Afghan Air Interdiction Unit gets a boost

  • Published
  • By U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class David Quillen
  • NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan
Members of the Afghan Ministry of Interior's Air Interdiction Unit held a transition ceremony May 5 at an Afghan National Army Air Corps base in Kabul, Afghanistan, in support of the unit's notable accomplishments over the past 12 months.

A few of the distinguished accomplishments include the approval and implementation of the "1389" tashkiel, which will allow for significant growth of the Air Induction Unit; the recent issue of new equipment, vehicles, and uniforms from the government of England to AIU personnel; and the transition of English-owned Mi-17 airframes to the Afghans to aid in the continued development of the AIU.

"With our work with the forces from (England), we have learned a great deal. The training we have received has given us the opportunity to develop many skills we otherwise would not have had. This gives us (the AIU) the ability to provide new and stronger support to the police and the ministry," said Capt. Abdul Hamad Sahak, a pilot for the AIU.

As the Afghan Ministry of Interior's only aviation unit, the AIU has undergone considerable change over the past 12 months and is making significant steps forward in terms of both structure and operational capability.

Co-located at Kabul International Airport, Afghanistan, with the Afghan Air Corps, the AIU is a U.S. Army-mentored counternarcotics aviation unit which provides support to a variety of ground units with its fleet of 16 Mi-17 helicopters. In a similar fashion to the air corps members who regularly support the Afghan National Army, the AIU's "Afghan-only" Mi-17 crews are now regularly conducting training and operational missions in support of the MOI, the Afghan National Police and other counternarcotics forces around Afghanistan.

The recent successful integration of 36 aircrew servicemembers from England's Mi-17 flight training program has greatly assisted in accelerating the growth of the AIU. As part of England's counternarcotics strategy for Afghanistan, the flight training program produced both pilots and flight engineers, the last group of whom joined the unit in March 2010.

"I have been working with the AIU for a few years, since 2006. Some of the work is dangerous, but it is important work and it brings great pride to us to do it," Captain Sahak said. "We are helping Afghanistan move forward."

The AIU is now focusing on increased support to the Afghan National Security Forces through both an increase in the amount of Mi-17 support hours available and the creation of new detachments around the country over the coming months. This will further extend the support the Afghan National Security Forces can provide, while contributing to the stabilization of the Afghan government.