Afghanistan: NATO To Hand Over Operational Control Of 'Sandhurst In The Sand'

British military personnel have played an important role in helping to develop the Afghan army's next generation of officers at the centre.

Operational control of the Afghan National Army Officer Academy (ANAOA) will be handed over from NATO to the Afghan authorities on Saturday, Forces News has learnt.

The site opened in 2013 and since then, British mentors have been key to its success.

Every element of teaching at the ANAOA was modelled on that conducted at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst which has seen it nicknamed 'Sandhurst in the Sand'.

British practices and experience has helped build up the new Afghan National Army which is now taking on insurgents like the Taliban without international assistance.

In 2013, the first intake of cadets at the ANAOA saw 270 people chosen from 10,000 who applied.

In little more than 40 weeks of training, they became junior officers.

A camp at the edge of the centre, known as Camp Qargha, was also established to provide living accommodation for the international troops – and also force protection for them and the ANAOA.

By 2018, 3,000 officers had passed out of the academy with the training led by about 180 Afghan non-commissioned officers. 

Afghan Army personnel completing their final confirmatory exercises and parade at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy in Kabul 110118 CREDIT Crown Copyright.jpg
Afghan personnel complete final confirmatory exercises in 2018 (Picture: Crown Copyright).

British personnel made up about half of the 64 international advisors, acting as mentors to the instructors.

Under a US-Taliban peace deal signed in February, all American and NATO forces based in Afghanistan were expected to withdraw from the country within the next 14 months.

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump tweeted all remaining American service personnel in Afghanistan could be withdrawn by Christmas

Despite the US' withdrawal plans, the situation in Afghanistan remains delicate with the US special envoy warning this week that "distressingly high" levels of violence threaten to derail ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Speaking at a meeting of NATO defence ministers on Friday, the alliance's Secretary General insisted the alliance remains committed to Afghanistan. 

2 YORKS Foxhound Light Protected Patrol vehicle providing overwatch security for the ANAOA 10 year graduation ceremony 110118 CREDIT Crown Copyright.jpg
A British Foxhound vehicle providing security at the ANAOA during a graduation ceremony in 2018 (Picture: Crown Copyright).

Jens Stoltenberg said: "What is clear is that NATO allies are committed to Afghanistan.

"We are committed to our joint fight against international terrorism and we are committed to the peace process."

According to the British Army's website, there are nearly 1,000 British troops deployed in Afghanistan.

The soldiers are in a non-combat role and also help to protect national advisers in Kabul, as well as assist with the training and advising of Afghan forces.