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Standing by Afghanistan: the strategic choice

This article was written by IWP student M. Shafiq Hamdam.


Afghanistan’s defence and security forces face enormous challenges. They are countering an insurgency of well-equipped guerrilla fighters, who enjoy the unconditional support of organised crime, international terrorists and some neighboring countries. They are on the front line of the fight against terrorist groups including Al-Qaida, so-called Islamic State and the Haqqani Network. Moreover – as Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has said repeatedly – for fourteen years Afghanistan has been in an undeclared war with Pakistan. And it’s also believed that the country continues to be the proxy battleground for India and Pakistan, two nuclear powers.

It is essential that the international community continues to stand by Afghanistan, building up the capacity of is forces and sustaining them financially until the country is able to do so itself. Not only is this support vital for Afghanistan, it is also in the strategic interest of its international partners.


A proud military destroyed

Afghanistan is no stranger to conflict. It has suffered numerous civil, regional and cross-regional wars over the past three millennia. The security and defence of the country depended on militias for a long part of its history but started to develop its formal military in the tenth century, during the Ghaznavid Empire.

By the 1980s, Afghanistan had a small, but strong military. As a landlocked and mountainous country, it depended heavily on its air force for transport, reconnaissance and close air support. It had more than 400 aircraft, including around 240 fixed-wing combat aircraft, 150 helicopters and perhaps 40 transport aircraft.

The country’s proud aviation history was symbolised by Abdul Ahad Momand, an Afghan air force aviator who was the first Afghan – and the fourth Muslim – to journey to outer space as one of Soyuz TM-6 crew members and spent nine days aboard the Mir space station in 1988 as an Intercosmos Research Cosmonaut.

These achievements were erased and most military assets were looted and destroyed during decades of war and internal conflict, before the international community intervened following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


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