Afghanistan takes leaf out of West Point’s book
KABUL: Mentored by advisers from the prestigious US Military Academy at West Point, Afghanistan opened its own cadet school on Tuesday to groom an officer class versed in democratic values for its fledgling army.
The Afghan National Army has 22,000 men trained and deployed so far, many of them helping US forces quash an insurgency by remnants of the ousted Taliban regime in the south and east of the country.
Afghanistan aims to eventually have an army of 70,000 strong, but in the meantime the presence of NATO peacekeepers and US forces acts as a security guarantor.
“What we’re going to produce is officers who can understand the role of the military in a democracy and could anticipate and respond effectively in a changing world as they assume positions of leadership in the Afghan Army and Afghan nation,” West Point’s dean, Brigadier General Daniel J Kaufman, told Reuters following a ceremony to mark the academy’s opening. An election won by President Hamid Karzai last October was seen as a turning point for a nation that had known only conflict and repression since it was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1979.
“They (Afghans) are experienced fighters, there’s no doubt about that. What’s new is defending a republic,” said Kaufman.
The new National Military Academy of Afghanistan will ensure cadets are chosen from all the country’s different groups in order to forge a national identity.
There were 120 cadets aged around 18 in the first intake at the academy, but the plan is for the number to be raised to 250 in subsequent years. Aside from military training, they will undergo a four-year undergraduate academic course designed to reflect the needs of the country, before being inducted into the army as second lieutenants.
Specialist courses in mechanical and electrical engineering, political science, international relations, history and foreign languages will be part of the curriculum, along with more soldierly pursuits including the development of leadership and honour systems. reuters