Afghan resources remain stretched, and the Coalition faces a challenge in preparing a restructured air force to take control of its own operations.
At the British-run Afghan National Army Officer Academy (ANAOA) located at the vast Camp Qargha on the outskirts of Kabul, cadets are being mentored by Australian defence personnel.
ANAOA lead mentor Lieutenant Colonel Steve Jenkins said it is an important role.
“Whilst they’ll graduate from here and certainly they’ll be the military leaders in the near future, I think we’re all hopeful that what we’re going to see is that these people will sort of spread out across Afghan society.”
Afghan Brigadier General Sharif Sharifi said Australian support is vital.
“These Australian mentors that we have, they are helping us a lot in terms of training and education in this academy, so it is very, very important to have the Australian support,” he said.
Sergeant Kristy McMillen said it had heralded a cultural shift too – with more women being recruited.
“I know it will never be the same in Afghanistan as it is in Australia, maybe it will be one day, but it’s important that they see that women are capable and they’re just as good as the men,” she said.
As the military makes advancements on the ground, it’s also strengthening its air force, with help from specialised Australian advisors.
The squadron leader, who did not want to be named for security reasons, said they were making ground.
“They’ve come from a really harsh place, if you consider the 30 to 40 years that Afghanistan’s been in conflict, it’s really knocked about the government institutions and the air force as well. But we see day-by-day improvements and they really are building up a strong capability.”
A burgeoning Afghan air force now has around 100 new aircraft, from gunship helicopters to C-130 Hercules and A-29 attack planes.
The A-29 Afghan aircraft that were involved in combat missions conducted just a few weeks ago over Taliban strongholds were all crewed by Afghan pilots.
It was seen as a success by those running the NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.