Security

Afghan officials point to improved morale among troops

By Ziar

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In this photograph taken on March 24, 2017, Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers march to their positions during a military operation in Badghis Province. [HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP]

KABUL -- A number of factors, including the new US strategy for Afghanistan, have provided a boon for the morale of Afghan forces, according to Afghan officials.

"In the past, it used to weaken the fighting spirit of Afghan soldiers to hear about the scheduled withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan at a certain date and time," said Gen. Mohammad Radmanesh, deputy spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defence.

"Today, however, when Afghanistan's international supporters announce that their troops' departure from Afghanistan is conditional on providing necessary security to Afghanistan according to what the country needs, this will naturally strengthen the morale of every soldier and help them in their fight against enemies of peace and security," he told Salaam Times.

The announcement of the US strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia "has clearly explained the position of Afghanistan and its supporters in their fight against insurgency," Radmanesh said.

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At a ceremony held on October 7, 2017, at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani formally accepted the first two UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters, calling it a 'special day' for Afghan Air Force. [Afghanistan Presidential Palace]

New Black Hawks

Improving the Afghan Air Force also has helped boost the morale of troops.

"[In September], we received six Black Hawk helicopters from the US. The US has also pledged to provide us with 159 more Black Hawks, as well as 150 high-speed MD helicopters," said the deputy spokesman.

"When an army has a better air force, its speed will be multiplied," he said.

The Defence Ministry hopes "that the insurgents will realise that they have to say yes to the peace process, or else the highly spirited Afghan ground and air forces will destroy them," he added.

Equipping the air force and the intention of international forces to stay in Afghanistan for as long as needed sends a clear message to those who engage in terrorism, said Mirza Muhammad Yarmand, a former deputy minister of interior.

Morale has also been strengthened by some of the reforms in the security agencies over the past three years that have prevented corruption to an extent, said Yarmand.

Public support

The quality of Afghan forces is at its highest point in 15 years because the US and NATO are standing alongside the nation, said Mohammad Farhad Sediqi, a lawmaker in the Wolesi Jirga, the lower house of the National Assembly.

The announcement of the US strategy, the increased attention to the air force and international support pledged during the 2016 NATO summit in Warsaw have been good indicators of the improved fighting morale of Afghanistan's security forces, said Sediqi.

The Afghan people have become increasingly proud and supportive of the military as it grows stronger, he said.

Jawad Naziri, a 25-year-old Afghan man, is one example. He plans to join the security forces soon.

"Today, I see the Afghan forces as stronger and more modern than ever in every aspect -- be it logistical support, troops' fighting morale, air support -- and increasing their professional capacities," Nazir told Salaam Times.

"I hope that the [troops], who are committed to our national interests, receive much more attention. And I am personally ready to spare no effort in supporting each and every Afghan soldier,” he added.

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