The Australian Army has completed its assistance to the Afghan National Army Officer Academy, ending a seven-year deployment of Australian troops to train Afghan Army officers.

Australian mentors were part of the academy since 2013, when the first intake of cadets was received and ended their mission in August. Modelled on the UK Royal Military Academy Sandhurst by the British-led coalition mission, the Afghan National Army Officer Academy is now a sprawling campus based on the outskirts of Kabul. The academy graduated its 5000th officer in September.

“We have helped to create a strong and capable officer training institution that meets the demands of the Afghan National Army. The Afghans are proud of the legacy we helped them to build,” Lieutenant Colonel Lachlan Searle, mentor and final senior Australian representative at the academy, said in an Australian Department of Defence release.

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in face-to-face meetings during training sessions being replaced with virtual mentoring via mobile phone, email and online get-togethers.

There were reportedly 10,0000 applications for the first cadet intake at the academy, of which 270 all-male Afghans were selected. The first 30 female cadets were admitted in 2014, with the 100th female graduating in 2018. As of late 2020, 300 females had been commissioned, making up about six per cent of overall graduates.

Following the graduation of the 5,000th cadet in September, the compound housing coalition mentors and support staff on academy grounds called ‘Camp Qargha’ was closed. 72 Australian support staff were based at Camp Qargha, including communications and force protection personnel. 

“Advisers relied heavily on medical and logistic, operational planning and intelligence support, as well as the intimate support provided on task by ‘guardian angels’ and QRF [Quick Reaction Force],” Lieutenant Colonel Searle said.