‘Sandhurst in the sand’ explained

Located west of the Afghan capital, it’s a place where men and women go from soldier to leader

Ministry of Defence
Jul 14 · 4 min read

The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (in Berkshire) has been admired all over the world since the 1800s — the name changed from The Royal Military College to Royal Military Academy in 1947.

It is where ambitious soldiers and civilians enter eager to pass out in the Sovereign’s Parade a year later as confident British Army officers.

Its motto, ‘Serve to Lead’ is drilled into every Officer Cadet who passes through.

So, it was at no surprise that when the UK with partner nations committed to building the Afghan National Army Officer Academy (ANAOA), that the Afghans requested that it be modelled after the Berkshire based school of excellence, hence being dubbed ‘Sandhurst in the Sand’.

The construction of the building began in 2013 and is located in Qargha, a town west of Kabul. ‘Sandhurst in the sand’ would become the UK’s long-lasting legacy in Afghanistan post combat operations in 2014 (Operation HERRICK).

In October 2013 the academy opened its doors to the first Afghan soldiers.

Modelled on the British system, everything from selection to military history is similar to that taught here in the UK, but with a twist. Everything has been adapted to resonate better with our Afghan counterparts. Lectures on the Battle of Waterloo are replaced with lessons learnt from the Battle of Gandamak in the 19th Century where Afghan military forces wiped out a retreating British Army.

Members of the Afghan National Army take part in an exercise on the ANAOA plains in Kabul.

Working alongside NATO allies, the aim of the academy is to help to sustain the ongoing progress made in building a capable and professional Afghan National Army after the transition of security responsibilities to the Afghan Government after 2014.

Captain Ainsworth, a British Army mentor at the ANAOA in Kabul.
Captain Ainsworth, a British Army mentor at the ANAOA in Kabul.

The role of the British troops was to provide training and advisory roles. This training is integral to producing the country’s next military leaders and saw female and male officer cadets training side by side together.

The Afghan National Army Officer Academy Commanding Office converses with Capt Ainsworth, a British Army mentor at ANAOA.
The Afghan National Army Officer Academy Commanding Office converses with Capt Ainsworth, a British Army mentor at ANAOA.

A big step for the academy was fully integrating female cadets into the course, passing the same selection standards to win their place at the academy and working alongside their male counterparts both in the classroom and during battlefield exercises.

Alongside NATO Allies, we have helped train 5,000 Afghan National Defence Security Force cadets, including 330 women.

The ‘Sandhurst in the sand’ teaches the cadets everything from foreign languages, international affairs and behavioural science to skill at arms, signals and more trade specific training.

The NATO-led efforts to train, advise and assist Afghan forces have focused on building long-term institutional viability for the academy, through a progressive use of a “train-the-trainer” approach, rather than teaching new recruits directly.

Members of the Afghan National Army take part in an exercise on the ANAOA plains in Kabul.

The Prime Minister has announced that the majority of British forces have now withdrawn from Afghanistan. A small number will remain to provide diplomatic assurance, consistent with our continued diplomatic presence in Afghanistan.

Find out where else the UK Armed Forces are deployed here👇

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