Archive for Thursday, July 31, 2003

Foreign officers taught democracy at Statehouse

International class receiving military instruction in U.S.

July 31, 2003

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— One sign that Afghanistan is emerging from years of Soviet invasion and Taliban rule is Maj. Mohammad Farid Ahmadi.

He is the first Afghan officer in 25 years to receive training in the United States, and his presence Wednesday at the Statehouse was made possible by the relatively new, U.S.-backed government in his homeland.

"The first important thing my nation needs right now is peace," said the 31-year-old Ahmadi.

Ahmadi is part of the latest class at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. Since 1894, the post on the banks of the Missouri River has taught the world's military leaders.

On Wednesday, 89 international officers studying at the college traveled to Topeka for lessons in democracy from state leaders, including Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Maj. Bill Dickey, a spokesman for the command college, said the course was the second-highest tier of military instruction in the United States, behind the military's war colleges. Through next June, the officers will study military tactics along with 1,000 officers from the U.S. military.

The lessons learned are likely to be passed on to military officers in other nations. The Army estimates that 47 percent of the more than 6,300 foreign officers to pass through the college have become generals, heads of state, ambassadors, representatives or military chiefs of staff.

Maj. Amer Nawaz, of the Pakistani army, said he was learning to integrate government between provinces and the national level.

"We more or less have a democratic system," he said. "We're trying to push it to the lower levels."

Nawaz, 32, said increased peace and security measures had been on the minds of all military officers since Sept. 11. He added that Pakistan took fighting terrorism seriously.

"Since 9-11, we've been a major contributor," Nawaz said.

Maj. Gen. Greg Gardner, state adjutant general, said many of the international officers were curious about the National Guard's relationship with the national military.

"They don't have a reserve component like the National Guard," Gardner said.

Ahmadi has been in the Afghan military for 11 years. He said under Taliban rule, Afghanis had no reason to believe that there would ever be changes in the economy, education or quality of life.

"Most Afghanis lost the wish for the future," he said.

That changed in 2001 and 2002 when the U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban and helped install a new government. Ahmadi said he wanted to take what he learned over the next 10 months home to help forge a new military that represents all Afghanis, not just warlords or certain ethnic groups.

He said the key to building support among the people would be to temper rhetoric with concrete actions to improve life. While changes occur daily, he cautions that problems remain with drug trafficking and al-Qaida along the Pakistani border.

"I'm proud to be chosen," Ahmadi said.

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