By Christen N. McCluney
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity
June 16, 2010 - A new university in Afghanistan will help to bring educational opportunities for the country's security forces.
"The desire for a self-sustaining, self-sufficient Afghan national security force is what led NATO Training Mission Afghanistan to one of our top priorities: leader development," Jack Kem, deputy to the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan commander, said during a "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable yesterday.
"Afghan Defense University will be the leader development institution for Afghanistan [and] the capstone for the Afghan security education system," Kem added.
The university, being built on a 105-acre site in the Afghan capital of Kabul, will serve up to 7,000 students and faculty members and will have eight schools for Afghanistan's army, air force, national police and government ministries. The site is expected to open in March, and the school is 20 percent complete.
The school will be the premier education facility for all levels of Afghan security forces leadership, Kem said, and they hope to rival, if not exceed, the professional military institutions throughout the world.
"It's an investment in intellectual capital for the future of Afghanistan," he added.
The eight schools in the university include the Noncommissioned Officers Academy, Command and Staff College, War College, Legal School, Religious and Cultural Affairs School, the Counterinsurgency Academy, the Foreign Language Center and the National Military Academy of Afghanistan.
The schools will be on the same campus, and students will attend at critical times in their careers, Kem said. "It's a pretty amazing thing to have that many schools in one site and to be able to capitalize on some of the facilities," he noted.
The National Military Academy, modeled after the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., will be the first school to open on the campus. It will host 2,400 students at a time -- 600 for each year group -- and 200 to 300 faculty members.
"This school is becoming more and more competitive every year," Kem said. "Entrance is based upon merit."
Out of 3,000 applicants, only 600 students were accepted in the cohort class. The other courses at the university are for people already in the Afghan military's education system.
"We find that there is a combination of people who've been recently commissioned in the last eight years, since we started our operations here, and there are some that precede that," he explained.
Kem also said the students will learn from their fellow Afghans. "Our model is the Afghans teach the Afghans," he said. The coalition will help to develop the curriculum, provide oversight and do resourcing, he added.
Graduate Record Examination preparation and English classes for 15 of the instructors will help to prepare the staff to receive master's degrees at internationally recognized universities. NATO also is developing the Afghan Cooperation Program to provide assistance for the professional development of faculty at the university, Kem said.
Literacy isn't an issue for those entering the military academy, Kem said, but it is one of the most important things the NATO Training Mission focuses on in Afghanistan.
"It is one of the foundations we have for professionalizing the Afghan army and Afghan police," he said. About 23,000 of the 230,000 Afghans serving in their country's security forces are in literacy programs, he added, and officials hope to have 50,000 enrolled by December and 100,000 July 2011.
"Across the board, we are trying to improve the educational status and intellectual capital throughout the Afghan national security force," he said.
To measure success, Kem said, officials are looking at regional accreditation used in the United States as a standard for external evaluators. These evaluators will make sure the school is making good progress, he said, and that the programs are rigorous.
"Afghan Defense University is a really important step in the Afghans taking back their nation," Kem said. "It really represents a future for hope and freedom for Afghanistan to choose its own path."