Afghan airmen to be trained by Pakistan

Published: September 1, 2010
Pakistan will impart training to the Afghan National Air Force as US-led forces prepare to withdraw. PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan will impart training to the Afghan National Air Force as US-led forces prepare to withdraw. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: As the withdrawal deadline of the US-led forces from Afghanistan approaches, Pakistan has, in principle, agreed to impart training to the Afghan National Air Force, a highly placed source told The Express Tribune.

A billion-dollar contract to this effect will be signed between two private defence contractors of Pakistan and the United States and the Afghan ministry of defence as soon as modalities of the plans are finalised, the source further said, adding, “Almost every issue has been decided except some nitty-gritty.”

Initially, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) was approached by the US to find out how it felt about the matter – but keeping in view political issues, high risk and life threats involved, they refused to accept the contract.

Subsequently, the US decided to work around the PAF’s reservations by engaging an Islamabad-based private defence company for the purpose.

It is learnt that the ex-officers and instructors of PAF to be engaged for the purpose will get lucrative salaries plus attractive perks and privileges besides special allowances, proportionate to the risks involved.

Retired PAF instructors will train about 400 Afghan pilots, flight engineers, maintenance and logistics technicians and ground staff at training centres in Kabul. The US wants to hand over the Afghan war to Kabul’s National Armed Forces by 2014 – the year the last of the US-led foreign troops are slated to leave Afghanistan.

According to the plan, the Afghan Air Force fleet will be operational by 2013, with fighter jets, heavy transport aircraft, Russian-made gunships and transport helicopters.

Meanwhile, the US and Nato are reportedly gravely disturbed over the fate of an oil Refinery in Heratan (Balkh Province) – Afghanistan’s border city with Uzbekistan. Training a special unit of the Afghan army and air force for the protection of the oil refinery is also one of the priorities of the foreign forces.

The Afghan pilots will be taught English in Pakistan before joining the flying academy. Teaching English to the Afghan Air Force is said to have turned out to be a formidable task for the US.

It is interesting to note that in June this year, 17 Afghans who had been learning English disappeared from a Texas Air Force Base where they were being trained as fighter pilots. Such incidents have been frequently reported during the last two years.

Pakistani instructors fluent in Pushto will be hired to make it easy for Afghan Air Force cadets to communicate with their English teachers and flying instructors. The Afghan Air Force officers and personnel thus trained by Pakistani instructors will get their advance training by US instructors to enable them to take over the air force and aviation  infrastructure to be left behind by the withdrawing US and Nato troops.

The Afghan Air Force was destroyed after the Russian invasion of the country as a large number of Afghan Air Force personnel including pilots either fled Afghanistan or deserted.

The US-led coalition’s bombing campaign neutralised most of what had remained of Afghan air power. Rebuilding efforts began shortly thereafter, but were extremely limited for several years.

Since May 2007, the US-led international Combined Air Power Transition Force (CAPTF) has worked to rebuild and modernise the Afghan air capability, which was renamed the Afghan National Army Air Force in June 2010. The CAPTF serves as the air component of the US-led international Combined Security Transition Command which is responsible for rebuilding the Afghan armed forces.

Sources said Islamabad has also been entrusted with the task of training Afghan National Army officers at its war colleges.

Initially, the Pakistan army was approached by the US for the services of Army instructors to train Afghan soldiers in Afghanistan, but the idea could not materialise for a number of reasons.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2010.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • SK
    Sep 1, 2010 - 12:14PM

    It seems that every path to Afghan stability traverses through Pakistan, that in itself is very frustrating for me as a Pakistani because we have been invovled with Afghan chaos for the last three decades either by choice or force and that has taken huge toll on Pakistani society, to a level where now we are labeled as failed state. This has to end somehow so we, Pakistanies can move on and build our own nation.Recommend

  • Mansoor Khalid
    Sep 1, 2010 - 1:41PM

    Being strategic allies in the war against terror, both countries should carry out more of such exercises to lessen the ‘trust deficit’ that has formed between them.Recommend

  • Sep 1, 2010 - 2:25PM

    Whatever happened to the Afghan allegations of Pakistan exporting terror to the wester neighbour? Forgotten? Recommend

  • Eeman
    Sep 1, 2010 - 4:50PM

    WoW – We got a business to do. Recommend

  • mehdi army
    Sep 1, 2010 - 6:49PM

    Our country certainly wants to commit a national suicide. Otherwise, who on earth, would train the soldiers of the enemy. Karzai is hard & fast ally of India and so is Afghan army. In near future, these airmen trained by us would be bombarding us. Has our military got really insane or the dollars have more power over patriotism. I think the latter is true. Recommend

  • Matin
    Sep 1, 2010 - 10:26PM

    I am surprised that the Afghan government would entrust the Pakistani army officers with such an important task. That the pakistani army itself is an enemy of the Afghan people, and that both the pakistani army and its intelligence are actively engaged in war against Afghan and international forces in Afghanistan is no more a secret matter. Surprisingly, the Afghan government accepts this deal. Why? how could it be ensured that the pakistani trainers won’t spy for the Pakistani government or won’t corrupt the new Afghan Air Force officers? Most importantly, is there a guarantee at all that the pakistani officers will want to do this job honestly? i don’t think so. So long as they think Afghanistan is their strategic asset in their war against India, they won’t let the Afghan government to prosper and its army to develop. Instead of training the Afghan Army, maybe the Pakistanis should refrain from funding, and supporting Taliban. Recommend

  • Adeel
    Sep 2, 2010 - 7:01AM

    Private contractors? PRIVATE? HUL-LO!!Recommend

  • i_khan
    Sep 3, 2010 - 4:38PM

    that’s a great move towards muslim unity.we all pakistanies welcome afghan brothers.Recommend

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