Afghan Air Force is set to break new ground with the NATO Training Mission commander, Gen. William Caldwell, announcing that the alliance will provide Afghanistan's nascent Air Force with 145 multi-role aircraft and 21 helicopters in line with efforts to strengthen Afghanistan's overall defense capabilities. This is very good news for Afghanistan's fragile armed forces and its government that tends to frequently criticize the NATO and other Western allies for lack of due attention to developing Afghanistan's military capabilities.
The planned acquisition and delivery of these aircraft will significantly add to the existing arsenal of Afghan Air Force's aircraft inventory. The timeline considered for completion of Afghan Air Force is 2016. By this date, this force is planned to be in possession of more than 300 aircraft of various types and force strength of 8000 personnel.
More than hundred Afghan pilots are currently being trained outside Afghanistan with the induction of first batch of female pilots, 4 in total, who recently attracted attention as the new faces of Afghanistan's women. So far, Afghanistan's Air Force has been equipped with 60 different aircraft most of them being logistics helicopters that are used for transporting cargo and people.
The planned introduction of this number of multi-role aircraft will officially kick-start Afghan Air Force's aerial defense and offense capabilities. In the fight against the Taliban and their allies in the form of the current insurgency, aerial support to ground forces is crucial to maintaining a distinct edge over the insurgents.
As apparent, the insurgency in Afghanistan involving the Taliban and other insurgent groups will indeed drag indefinitely into the future. This fact places the role of indigenous Afghan armed forces in the center of Afghanistan's efforts to cope with the effects of continues conflict and instability.
While the progress being made in building Afghanistan's Air Force merits appreciation and is a reason for hope, the armed forces of Afghanistan would still be incomplete without a capable, dedicated and united political leadership that can provide encouragement, motivation and overall direction.
As the history of Afghanistan in recent decades has shown, Afghanistan's past armed forces had proved to be characteristically resilient and dedicated to their cause in the face of grave challenges that faced them.
The subsequent disbanding and collapse of Afghanistan's previous armed forces had been more a result of splintering and failure of the political leadership. This time too, the key to the future of Afghanistan's armed forces lies in the country's political leadership and how it will navigate the country through the multitude of crises that are laying siege on the country.
In the coming years and as we move towards 2014 and beyond that, it is first and foremost up to the country's political leadership whether or not Afghanistan's armed forces will be adequate guardians of the country's interests.
Afghanistan National Army and Afghan Air Force, as the two important pillars of Afghan National Security Forces, are being supplied and equipped with primarily Western-made weapons, aircraft and military systems. Afghan National Army's official duty weapon has been shifted to American M16 from the traditional Kalashnikov rifles.
The majority of the new aircraft and systems that the Afghan National Army and Air Force are being equipped with are American made or Western made. This more or less means that in terms of long-term maintenance and servicing of these expensive and sophisticated weapon systems, Afghanistan's government and armed forces will continue to remain heavily dependent on Western manufacturer companies' after-sale services for maintenance and supplying of spare parts.
Such companies may be Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. For example, the traditional Soviet-made Kalashnikov rifles and Mi-17 helicopters have always been easy and relatively inexpensive to repair and maintain.
Spare parts and expertise needed for their maintenance have been easily available with many central Asian republics producing spare parts for these Soviet-made weapon systems. When it comes to new-generation Western-made weapon systems, accessing spare parts and replacements will not be easy and inexpensive.
More often than not, these systems require expensive after-sale maintenance operations than can be carried out only by the manufacturer companies. This will guarantee that the Afghan armed forces will be, for the foreseeable future, dependent on its Western allies for maintaining and expanding its expanding arsenal of weapon systems. As far as the U.S. and the NATO are concerned, they need such dependency and use it as an effective guarantee against these arsenals falling in the wrong hands.
These realities make it clear that the new Afghanistan indeed will have to continue the kind of long-term strategic cooperation with the U.S. and NATO that it has maintained since 2001. Afghanistan's Western allies, by all indications, are not going to abandon Afghanistan to fend for itself in the face of the monumental challenges that confront it.
Building and development of Afghanistan's Air Force and National Army are only the continuation of this long-term partnership which holds the promise to make Afghanistan's future better than its bloodied past.
Ahmad Wali's Killing
When three months ago, President Karzai's half brother and head of Kandahar's Provincial Council was killed inside his home, almost every body within Afghan media community blamed the Taliban. I, however, called for caution and requested all to see the tell-tale signs that the high-profile murder could not have been a handiwork of Taliban.
To the inquisitive eyes, the circumstantial evidence and the available information pointed to the murder being a personal affair and a result of personal vendettas rather than a brilliant operation carried out by the rag-tag Taliban mullahs.
Now, three months onwards, the NATO officials in Kabul have presented the findings of their investigations and as said by a NATO official and reported by Reuters, the "murder" has been a result of inter-personal problems involving the two persons.
As I had termed it then, the Taliban's decision to claim responsibility for the murder was a "ploy" to benefit from the PR aspects of it. Anyway, it is routine for the Taliban to claim responsibility for every attack that takes place. They are bent on attracting the media attention as much as they can.