Afghan Army's Kandahar Regional Command Stands Up
By Col. Randy Pullen, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
KABUL, Afghanistan, Sep. 20, 2004 The Afghan National Army stood up its first regional command headquarters outside the Kabul area in Kandahar Sept. 19.
Afghan Defense Minister Fahim Khan (center), accompanied by
Kandahar Gov. Yousef Pashtoon (in light suit), reviews the troops of the Afghan
National Army's 205 Corps prior to the beginning of the ceremony establishing
the Kandahar Regional Command. Photo by Maj. William S. Wynn, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Establishing regional commands of the Afghan National Army is a milestone step for the general security of Afghanistan and for the strengthening of the Afghan government, officials said.
This regional command and the ones to be stood up in Gardez, Mazar-e Sharif and Herat mark the permanent Afghan National Army presence in the four regions of Afghanistan, will clearly demonstrate to the Afghan people and to the international community that Afghan national government authority extends throughout the nation, officials said.
The Kandahar Regional Command has been designated 205 Corps and will be called Atal (Hero) Corps.
Among the dignitaries attending the stand-up ceremony were Afghanistan Defense Minister Fahim Khan; Kandahar Gov. Yousef Pashtoon; Deputy Defense Minster Rahim Wardak; Japanese Ambassador Norihiro Okuda; Gen. Bismullah Khan, chief of the General Staff; Lt. Gen. Shir M. Karimi, chief of operations for the General Staff; U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Craig P. Weston, chief of the Office of Military Cooperation Afghanistan; and Royal Netherlands Air Force Maj. Gen. L. Van Den Born, deputy commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force.
At the commencement of the stand-up ceremony, the defense minister presented the Afghan national colors and the command's colors to the commander and his deputy, who then paraded them past the assembled troops. As the colors passed them, the soldiers repeatedly shouted, "God is great!"
"This grand opening of the Atal Corps is a sign of great success in the Afghan National Army," Khan said. "Following the opening of the Central Corps, this demonstrates the vigorous progress of the ANA."
Khan said that following the destruction of the Afghan army by the Soviets and the Taliban, building a new national army seemed to be only a dream. Thanks to the wise management of President Hamid Karzai and the great assistance and cooperation of the coalition, especially the United States, that dream is now a reality, he said.
"Now that the Central Corps has been completed at Kabul, there will be regional commands in four of Afghanistan's provinces," Khan said. "The Kandahar Regional Command is the first. I am very proud of this grand opening today and of the other three that will be taking place soon."
Representing the Combined Forces Command Afghanistan coalition and the United States at the ceremony, Weston said the opening of this regional command was one more step in leaving the bad times behind and moving forward to a democratic, prosperous and peaceful future for Kandahar, the region and Afghanistan.
"The opening of this regional command, the building of this permanent base, and the permanent assignment of a 3,000-man brigade will provide the security foundation for this region," Weston said, "making it possible for the people of this area to unite, rebuild and move forward into a better future."
From now on the green berets of the ANA soldiers will be a permanent presence in this area, Weston said, and they mark a professional, disciplined army that will defeat the threats to Afghan freedom. They stand as a force of good that helps the people and they represent a national army of and for all the peoples of Afghanistan, he said.
"The green berets are a symbol of the future of Afghanistan," he said.
A contingent of about 150 of those green beret-wearing soldiers was present at the ceremony.
"Today is not an ordinary day," said Kandahar's governor. "After 25 years of war, we have been able to set up our military units and corps to safeguard the identity of our nation and to defend our people," he said.
"This great day just didn't happen," Pashtoon continued. "We came to this successful day through the best plans of our government and with the ample assistance of the coalition and especially the U.S. Army. I appreciate the wise guidance of General Weston in arranging for the best means of training for the Afghan National Army and the Ministry of Defense."
As the last speech ended, the defense minister walked over to the camp flagpole and raised the flag of Afghanistan over the temporary buildings that make up the regional command's garrison site for now. Permanent structures will be started soon and are due to be completed early next year.
(Army Col. Randy Pullen is the public affairs officer for the Office of Military Cooperation Afghanistan)