Afghan air force set for armed battle

Associated Press / August 13, 2009

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WASHINGTON - After years of recruiting and training, Afghan airmen are getting ready to fight.

Equipped with Russian-made attack helicopters - a relic of their war-tattered past - the Afghan Army Air Corps soon will start using force in their missions, US Air Force Brigadier General Walter Givhan said yesterday.

Officials called it a significant step for a unit that grew from nothing just a few years ago.

“This has been part of a very deliberate training regimen that we have created for them,’’ Givhan said during a videoconference from Kabul. “We’ve taken them through an entire syllabus to include training on rules of engagement, and when they can shoot and when they can’t shoot, to get them ready for this.’’

Givhan added: “The roles that they initially take on will not be full-fledged close air support-type roles, but will be a little bit simpler.’’

That will include missions like fighter escorts and shooting in self defense as the Afghan pilots continue to train for full attack operations, Givhan said. He did not give a timeline of exactly when that would happen.