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May-02-2007 10:47printcommentsVideo

Afghanistan Vice-President Visits Army Boot Camp in Kabul (VIDEO)

This is a new, previously unreleased report from Tim King's war coverage mission to Afghanistan.

Afghanastan's basic training base, KMTC in Kabul
Photos and video: Tim King

(KABUL, Afghanistan) - Americans who watch action films are used to seeing military recruits in boot camp; basic training has been portrayed in movies for years. But an inside look at the Afghanistan Army’s boot camp is something most people haven’t experienced.

One immediate difference is that Afghanistan’s basic training base is located in a combat zone. Even on the actual base, unexploded land mines are an ever present danger. There are more unexploded bombs in Afghanistan than any other country in the world.

The basic training facility is called KMTC. The Kabul Military Training Center is located in the country’s capitol city. Kabul and the bases around it are former Taliban military installations, and before that, for many years, they were manned and operated by Communist forces loyal to the Soviet Union, which Afghanistan was part of.

This base was serving as a Taliban headquarters when the war began. American Air Force planes with bombs called J-Dams were used to smash many of the buildings here. Today a few new barracks and latrine facilities exist among the ruins and the Soviet constructed buildings that survived and now provide a working area for Americans and other Coalition forces stationed here.

This is a base where Oregon Guard and other U.S. military forces work as “Embedded Training Team” members, training Afghan soldiers in basic military skills.

This is a special day at KMTC, the officers and men of the Afghan National Army are preparing for a visit from the country’s Vice-President, Abdul Karim Khalili. In addition to the official pomp and circumstances which are all steeped in an archaic Soviet military style, Vice-President Khalili was visiting to tour the base and gain a better understanding of how his country’s Army recruits are progressing in their military basic training.

American Army soldiers, along with French and British military forces, oversee the Afghan Army operation here and they have progressively handed the duties over to the increasingly experienced Afghan training staff.

The soldiers here don’t have dress uniforms, the white belts, gloves and boot bands are the equivalent of an American Army soldier’s class-a dress. They are sharp though, and they have a decent amount of military precision.

Among the left behind relics of the British invasion of the 1800’s, soldiers have built a mosque. It allows a view of the action below as the soldier’s prepare for their unusual and distinguished guest.

The Afghan soldiers stood at attention as Vice-President Khalili began his official tour of a facility that places high demands on the training staff. Only a small percentage of Afghan men are literate. This makes training more difficult as recruits do their best to utilize their limited language and writing skills in things like weapons training and defensive tactics.

Khalili met officials who operate KMTC, and they showed enthusiasm at having an opportunity to discuss their long list of needs with a man who represents the president himself, Hamid Karzai. High ranking officials of the base here told the vice-president that they were indeed meeting their mission, even with their limited resources.

For the majority of these hundreds of troops lined up at attention, this is the first time they have ever seen their own vice-president. Young men from all over Afghanistan comprise these ranks. They hail from several different cultural groups but in the Afghan Army, they serve in diversified battalions or “kandeks” as they known here.

The soldiers undergo a rigid training program that transforms them from civilian to recruit in a little over three months. Those who were fortunate enough to attend school and learn to read and write, typically become non-commissioned officers. Recruits with any college at all are moved into the officer’s ranks.

The history of the Afghanistan Army is diverse and interesting. And today, men who once fought ferocious in combat against one another serve side by side.

I met officers who were former Taliban fighters, that worked side by side today with veterans of the Mujahadeen, the men who defeated the Soviets in the 1980’s, supported by money from the United States government, specifically the CIA, under the administrations of Presidents Carter and Reagan.

Then someone pointed out that these two officers work with another high ranking official who was an officer in the Communist Afghan Army. These soldiers sided with the Soviets when they invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and stayed there for ten years.

Ethnic groups that traditionally clash now serve together and count on one another to stay alive.

But the Afghan Army is a cohesive unit. While they continue to experience a desertion rate that Americans say they conservatively estimate at 20%, they also continue to generate quality soldiers who are brave and willing when it comes time to fight their enemies.

The vice-president inspected his troops as the Afghan National Army band underscored the military climate. This is typical military tradition in most nations. Soldiers anxiously display their best military bearing. A high level official walks the ranks of men, hopefully adding confidence to a nation that continues to show the world that the average people there are not interested in seeing their country hosting terrorists who masquerade as religious extremists while they fund their operations with money from the opium trades, which continue to be Afghanistan’s oldest and most profitable industry.

Vice-President Abdul Khalili spoke to the soldiers who stood in formation and told them that their commitment will lead to a better future, and that a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan is in their grasp. He talked about the importance of their commitment to Afghanistan and he spoke highly of the mission of the Coalition to help them regain what in their lifetimes has not existed, a country free of war.

Tim King of Salem-News.com

The Vice President toured other parts of KMTC. One location was an indoor gun range which doesn’t involve gunpowder or bullets; instead soldiers’ results are measured electronically.

An Afghan interpreter working with the vice president says the high tech systems help, “It’s very good, it’s very effective, a soldier learns a lot from it.”

The Afghan recruits learn to fire the Russian made Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle and they become more proficient at using the sites. An American general asked if they wear combat gear when training.

An Afghan Army Colonel speaking through an interpreter, says all the training comes together after the recruit becomes a soldier, “Yeah we make them to do that because they have to be used to it when they go to the range and front lines, they have to use it."

The computers’ accuracy helps advance the soldier’s rifle training, but officials say there aren’t enough to equip the number of soldiers they are training.

The visit of the Afghanistan Vice-President Abdul Khalili seemed in the end, to be the type of experience all of the different parties were looking for. Afghan soldiers say it makes their efforts seem more worthwhile when they receive the attention of one of the men who is steering the new course of their nation.

Watch the video report below by Salem-News.com's Tim King in Kabul:


__________________________________

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club.

Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 82 Salem-News.com writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can write to Tim at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com

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Bill October 1, 2008 8:17 am (Pacific time)

I was stationed at KMTC in 2003 with the 747 MP Co, working with 1st Bn, 3rd SF Group. I have to say, it looks waaaaaay different than it did when I was there. It's also good to see the ANA taking more control over their training. We did it all back then. Looks like there's a lot of new buildings and better training equipment and facilities. It's good to see.


Matt Johnson July 8, 2007 12:20 am (Pacific time)

I think he is saying that like all politicians, he too should go out and fight. At least that is the first part. As for the second part, OSOTAN, if you are listening, explain the yak dung part... sometimes I think you have been in the jungle too long! Matt Johnson-The Malibu Crew


OEFveteran July 7, 2007 11:50 pm (Pacific time)

What is mr. osotan talking about?


Osotan: June 3, 2007 12:20 am (Pacific time)

make him go there and do it too!, give his countrymen a real confidance boost!,taking a part in defending hs own borders! Why are all the yak droppings alive at the same time?, to coin a phrase., speaking in the abstract, of course. Genuine yak dung is usefull!


Tim King May 8, 2007 11:52 pm (Pacific time)

Albert, I honestly don't know, I know roughly what his message was and I just tried to let it go at that. I have read what I can about him; he may be what you suggest but his particular ethnicity is significant, as it is one of the normally more rejected cultures. The entire thing is mixed up as I referenced the soldiers who once fought against one another now fighting side by side. So I do not mean to portray this man as overly good or bad, it is worth investigation and one of the things I always try to keep going on the side. Good to hear from you, thanks, critical thinking is always important.


Albert Marnell May 8, 2007 11:01 pm (Pacific time)

Tim, Isn't this guy just another puppet or did I miss something?

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