ANA Commando soldier standing next to US SOF operator during Operation Enduring Freedom

In 2007, the Afghan National Army (ANA) formed its first commando battalion (ANACDO) which is of its structure and training similar to U.S. Army Rangers which later become a part of ANA Commando Brigade. The overall aim was to improve the security situation in the country and create a certain force able to fight against terrorism and insurgency.

The project was started under the supervision of US Military and it included various joint training directed by American instructors (mostly from U.S. Army Special Forces – Green Berets). ANACDO basic training lasted for 3 months and it included advanced tactical skills, advanced infantry skills as well as training in combat first aid and tactical management under fire similar to the world’s standard. The American mission there was fully used as train and equip so basically the have taken over complete management of educations and training.

ANA Commando
Platoon of newly graduated ANA commandos in August 2010

First ANA Commando battalions were equipped by US Military standards which ultimately transformed ANA Commandos into an elite military component of Afghanistan security forces which is able and ready to accept everyone into their ranks, including women who are able to undergo rigorous selection training.

In next few years, they have overdone dozens of operations and tasks alongside ISAF and American partner forces and gained experience until 2011, when the Afghanistan National Army decided to activate the ANA Special Operations Command (ANASOC). The new special forces headquarters was signed by the Chief of the General Staff in April 2011. The goal was that ANASOC continues to develop and implement its plans for the manning, training, and equipping of its forces, all while simultaneously achieving effects on the battlefield.

The development of the ANASOC remains a critical component of the overall force structure and strategy to sustain the transition to Afghan security lead.

For NATO and ISAF (coalition forces) creation of ANASOC was considered as a great help for overall security and for the fight against insurgents and terrorists, especially in mountain warfare and on domestic turf (for Afghan soldiers).

Upon his creation, the ANASOC HQ in 2011 consisted of 7,809 ANACDO and 646 ANASF (ANA Special Forces). Graduation rates for both ANACDO and ANASF operators remained steady and are on schedule to meet end-strength targets. From October 2011 through March 2012, the ANASOC’s School of Excellence produced a total of 1,817 new CDO and 183 new SF operators.

Further development of security issues with insurgency increased the capacity of ANASOC and directed creation of new kandaks (battalions. By 2015 approximately 10,700 military personnel were under the command of ANASOC. ANASOC was grouped into 10 kandaks (battalions) geographically dispersed across Afghanistan.

ANA Commandos objectives and types of missions

ANA Commandos (ANACDO) are trained to perform all kinds of missions and special operations against hostile forces in all environment. They are trained for urban and guerrilla warfare, combat search and reconnaissance. ANA commandos are also able to deal with hostage-taking situations, but their main goal is to spend every possible moment to help Afghan people, so it is not uncommon to see the members of ANA commandos escorting convoys of humanitarian aid or to see them distributing humanitarian aid directly.

US Special Forces Group and ANA Commando during Operation Enduring Freedom
US Special Forces Group and ANA Commando during Operation Enduring Freedom

They reached ability to conduct independent operations throughout Afghanistan and, when engaged, ANACDO wins decisively. Nearly all special operations kandaks, which includes ANACDO members were conducting independent company-level operations, and several have conducted unilateral missions driven by Afghan intelligence gathered without the involvement of coalition special operations forces. Commando units routinely conducted night raids independently using their own intelligence to drive their operations.

ANA Commando gear and equipment

As I have mentioned already, the equipment and gear are up to US military standards, so the members of ANA Commandos often use standard US Military grade weapons including:

  • M16 assault rifle;
  • M4 carbine;
  • M249 SAW light machine gun;
  • M240 machine gun;
  • M203 grenade launcher.
  • and other weapons mainly Western produced

ANA Commandos generally use American Humvee as their primary vehicle. The Humvee is known for great mobility and solid protection against personal weapons. They distinguish between other ANA units by their Red Berets.