As the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) shifts to a training and advisory role in Afghanistan in preparation for the planned end of its mission in 2014, the Afghan air force has had difficulty replacing the air support capabilities previously supplied by international forces. In an email interview, Gary Owen, the pen name of an analyst and development worker in Afghanistan who has written on the readiness of the Afghan air force, explained the force’s history and current capabilities.
WPR: When was the last time Afghanistan had a functioning air force?
Gary Owen: The history of the Afghan air force (AAF) began in the 1920s, with both Russia and Great Britain providing aircraft to Afghanistan. The air force underwent steady development and expansion, culminating in its peak performance during the Russian occupation in the 1980s and early 1990s. Once President Mohammad Najibullah’s government collapsed and the civil war began, however, that capability rapidly deteriorated, and what little air power still existed was nearly all destroyed during the U.S. invasion in 2001. It has only been since 2008 that the AAF once again officially existed as a functioning branch of the Afghan armed forces.