Afghanistan — University Offers Opportunities for Afghan Forces

WASHINGTON, June 16, 2010 — A new uni­ver­si­ty in Afghanistan will help to bring edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties for the country’s secu­ri­ty forces.

“The desire for a self-sus­tain­ing, self-suf­fi­cient Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty force is what led NATO Train­ing Mis­sion Afghanistan to one of our top pri­or­i­ties: leader devel­op­ment,” Jack Kem, deputy to the NATO Train­ing Mis­sion Afghanistan com­man­der, said dur­ing a “DoD Live” blog­gers round­table yes­ter­day.

“Afghan Defense Uni­ver­si­ty will be the leader devel­op­ment insti­tu­tion for Afghanistan [and] the cap­stone for the Afghan secu­ri­ty edu­ca­tion sys­tem,” Kem added.

The uni­ver­si­ty, being built on a 105-acre site in the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul, will serve up to 7,000 stu­dents and fac­ul­ty mem­bers and will have eight schools for Afghanistan’s army, air force, nation­al police and gov­ern­ment min­istries. The site is expect­ed to open in March, and the school is 20 per­cent com­plete.

The school will be the pre­mier edu­ca­tion facil­i­ty for all lev­els of Afghan secu­ri­ty forces lead­er­ship, Kem said, and they hope to rival, if not exceed, the pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary insti­tu­tions through­out the world.

“It’s an invest­ment in intel­lec­tu­al cap­i­tal for the future of Afghanistan,” he added.

The eight schools in the uni­ver­si­ty include the Non­com­mis­sioned Offi­cers Acad­e­my, Com­mand and Staff Col­lege, War Col­lege, Legal School, Reli­gious and Cul­tur­al Affairs School, the Coun­terin­sur­gency Acad­e­my, the For­eign Lan­guage Cen­ter and the Nation­al Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my of Afghanistan.

The schools will be on the same cam­pus, and stu­dents will attend at crit­i­cal times in their careers, Kem said. “It’s a pret­ty amaz­ing thing to have that many schools in one site and to be able to cap­i­tal­ize on some of the facil­i­ties,” he not­ed.

The Nation­al Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my, mod­eled after the U.S. Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my at West Point, N.Y., will be the first school to open on the cam­pus. It will host 2,400 stu­dents at a time — 600 for each year group — and 200 to 300 fac­ul­ty mem­bers.

“This school is becom­ing more and more com­pet­i­tive every year,” Kem said. “Entrance is based upon mer­it.”

Out of 3,000 appli­cants, only 600 stu­dents were accept­ed in the cohort class. The oth­er cours­es at the uni­ver­si­ty are for peo­ple already in the Afghan military’s edu­ca­tion sys­tem. “We find that there is a com­bi­na­tion of peo­ple who’ve been recent­ly com­mis­sioned in the last eight years, since we start­ed our oper­a­tions here, and there are some that pre­cede that,” he explained.

Kem also said the stu­dents will learn from their fel­low Afghans. “Our mod­el is the Afghans teach the Afghans,” he said. The coali­tion will help to devel­op the cur­ricu­lum, pro­vide over­sight and do resourc­ing, he added.

Grad­u­ate Record Exam­i­na­tion prepa­ra­tion and Eng­lish class­es for 15 of the instruc­tors will help to pre­pare the staff to receive master’s degrees at inter­na­tion­al­ly rec­og­nized uni­ver­si­ties. NATO also is devel­op­ing the Afghan Coop­er­a­tion Pro­gram to pro­vide assis­tance for the pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment of fac­ul­ty at the uni­ver­si­ty, Kem said.

Lit­er­a­cy isn’t an issue for those enter­ing the mil­i­tary acad­e­my, Kem said, but it is one of the most impor­tant things the NATO Train­ing Mis­sion focus­es on in Afghanistan.

“It is one of the foun­da­tions we have for pro­fes­sion­al­iz­ing the Afghan army and Afghan police,” he said. About 23,000 of the 230,000 Afghans serv­ing in their country’s secu­ri­ty forces are in lit­er­a­cy pro­grams, he added, and offi­cials hope to have 50,000 enrolled by Decem­ber and 100,000 July 2011.

“Across the board, we are try­ing to improve the edu­ca­tion­al sta­tus and intel­lec­tu­al cap­i­tal through­out the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty force,” he said.

To mea­sure suc­cess, Kem said, offi­cials are look­ing at region­al accred­i­ta­tion used in the Unit­ed States as a stan­dard for exter­nal eval­u­a­tors. These eval­u­a­tors will make sure the school is mak­ing good progress, he said, and that the pro­grams are rig­or­ous.

“Afghan Defense Uni­ver­si­ty is a real­ly impor­tant step in the Afghans tak­ing back their nation,” Kem said. “It real­ly rep­re­sents a future for hope and free­dom for Afghanistan to choose its own path.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)