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The Bangladesh Defence Analyst Forum

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The Afghan Armed Forces are the military forces of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. They consist of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Air Force. The President of Afghanistan is the Commander-in-Chief of the Afghan Armed Forces, which is administratively controlled through the Ministry of Defense. The National Military Command Center in Kabul serves as the headquarters of the Afghan Armed Forces. The Afghan Armed Forces currently has approximately 300,000 active duty soldiers and airmen, which are expected to reach 360,000 soldiers and airmen in the coming year.

The current Afghan military originates in 1709 when the Hotaki dynasty was established in Kandahar followed by the Durrani Empire. The Afghan military fought many wars with the Safavid dynasty and Maratha Empire from the 18th to the 19th century. It was re-organized with help from the British in 1880, when the country was ruled by Amir Abdur Rahman Khan. It was modernized during King Amanullah Khan's rule in the early 20th century, and upgraded during King Zahir Shah's forty-year rule. From 1978 to 1992, the Soviet-backed Afghan Armed Force fought with multi-national mujahideen groups who were being backed by the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. After President Najibullah's resignation in 1992 and the end of Soviet support, the military dissolved into portions controlled by different warlord factions and the mujahideen took control over the government. This era was followed by the rise of the Pakistan-backed Taliban regime, who established a military force on the basis of Islamic sharia law.

After the removal of the Taliban and the formation of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan in late 2001 and 2002, respectively, the Afghan Armed Forces was gradually rebuilt by NATO forces in the country, primarily by the United States Armed Forces. Despite early problems with recruitment and training, it is becoming effective in fighting against the Taliban insurgency. As of 2014, it is becoming able to operate independently from the NATO International Security Assistance Force. As a major non-NATO ally of the United States, Afghanistan continues to receive billions of dollars in military assistance.


The Marshal Fahim National Defense University, also known as the Afghan National Defense University, is a military academy located in Kabul, Afghanistan.It was established in 2013.

The university sits on a 105 acres of land west of Kabul in the Qargha area.

There are three distinct parts to the university:

  • the National Military Academy of Afghanistan (NMAA),
  • the Afghan National Army Officer Academy (ANAOA), and
  • the Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Academy, which will include the Sergeant Major Academy.
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Soldiers of the Afghan National Army, including the ANA Commando Brigade standing in the front.


The Afghan Air Force operates 96 Mi-17 helicopters with 56 in service with the Special Mission Wing.



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The U.S. has been transitioning Afghanistan’s air force from a fleet of Soviet-era Mi-17 helicopters to the U.S.-made UH-60 Black Hawks since 2017, but recruiting, training and sustainment challenges plague the program.

The Black Hawk shipments are part of the Afghan Air Force’s modernization initiative. The first 16 of 159 UH-60 helicopters have already been delivered. When complete, 119 of the Black Hawks will go to the Afghan Air Force, while the other 40 will go to the elite reconnaissance and extraction pilots of Special Mission Wing, at an estimated cost of $5.75 billion to $7 billion.

“The general feelings towards Black Hawks is very positive in [the Afghan Air Force] and [Special Mission Wing], and that is because we all know that Mi-17 are not sustainable in the long run,” the pilot said.

“The only concern that [Afghan pilots] have is to [receive] CH-47 Chinook helicopters along with Black Hawks,” he said, adding that the additional Chinooks would help close the gap left by Mi-17s.

If, for example, the Afghan Air Force received two Chinooks per Kandak, or battalion, that could add additional lift capacity that Mi-17s currently have and ease concerns.


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There are 26 A-29 Super Tucano's in service with the AFA with a further 6 on order. The pilots were trained in the USA and localised support was provider through the training program.


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ANA soldier assigned to the Mobile Strike Force Kandak fires an RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher during a live-fire exercise supervised by the US Marines with the Mobile Strike Force Advisor Team on Camp Shorabak, Helmand province.


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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. 705 T-55s were ordered in 1978 from the Soviet Union and delivered between 1978 and 1991. There were 1,000 T-54s, T-55s, T-62s and PT-76s in service as of 1 April 1992.


100 T-62s 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. T-62 variants in service with the Afghan army were T-62, T-62M and T-62M1.


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As of September 2013 the ANA is in possession of 152 D30 howitzers, the supply of which is being coordinated by Picatinny Arsenal, the US military center for excellence in artillery. This will rise to 204 systems eventually.


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