India’s military establishment is finalizing plans to train thousands of Afghan Army officers. Will New Delhi secure a first movers’ advantage?
On Monday, more than 85 nations began a meeting in Bonn to discuss the future of Afghanistan from 2014, when U.S.-led troops are scheduled to hand over security to Kabul.
But thousands of miles away, plans are already in the final stages of receiving Indian government clearance for an extensive training schedule for the fledgling Afghan National Army (ANA) at training institutions across the country.
The program is the first concrete follow-up on military-to-military cooperation under the umbrella of the Strategic Partnership Agreement that was signed between Kabul and New Delhi in October, when Afghan President Hamid Karzai was given a grand reception in India.
Under the agreement, India, which has the world’s third-largest army, agreed to train, equip and build the capacity of the Afghan forces.
Sources in the Indian security establishment familiar with the contours of the detailed schedule say Kabul and New Delhi have identified three areas to focus on, namely increasing the intake of officers in India’s premier training institutes; providing specialized training to middle and higher level officers already operating in the Afghan National Army (ANA); and training soldiers in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations by seconding them to various regimental centers across India.
This will involve, sources told me last month, when I first did a report on the issue for NDTV, bringing to India more than 25,000 ANA officers and men over the next three years.Finalizing the schedule may take at least another couple of months, the sources added.
The military leadership in India and Afghanistan has concluded after several rounds of discussions that training the officer cadre won’t on its own be enough, since Afghan soldiers also need to be given the skills to take on the mixed role of counter-insurgency operations and providing static security three years from now.
At the same time, military planners have concluded that mid-level officers in the ANA need to be reoriented and given the training needed to assume leadership roles in the post-NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. Accordingly, officers at the ranks of Lt. Col. and Brigadier will be provided focused training at three specialized institutions in India: The Commando School in Belgaum in south India, The Counter-insurgency and Jungle Warfare (CIJW) School in Mizoram, in northeast of India, and The High Altitude Warfare School in Sonamarg, Kashmir.
While the Belgaum School imparts soldiers and officers with commando skills over and above their basic infantry training, the CIJW, a 33-year-old institution in India’s northeast, has over the years perfected the techniques of counter-insurgency operations in varied terrain, and has trained contingents from countries including the United States and Vietnam. The High Altitude Warfare School, meanwhile, which is located in the Kashmir Valley, teaches basic skills to allow forces to operate in snowy and high altitude areas.