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December 14, 2017
RAVELING the streets of Kabul can be
daunting, however Australian troops serv-
ing in the city have their own dedicated
protection force of angels and armour to
limit the risk.
The soldiers of Force Protection Element 8
(FPE-8) and their protected vehicles have the job
of moving people safely around town and keeping
them safe while specialist personnel undertake
The team is based on 3RAR’s B Coy and con-
sists of about 150 soldiers who are tasked with
protecting Australian advisors and mentors work-
ing for the NATO mission in Afghanistan.
On the way to a task, you might be taken in an
up-armoured 4WD or a Bushmaster PMV driven
by an infantryman like Pte Javier Batlle.
“Kabul is like any major city, the traffic can be
pretty full-on,” he said.
Cpl Daniel Lewis delivers convoy orders before
a move from Kabul International Airport in
Photos: Cpl Max Bree
AMONG hundreds of proud cadets leav-
ing the Afghan National Army Officer
Academy on November 23 was the
100th female graduate, marching off
the parade ground and into her country’s
defence against the Taliban and other
It was the 10th graduation held at the
academy since it opened in 2013 and
featured cadets who had been instructed
in mixed male and female classes.
Capt Gabrielle Taylor, a mentor at
the academy, said the integration of
female officers into the Afghan Army is
“When we’re out on site delivering
theory lessons and assessing them on
their tactics, often you’ll see male cadets
come up to the female cadets to ask
questions and see what their plans are,”
“They often take on board the female
cadet’s work on board.”
Newly commissioned Afghan Army
Lt Somaiya received the Duntroon
Sword of Honour for best overall cadet
and was selected to attend officer train-
ing at Sandhurst in the UK.
“The training is very hard for the
cadets, especially Afghan girls, because
we are in a traditional society,” she said.
“For our people, unfortunately it can
be seen as a shame for girls to be outside
of the house and working with the men.
“But now I can say this is no longer
a shame. We are all responsible to the
people and we must help each other.”
Sgt Chris Wainwright, a mentor with
nine months service at the academy, said
Towards an equal force
Afghan staff were pleased with how
some more sceptical male cadets were
surprised by how the females performed.
“Listening to a female deliver a good
set of orders and coming up with differ-
ent ideas to the men really opens their
eyes,” he said.
“If there is any reluctance from not
being used to seeing females around, it’s
The academy’s senior mentor, British
Army Brig David Colthup, said a num-
ber of Pashtu female cadets had now
“The majority have been from the
Hazara tribal background that has a
more liberal approach to the employ-
ment of women,” he said.
“It is great that we are now seeing
women of different tribal backgrounds
taking their place in the Afghan Army.”
The Afghan Army aims to have
women as 10 per cent of its numbers by
Brig Colthup said the academy was
contributing about 100 females in train-
ing across three terms.
Lt Somaiya is now one of more than
3000 male and female cadets who have
graduated from the academy.
“I’m really happy today; I never
thought the day would come when I’d
take this commission,” Lt Somaiya said.
“They thought we girls can’t do these
activities, but we showed them we can
and we are not less than them.
“This is a good opportunity for me
and every Afghan girl to live on their
abilities and join the army – to be useful
to our country.”
Afghan National Army’s Lt Somaiya
leads the graduating female cadets
during a parade at the Afghan National
Army Officer Academy on the outskirts
of Kabul, and below, she gives a
speech during a graduation ceremony.
Photos: Cpl Max Bree
ENTERING the headquarters of
the NATO Special Forces mis-
sion in Afghanistan is a hum-
The walls are lined with
photos of the fallen, including
These tributes are a
reminder of sacrifices made for
Afghanistan’s future, while the
busy specialist staff in the build-
ing are a reminder of the ongo-
ing commitment to the nation.
The NATO Special
Command –Afghanistan started
its training and advisory capac-
ity mission after the NATO
Special Forces combat mission
came to an end in late 2014.
A small number of ADF
personnel are deployed to the
headquarters in roles such as
future plans, logistics and secu-
rity force assistance.
Col Stuart Davies serves as
the command’s plans director
and senior Australian representa-
tive in the headquarters.
“The mission is about deny-
ing a safe haven to terrorists and
building capacity of the Afghan
Special Forces so they can con-
tribute to improved stability and
security,” he said.
The command is working
to expand the Afghan Special
Forces from 20,000 to 33,000
and double its combat and spe-
cial policing capacity by 2020.
Besides doubling the number
of commando companies, the
expansion will also add three
extra National Mission Units.
They will be prepared to
conduct high-risk arrests and
respond to high-profile attacks
in key population areas.
“It’s the notion of investing
in what works,” Col Davies said.
“We’ve heard from chatter
that when the Taliban and other
A special investment in Afghanistan
threat groups recognise the
Afghan Special Security Forces
are coming, they disperse and
don’t stay to fight.
“They are a capable fighting
force and there are opportunities
to build on their success.”
A capability enhancement
program is also seeking to
improve command and control
for greater operational tempo
along with improved intelli-
gence and sustainment.
While the Afghans are pro-
ficient fighters, Col Davies said
Afghan Special Forces are still
developing their abilities to plan
and execute more complex oper-
ations with technical enablers.
“The Afghan Special
Security Forces have not suf-
fered a major defeat on the bat-
tlefield to date,” he said.
“The Taliban do fear them
and by expanding the Afghan
Special Forces we’re ensuring
the enemy has no sanctuary or
safe haven where they can train
and plan missions.
“We need to develop the
Afghan Special Forces’ capac-
ity to plan, execute and manage
operations, both as an organisa-
tion and as part of the broader
Afghan Security Forces effort.”
They are a
force and there
to build on their
Col Stuart Davies,
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