The Afghan National Army Officer Academy here nearly doubled their capacity with a recent round of improvements and construction.
The facility, producing the Afghan Army’s current and future leaders, is constantly improving and will wrap up the next round of construction early next year.
Maj. Gen. Richard G. Kaiser, commanding general of Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan, toured the facility Monday and met with Brig. Gen. Sharif Sharifi, ANAOA’s chief mentor, to discuss logistics, sustainment, and outline standards as the academy completes another round of improvements.
“You should feel proud of what your team is doing here,” Kaiser told Sharifi during their meeting. “You are creating the leaders of this country and officer bonds that will carry them in the future for good or for bad. As we move forward, I have a very strong message: There is a long-term commitment. There are many nations willing to support all Afghan institutions. We can all agree that education, training, and leadership development is key in the success of Afghanistan. I see the plan and it is a good plan, and we are here to support it.”
The ANAOA is currently one of the three main institutions providing officers for the Afghan National Army. It is supported by a five-nation mentoring team led by the U.K.
“This is a good opportunity for the Afghan people. Thanks to the support and mentoring of the U.K., U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Denmark we have a five-year strategy for this academy. The objective with this strategy is for us to become competitive with other academies around the world,” Sharifi said.
He also used the occasion to reiterate that the academy has already produced 1,999 officers, with 1,069 currently training – including 32 female cadets. He emphasized the cornerstone of ANAOA is to maintain a transparent, fair environment with ethnic balance and equal opportunity for members of all tribes and districts.
British Brig. Gen. Ian Rigden, commanding officer overseeing the campaign plan, also met with Kaiser to discuss the construction and academic capabilities based on the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst model – mirroring the British Army’s leadership courses.
“The British model focuses on leadership and military knowledge underpinned by character development,” Rigden said. “At the core of any institution is the provision of the appropriate high quality infrastructure to enable them to achieve their mission and that is why we are building a state of the art facility so they continue training and inspiring generations of military officers who will lead Afghanistan toward a future of stability and security.”
The construction is divided in three phases. Phase one, already completed, includes the National Defense University, the Marshal Fahin National Defense University headquarters, the National Military Academy, and the Garrison Support Unit. The second phase, currently underway, comprises the professional military education infrastructure with the Command and Staff College, Sergeants Major Academy, Foreign Language Institute, Joint Services Academy, Religious and Cultural School, and the Legal Branch School.
The third phase, also complete, included the obstacle course and athletic fields, classrooms, barracks, dinning facility and gymnasium. The campaign plan also includes the Womens Participation Program, supported by the Resolute Support Senior Gender Advisor’s team.
Ministry of Defense Senior Gender Advisor Maj. Jodi A. Bonnes was also present during the tour and highlighted the growth path in terms of female integration.
“ANAOA is a brilliant institution where Afghan women receive training to become officers. Currently, there are 64 Afghan women in ANAOA,” Bonnes said. “After completing training women officers will be assigned to several career management fields, such as human resources, finance, medical, legal, inspector general, logistics, communications, intelligence, religious cultural affairs, and acquisition.”
At the end of the visit, Kaiser described the project as a NATO joint legacy and urged leadership to never lower the standards of instructor’s quality.
“I cannot stress enough that quality is the key we should pursue. Low quality degrades the program. The fastest way to move forward is to have instructors of high quality. It is very important to hold those standards high and never settle for less that the very best,” Kaiser concluded.