Meanwhile, Back In Afghanistan


Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, who attended the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels Dec. 6-7, identified the Afghan Air Force (AAF) as the number one priority for modernization of the Afghan security forces.

U.S. Army General John W. Nicholson, commander of NATO's Resolute Support training and the U.S. Freedom Sentinel counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan, warned that the declining state of the AAF's Russian-built aircraft and the lack of spare parts would lead to them becoming unusable. These aircraft include M-35 attack helicopters, four of which have been supplied by India, and Mi-17s used by Afghan special forces.

Nicholson painted Afghan special forces as a bright spot in the 300,000-strong Afghan security forces, some of whose units are plagued by poor leadership, incompetence, and corruption. Special forces conducted 70% of Afghan National Army (ANA) offensive operations, supported by special mission wing M-17s with goggle-qualified pilots who can fly both at night and during the day. It has been proposed that the M-17s be replaced by UH-60s.

In 2016, Little Bird helicopters and eight A-29 attack aircraft were integrated into the AAF and nearly 120 Afghan air tactical controllers were embedded in Afghan units to guide them. Since April, the AAF has therefore been able to conduct its own strikes. Nearly 20 Afghan air crews have also been added to the AAF, with more being trained in the United States, and the Obama administration has requested more funding for the AAF. 

In addition, unmanned aerial vehicles have been introduced into some ANA corps.

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