Afghan army: training together to fight together

Up to now, women have been trained separately to men during the five years the Academy has been operating. But this term, for the first time, the women cadets are training and going on exercises — including practice firefights — alongside the men.

Afghan army training together to fight together
From now on, male and female candidates of the Afghen army train together

(Picture source: NATO / Resolute Support Mission)

The decision to train side by side was taken by the Afghans themselves — a natural development since what was offered to women cadets was identical to what the men were doing. Apart from longer multi-day exercises, when the women are brought back to their accommodation while male cadets sleep out, there are no differences in the training.

"The males and females get along. They are not treated differently, they are very equal,” said British Army Captain Andy Dickinson of the Coldstream Guards, responsible for mentoring the training. "They have far more equal opportunities than we have seen before in the ANA.”

The ANAOA was founded at the inspiration of the former Chief of Army Staff General Sher Mohammad Karimi who owed his own military success to his experience as the first Afghan officer cadet to attend the British officer academy at Sandhurst in the 1960s. It is one of four routes into the Afghan officer corps, and it is highly prized: its new officers are sought after in the army.

The ANAOA draws its cadets from across the country, and from all ethnicities. The mentors are from the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Denmark, and they are increasingly operating in a purely advisory role, as Afghan instructors become more capable at delivering the course themselves, developing it as they do in their own way. There are currently 947 cadets in training of which 104 are female, in line with the ANA target of increasing female integration to 10% by the end of 2020.

And the women now training alongside the men at the ANAOA have something to look up to. This year, and not for the first time, the award for the best cadet, the Duntroon Sword of Honour, went to a woman.