With the withdrawal of the U.S.-led coalition from Afghanistan, the all-important training of Afghan commandos, who are the backbone of the Afghan military’s fight against the Taliban, was a question mark. However, this has now been resolved, as it was announced that the Afghan commandos will train in Turkey.

The first Afghan troops were airlifted to Turkey on Wednesday to begin a training course. 

NATO acknowledged the move to the news media, but didn’t specify to which Turkish base the commandos will train nor who the trainers will be, citing security concerns. 

Afghan commando patch. These commandos will now train in Turkey.
Afghan Commando patch. The training for the Afghan commandos has shifted to Turkey.

“In addition to continued funding and diplomatic presence, NATO’s continued support to Afghanistan includes out-of-country training for Afghan Special Forces. This training has now begun. For security reasons, we will not go into the details of our out-of-country training for Afghan special forces,” NATO said.

NATO Remains Committed to Afghanistan

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg spoke with Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani on July 27. Stoltenberg reiterated NATO’s continued support for Afghanistan, and assured the president that this will include funding, civilian presence, and out-of-country training.

NATO’s continued support for the Afghan military is a decision by the heads of state and government of the 30 NATO members taken during a summit meeting in June. The leaders had assured the Afghan government that although the military mission is ending, their support for the Afghan government and the people would remain for long after the withdrawal of the troops. 

“We affirm our commitment to continue to stand with Afghanistan, its people, and its institutions in promoting security and upholding the hard-won gains of the last 20 years,” NATO’s final declaration had said.

Back in mid-June Stoltenberg had said Turkey and the United States were in dialogue as to where the training of Afghan troops would be conducted and on hashing out the details of the security of Kabul’s airport. 

“We are also working on how critical infrastructures, including the airport, will be sustainable. NATO plans to provide support,” Stoltenberg had said.

A Turkish and an American troop.
Turkish and American troops working together. They may do so again in training Afghan SF in Turkey. (File photo)

“Some NATO countries, such as the United States and Turkey, are also in direct dialogue on how to make an international airport in Kabul sustainable. This is important for the continuation of diplomatic presence and assistance for both NATO allies and the entire international community,” he had added.

Turkey Extending an Olive Branch by Accepting Afghan Commandos?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said at the time that Turkey had offered to secure and operate Kabul’s airport after NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan. Given the strained and hostile relation between Turkey and many of all the alliance’s members, this offer was seen as an olive branch to the other NATO members.

The Turkish military still has 500 troops in Afghanistan training Afghan security forces. The U.S. has said that it would maintain about 650 troops in the country to safeguard its embassy and diplomatic personnel. 

In June, the U.S. had approached Qatar to host training for Afghanistan’s Special Forces. Pakistan had previously rejected a similar request.

Both Qatar and Pakistan, it should be noted, have hosted the Taliban. Since 2013, Qatar has also hosted the Taliban’s political office.