Work on Afghan officers' academy underway as HERRICK 17 begins

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A ceremony has taken place in Kabul marking the start of construction of an Afghan National Army Officer Academy (ANAOA) while, in Lashkar Gah, 4th Mechanized Brigade has officially taken command of Task Force Helmand.

The building of the future ANAOA, marked today, 10 October, by an earth-turning ceremony at its site in the Afghan capital, underlines the UK’s long-term commitment to a secure Afghanistan after combat operations cease.

Once fully operational, the ANAOA will train up to 1,350 male students and 150 female students each year. Based on a model resembling the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, it will help to sustain the ongoing progress being made in building a capable and professional Afghan National Army. This work will take place during and after the transition of security responsibilities to the Afghan Government post-2014.

The event coincided with the transfer of authority between British brigades in Helmand with 4th Mechanized Brigade taking command of Task Force Helmand from 12th Mechanized Brigade which is now on its way home.

Brigadier Doug Chalmers (left), Commander of 12th Mechanized Brigade, and Brigadier Bob Bruce of 4th Mechanized Brigade
Brigadier Doug Chalmers (left), Commander of 12th Mechanized Brigade, hands over command of Task Force Helmand to Brigadier Bob Bruce of 4th Mechanized Brigade [Picture: Corporal Mike O'Neill, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]

The transfer of authority marks the start of Operation HERRICK 17 which will oversee the drawdown of 500 UK Service personnel already announced to take place by the end of this year.

The next six months will see 4th Mechanized Brigade working in support of the Afghan National Security Forces to ensure they are capable of assuming full security responsibilities by the end of 2014.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:

In July, the [UK] Prime Minister [David Cameron] and President Karzai signed a Memorandum of Understanding to reaffirm UK and Afghan dedication to the officer academy project in Kabul which is one of the UK’s commitments to an enduring partnership with Afghanistan after our combat operations cease.

The academy will present a real opportunity for us to help generate a well-trained cadre of junior officers to bolster the leadership within the Afghan Army for the future.

Both the commencement of the ANAOA project and the planned drawdown of 500 personnel from 4th Mechanized Brigade by the end of the year demonstrate significant steps forward in a transition process that is well on track and will see us hand over full security responsibility for Afghanistan to its own security forces in 2014.

Speaking at the earth-turning ceremony in Kabul, Deputy Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Lieutenant General Adrian Bradshaw, said:

The training that will take place here will develop the next generation of military leaders in a brand new Afghan National Army Officer Academy. This is yet another example of how ISAF and the Afghan National Security Forces are sustaining the progress we have made in building a capable and professional force.

I am very proud of our achievements and the turning of the earth marks not only the start of the main construction effort but also the beginning of the academy itself. It is a truly historic occasion.

Personnel from 4th Mechanized Brigade will work alongside the Afghan Army and the Afghan National Police in a co-ordinated effort over the forthcoming winter.

Brigadier Bob Bruce, Commander of Task Force Helmand for HERRICK 17, said:

Our focus throughout this deployment will be on assisting our Afghan allies to deliver security to their people. We are superbly well trained and equipped to do this.

Real success has been achieved. As the Afghan security forces continue to grow in capability and confidence we will reduce our profile. I am planning to send 500 troops home by the end of this year.