M16s. There is the possibility that the ANA makes use of Soviet weapons left over from the Soviet war in Afghanistan. This equipment may also be used by the Afghan National Police.

Armoured Fighting Vehicles

Model Image Type Number Dates Builder Details
BRDM-2 Brdm2 c.jpg Armoured Personnel Carriers Soviet Union Mostly captured vehicles from the war with the Soviet Union, some were abandoned vehicles left behind by retreating Soviets and some were derelict vehicles left by the Soviets all over Afghanistan and brought back to working condition. Converted into an improvised fire support vehicle with a complete 57 mm rocket pod and pylon from aircraft or helicopter mounted upside down on the turret roof.
BMP-1 Afghan National Army on patrol.jpg Armoured Personnel Carriers Soviet Union After the Soviet War in Afghanistan a number of BMP-1 IFVs fell into the hands of Afghan Mujahideen.
BMP-2 Us ord museum 005.JPG Armoured Personnel Carriers 1987–2002 Soviet Union 150 along with 1,500 9M111 Fagot ATGMs were ordered in 1987 from the Soviet Union and delivered between 1987 and 1991 (some of the vehicles were possibly previously in Soviet service). 550 BMP-1s and BMP-2s in service as of 1992. Between 60 and 80 BMP-1s and BMP-2s were delivered from Russia after 2002.
M113 M113 in Panama.jpg Armoured Personnel Carriers 63 United States
Humvee ANA at KMTC in 2009.jpg Armoured Personnel Carriers 7,550 United States Up-Armored M1151 and M1152 versions. In August 2010, an order was placed for a further 2,526 M1152A1 HMMWVs with B2 armor kits, for the Afghan National Guard & police.[97]
M1117 Armored Security Vehicle Internal security vehicle 500+ United States In addition to ASV and APC configurations, other mission variants include: command and control, ambulance, engineering, maintenance, mortar, and reconnaissance vehicles. To be fully delivered by the end of 2012.

Main Battle tanks

Model Image Type Number Dates Builder Details
T-55 T-55 skos RB.jpg Main battle tank 1961–1991 Soviet Union 50 T-54s and 50 T-55s were ordered in 1961 from the Soviet Union and delivered between 1962 and 1964 (T-54s were previously in Soviet service). 200 T-54s were ordered in 1978 from the Soviet Union and delivered between 1978 and 1979 (the vehicles were previously in Soviet service). 705 T-55s were ordered in 1978 from the Soviet Union and delivered between 1978 and 1991 (the vehicles were previously in Soviet service).[98] There were 1,000 T-54s, T-55s, T-62s and PT-76s were in service as of 1 April 1992.[99] Currently 600 T-55s are in service and are to be replaced with M60 Pattons.
T-62 T62 Afghanistan.JPG Main battle tank 1973–1991 Soviet Union 100 ordered in 1973 from the Soviet Union and delivered between 1975 and 1976. 155 ordered in 1979 from the Soviet Union and delivered between 1979 and 1991 (the vehicles were probably previously in Soviet service). T-62 variants in service with the Afghan army were T-62, T-62M and T-62M1.

Air Defence/Artillery

Model Image Type Number Dates Builder Details
BM-21 Grad 1372 bm 21 grad.JPG Multiple rocket launcher Soviet Union
ZSU-23-4 ZSU 23-4.JPG Self-propelled anti-aircraft gun Soviet Union 20 were delivered from USSR.
ZU-23-2 ZU-23-2 in Saint Petersburg.jpg Anti-aircraft gun Soviet Union Mostly left by the Soviet Union at the time of the withdrawal. Many mounted on trucks as improvised fire support systems.
ZPU-4 Anti-aircraft gun Soviet Union Variants include ZPU-1 and ZPU-2.
2A18 Artilleryman of the Afghan National Army.jpg Howitzer Soviet Union
M1937 152 mm howitzer-gun M1937 (ML-20) 1.jpg Howitzer Soviet Union May not be functional.
M1943 D1 howitzer kiev.jpg Howitzer Soviet Union May not be functional.
M1938 M30 howitzer nn 1.jpg Howitzer Soviet Union May not be functional.
M114 USArmy M114 howitzer.jpg Howitzer United States
130 mm towed field gun M1954 (M-46) Howitzer Soviet Union
Scud SCUD 2.JPG Tactical ballistic missile Soviet Union May not be functional.
9K52 Luna-M Artillery Rocket System Soviet Union May not be functional.
BM-27 Uragan Multiple Rocket Launcher Soviet Union May not be functional.

