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Afghan Armed Forces


Dec 15, 2021

The Afghan Armed Forces (Pashto: نیروهای مسلح افغانستان) originated in 1709 when the Hotaki dynasty was established in Kandahar followed by the Durrani Empire.[1] The Afghan military was re-organized with assistance from the British in 1880, when the country was ruled by AmirAbdur Rahman Khan. It was modernized during King Amanullah Khan‘s rule in the early 20th century, and then during King Zahir Shah‘s forty-year rule; the Soviet Union supplied almost all weapons, training and military needs between the 1950s and 1970s.[4] From 1978 to 1992, the Soviet-backed Afghan Armed Forces engaged in heavy fighting with the multi-national mujahideen groups who were then backed by the United States, Pakistan and others. After PresidentNajibullah‘s resignation in 1992 and the end of Soviet support, the Afghan military dissolved into portions controlled by different factions. This era was followed by the Taliban regime, whose leaders were trained and influenced by the Pakistan Armed Forces.[5][6][7]

Afghan armed forces since c1709
Afghan Armed Forces
نیروهای مسلح مقاومت
Motto لا اِله اللّٰه محمد رسول اللّٰه
Founded 1709[1]
Current form 2021
Minister of Defence Mohammad Yaqoob
Chief of Staff Qari Fasihuddin
Active personnel 85,000–200,000 (2021)[2][3]
Domestic suppliers Historical

Related articles
Ranks Ranks of the Afghan Armed Forces

After the removal of the Taliban regime in late 2001 and the formation of the Afghan Interim Administration, new military units were created. They were trained by NATO-member states, primarily by the United States. The Afghan Armed Forces operated independently but received some air support from the U.S. Air Force.[8][9][10] As a major non-NATO ally, Afghanistan continued to receive billions of dollars in military assistance from the United States up until mid-2021.[11][12]

With the Taliban takover of Afghanistan in August 2021, the Islamic Republic Armed Forces effectively dissolved, with the former insurgents becoming the country’s new military. Remnants of the disbanded Afghan National Army regrouped as the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan to wage guerrilla warfare against the Emirate.[13]

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Further information: History of Afghanistan

Afghans have served in the militaries of the Ghaznavids (963–1187), Ghurids (1148–1215), Delhi Sultanate (1206–1527), Mughals (1526–1858) and the Persian army.[14] The current Afghan military traces its origin to the early 18th century when the Hotaki dynasty rose to power in Kandahar and defeated the PersianSafavid Empire at the Battle of Gulnabad in 1722.[1][15]

“The sun had just appeared on the horizon when the armies began to observe each other with that curiosity so natural on these dreadful occasions. The Persian army just come out of the capital, being composed of whatever was most brilliant at court, seemed as if it had been formed rather to make a show than to fight. The riches and variety of their arms and vestments, the beauty of their horses, the gold and precious stones with which some of their harnesses were covered, and the richness of their tents contributed to render the Persian camp very pompous and magnificent.
On the other side there was a much smaller body of soldiers, disfigured with fatigue and the scorching heat of the sun. Their clothes were so ragged and torn in so long a march that they were scarce sufficient to cover them from the weather, and, their horses being adorned with only leather and brass, there was nothing glittering about them but their spears and sabres…”[16]

Jonas Hanway, 1712–1786

When Ahmad Shah Durrani formed the Durrani Empire in 1747, his Afghan army fought a number of wars in the Punjab region of Hindustan during the 18th to the 19th century. One of the famous battles was the 1761 Battle of Panipat in which the Afghans invaded and won a pyrrhic victory against the Maratha Empire.[17] The Afghans then engaged multiple wars with the Sikh Empire, the Afghan–Sikh Wars saw major territorial losses for the Afghans. During the First Anglo-Afghan War, British India invaded Afghanistan in 1838 but withdrew in 1842. During the three years a number of battles took place in different parts of Afghanistan.

KingHabibullah Khan with the military men of Afghanistan in the early 1900s.

Traditionally, Afghan governments relied on three military institutions: the regular army, tribal levies, and community militias. The regular army was sustained by the state and commanded by government leaders. The tribal or regional levies – irregular forces – had part-time soldiers provided by tribal or regional chieftains. The chiefs received tax breaks, land ownership, cash payments, or other privileges in return. The community militia included all available able-bodied members of the community, mobilized to fight, probably only in exceptional circumstances, for common causes under community leaders. Combining these three institutions created a formidable force whose components supplemented each other’s strengths and minimized their weaknesses.[18]

At the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878–80) the regular army was about 50,000 strong and consisted of 62 infantry and 16 cavalry regiments, with 324 guns mostly organized in horse and mountain artillery batteries.[18] Jalali writes that ‘..although Amir Shir Ali Khan (1863–78) is widely credited for founding the modern Afghan Army, it was only under Abdur Rahman that it became a viable and effective institution.’[19] The Library of Congress Country Study for Afghanistan states:[20]

Abdur Rahman was the creator of the modern Afghan state. When he came to the throne [in 1880], the army was virtually nonexistent. With the assistance of a liberal financial loan from the British, plus their aid in the form of weapons, ammunition, and other military supplies, he began a 20-year task of creating a respectable regular force by instituting measures that formed the long-term basis of the military system. These included increasing the equalization of military obligation by setting up a system known as the hasht nafari (whereby one man in every eight between the ages of 20 and 40 took his turn at military service); constructing an arsenal in Kabul to reduce dependence on foreign sources for small arms and other ordnance; introducing supervised training courses; organizing troops into divisions, brigades, and regiments, including battalions of artillery; developing pay schedules; and introducing an elementary (and harsh) disciplinary system.

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