General Sher Mohammad Karimi, Chief of Staff of the Afghan National Army (ANA), spent Wednesday, 5 February, at the famous military academy as part of a 48-hour trip to the UK before returning to Kabul.
During his visit, General Karimi, himself a graduate of Sandhurst in the 1960s, was introduced to British, Afghan and other overseas officer cadets in training. He met all 7 of the Afghan officer cadets currently at Sandhurst and watched the academy’s senior term put through their paces during a challenging contemporary operating environment exercise. Exercise Broadsword, as it is known, tests cadets on their reaction to an escalating crowd control situation.
General Karimi also had the opportunity to remind himself of the institution’s proud history, as well as its relationship with the new Afghan National Army Officer Academy (ANAOA).
The ANAOA, based in Kabul, will form the UK’s enduring presence in Afghanistan after the current combat mission ends in 2014. It will train up to 1,350 male students and 150 female students every year, turning them into the Afghan army leaders of the future.
The best army Afghanistan has ever had
During his visit, General Karimi paid tribute to the role that UK service personnel have played in Afghanistan over the past 12 years and welcomed the ongoing role they will play in the training of his force’s officer class.
General Karimi said:
“I am very pleased to have been able to make this short visit to the United Kingdom, where I have seen and learned much and been able to meet some old friends. I was delighted to visit Sandhurst again; it is always good to go ‘home’. I am confident that the ANA officer academy will deliver the best young officers yet to the ANA; we have a good selection process and many volunteers.
I am keen to retain the support of the commandant and staff of Sandhurst for as long as possible, to ensure the ANA officer academy delivers the same quality young officers. I am very grateful for all the support the United Kingdom has given to this very important endeavour.
I would again like to pass on my sincere condolences to all our international allies for the sacrifices they have made of their men and women in the service of Afghanistan; it is deeply appreciated and we would not be where we are today without your help. In particular, I must also take this opportunity to pay tribute to the sacrifices made by the United Kingdom in Helmand province.
The United Kingdom’s contribution in this most difficult area of my country has been huge and is greatly appreciated. Our own 215 Corps has developed into a capable and effective formation which is now able to deal with the insurgency it faces in its boundaries thanks to the help and guidance of United Kingdom and United States allies who have worked together so well.
We will never forget the contribution the United Kingdom has made to my country. In my 47 years’ service the ANA of today is the best army that Afghanistan has ever had, and the United Kingdom has helped to deliver this army. Thank you”.
The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Commandant, Major General Stuart Skeates, said:
“We were delighted to welcome General Karimi to Sandhurst to show him some of the work that goes on here and once again demonstrate the bond of friendship between the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and the Afghan National Army.
We are proud that the training we offer at Sandhurst is providing the inspiration for the preparation of the next generation of Afghan officers, who will continue to protect the security of their own country”.
During his time in the UK, General Karimi also attended and delivered a presentation at the International Armoured Vehicles Conference in Farnborough, along with Defence Minister Philip Dunne.