Building the Afghan Air Force

Americans have sacrificed much for the war in Afghanistan, but also must not forget the sacrifice Afghans have made, said Brig. Gen. John Michel, commanding general for NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan. The vast majority of Afghans want “this more than we do,” he said, referring to their desire for a viable and independent Afghan air arm during his Sept. 17 speech at AFA’s 2013 Air and Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. There is “a bit of a supply-and-demand problem,” though, said Michel. The AAF requires a 100-percent literacy rate, while Afghanistan’s literacy rate stands at 31 percent, he said. There is also an English language requirement for a large part of the AAF, he said. The AAF needs to find “the right people with the right skills at the right place and at the right time,” he emphasized. “The reason it takes time to build an air force from the ground up in a country like Afghanistan, is [because] we’re dealing with systemic limitations we don’t even think about in the United States,” said Michel. “By the time we’ve picked someone out to be a pilot or a maintainer, they’ve been through so much vetting, testing, [and] training,” he said.