Canadian Troops Train Afghanistan Army Recruits
By Robert J. Galbraith in Kabul, Afghanistan for the Toronto Star 09/16/05
In the mountainous region 5 miles of east Kabul, 450 Afghani Army recruits, are being indoctrinated by the Canadian Armed forces in a mountainous, desert boot camp, known as the Kabul Military Training Centre.
Surrounded by the skeletons of hundreds of Soviet-era military wreckage, the recruits were spread out over a large sweltering valley, where anti-personnel mines and the relentless heat are the only enemy to be challenged, at this time. The recruits, in groups of fifty to a hundred men, had fanned out over the valley, practicing war games with their AK 47’s clutched in hand.
“Because most of them don’t read (the illiteracy rate in Afghanistan is around 90%), these exercises are to give demonstrations ,” says Major Michael Sullivan, of the 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery Regiment, based in Petawawa, Ontario. “We are training by example. They respond very well to this type of hands-on experience.”
The role of the Canadian troops in these 12-day-long collective training exercise (it takes 14 weeks of training to turn a raw recruit into a soldier), is to train the Afghans in platoon movement, hasty attack and counter attack strategy, and conduct security defense of forward operations base checkpoints (F.O.B.s).
“There is a great difference between a guerilla movement and an army. You don’t build an army overnight, and the secret to training the recruits is youth, to train them at a young age,” says Sullivan, who is just one of the approximately 1000 Canadian troops in Afghanistan. This certainly is the case at the training centre, where most of the young Afghanis sport a halo of peach fuzz upon their well-tanned faces.
Sullivan says that the biggest obstacle to training the Afghans is the culture differences between eastern and western civilizations and quotes from the book, Lawrence of Arabia, to describe this difference. “It is better to let them do it imperfectly than to do it perfectly yourself for you. Time is short and it is their army.”
The Canadian Forces have a solid reputation amongst the coalition forces. “We’re known as one of the best and experienced at what we do.”
This sentiment is endorsed by the American allies, who work hand-in-hand with the 15 Canadian specialist who are helping train the young warriors. “You got a great bunch of guys here, real professionals, very competent” commented Major David Wunibald, of the US Ops Tag unit, as he stood scanning the rock-strewn wasteland.
The importance of the training and dedication of the Canadians does not fall short on any of the recruits (who earn the equivalent of $70 US a month). “The foreign people are here to bring stability and to bring our army to the level of other armies,” explained 25-year-old Mhamad Sabar, a former shop keeper. “It has always been my dream to join the army, to help defend my country, until we can stand on our own two feet.”