Small Arms

Model Type Number Dates Manufacturer Details
Makarov pistol Semi-automatic pistol Soviet Union
TT pistol Semi-automatic pistol Soviet Union
M9 pistol Semi-automatic pistol +15,700 ItalyUnited States
Stechkin APS Fully automatic Machine pistol Soviet Union
Mosin-Nagant Bolt action rifle Soviet Union Ceremonial use.
AKM Assault rifle Soviet Union Storage.
AK-47 Assault rifle Soviet Union Phased out of the service since 2008. Used by Afghan Special Forces and some regular units.
AK-74 Assault rifle Soviet Union Storage.
Type 56 Assault rifle Assault rifle China Storage.
M16 rifle Assault rifle 104,000 2007–2009 United States The U.S. military provide the Afghan army with M-16 rifles as part of a modernization effort. It is mostly used by the new cadets of National Military Academy of Afghanistan
M4 carbine Assault rifle 42,189 2008–2009 United States Only used by Afghan Army Commandos and Special Forces. M4s sold as part of a 2006 Foreign Military Sales package. Additional M4s sold as a 2008 Foreign Military Sales package.
C7 Assault rifle 2,500 2007–2008 Canada In December 2007, Canada agreed to donate 2,500 surplus C7 rifles to the Afghan National Army along with training and ammunition. In June 2011, the Afghan National Army returned the C7 rifles in favor of the American M16 rifle.
Dragunov sniper rifle Sniper rifle Soviet Union
M24 Sniper Weapon System Sniper rifle 1,200 United States
M249 SAW Light machine gun 16,248 Belgium
RPK ATM Light machine gun Soviet Union
M240 machine gun General purpose machine gun 30,152 Belgium
PK machine gun General purpose machine gun Soviet Union
RPD General purpose machine gun Soviet Union Storage
DShK Heavy Machine Gun Soviet Union
NSV machine gun Heavy Machine Gun Soviet Union Used in low numbers.
M2 Heavy machine gun 19,500 United States
RPG-7 Rocket-propelled grenade Soviet Union
SPG-9 Recoilless rifle Soviet Union
MILAN Anti-tank Missile France Germany Limited number available.
GP-25 Grenade launcher Soviet Union
M203 grenade launcher Grenade launcher 9,250 United States
82 mm Medium Mortar Mortar 500 Soviet Union
60mm M224 Mortar United States
81mm M252 Mortar United States


According to statements made by Colonel 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. McGrath estimated that the ANA should be capable of carrying out independent brigade-size operations by the spring of 2008.[102]

On December 23, 2007, the CTV and CBC television network reported that Canada's military will supply the Afghan National Army with surplus Colt Canada C7 rifles in order to bring the ANA up to NATO equipment standards.[103]

The Afghan National Army has a contract with International Trucks. It will provide a fleet of 2,781 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 2,781 trucks.

The Czech Republic and Hungary have announced they will donate advanced air medic choppers to the Army and National Police, as well as more new trucks for border security in the Afghan-Pakistan frontier to defend it from Pakistani Taliban incursions.

Greece is donating at least 13 M60A3 main battle tanks to help bolster Afghan tank platoons. Greece may increase this number to almost 50 tanks, within the alliance’s efforts for equipping and training Afghan military forces.[104] On November 12, 2009, the Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk declared the Afghan National Army will not receive the Canadian Leopard 1 as anticipated by Abdul Rahim Wardak in 2007. General Walter Natynczyk declared the Afghan National Army maybe have access to surplus supplies and also M-113 recently modernized.[105] The reason for the reversal of delivery of tanks is probably connected to Long War Journal reports that the single Afghan tank and mechanised battalions are operating as infantry due to inadequate heavy equipment maintenance.[106]

According to Marin Strmecki, a member of the Defense Policy Board and a former top Pentagon adviser on Afghanistan in a speech to the United States Senate, "the Afghan Army should increase to 250,000 soldiers and the National Police Force should add more than 100,000 officers. Only when Afghan security forces reaches those numbers would they achieve the level necessary for success in counterinsurgency."[107] On March 19, 2009, American President Barack Obama called for an expansion of the Afghan National Army to 260,000 soldiers. The cost would reach $20 billion dollars and would beef up Afghan manpower as well as inject the army with more modern equipment.[107] Sales of US Arms to Afghanistan alone totaled nearly $20 billion for fiscal years 2009 through 2011.[108]

See also


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  2. ^ a b c Viola Gienger (28 October 2011). "Afghan Militant Attacks, Violence Drop First Time in Five Years". Businessweek. Retrieved 31 October 2011. 
  3. ^ Thomas Johnson and M. Chris Mason, "Afghanistan and the Vietnam Template," Military Review Magazine. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. U.S. Army Publication, November-December 2009 issue, p. 6.
  4. ^ a b BBC NEWS (2009-03-19). "Obama 'mulls Afghan army boost'". BBC NEWS. Archived from the original on 2011-02-11. Retrieved 19 March 2009. 
  5. ^ Shanker, Thom (Nov. 01, 2009). "Admiral Mullen testifies before committee". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-14. 
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  8. ^ a b British Battles: First Afghan War (Battle of Ghuznee) Archived 11 February 2011 at WebCite
  9. ^ a b British Battles: First Afghan War (Battle of Kabul 1842) Archived 11 February 2011 at WebCite
  10. ^ a b British Battles: First Afghan War (Battle of Kabul and retreat to Gandamak) Archived 11 February 2011 at WebCite
  11. ^ a b British Battles: First Afghan War (The Siege of Jellalabad) Archived 11 February 2011 at WebCite
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  108. ^ U.S. arms sales could hit $50 billion next year | Reuters

Further reading

  • Antonio Giustozzi, ‘Shadow Ownership and SSR in Afghanistan,’ Chap. 11 in Tim Donnais (ed.) 'Local Ownership and Security Sector Reform,' DCAF/Lit Verlag, Zurich/Berlin, 2008 ‘Local Ownership.’ Portrays a varying level of vested interest/warlord subversion of reform among the various security agencies; little local ownership at the MOD/ANA despite several attempts to seize more local control and subvert the foreign process by not proving enough personnel, imposing different officers, and wanting a conscript force. The army is financially unsustainable even at 70,000 strong and not being trained for combat in small units.
  • War, politics and society in Afghanistan, 1978–1992, By Antonio Giustozzi

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