Inspiring Loyalty

Lt. Gen. Bismillah Waziri commands the Afghan National Army Special Operations Corps


For years, as some of the most trusted Soldiers in Afghanistan, Afghan National Army Special Operations commandos were summoned for such conventional duties as manning roadblocks and security checkpoints. Lt. Gen. Bismillah Waziri felt such ordinary missions — though critically important — failed to adequately use the talents and training of Afghan commandos noted for their mobility and flexibility. Promoted to his current rank in 2018 in command of his country’s special operations forces, Gen. Waziri aims to wield his troops mostly as an offensive force adept at raids, assaults on terrorist positions and rescue operations. 

The Afghan government is endorsing the same strategy, having announced the expansion of Gen. Waziri’s corps to 30,000 troops and increasing the size of the Afghan Air Force to provide extra support for these elite fighters. 

“Enemies are scared when they hear the name ‘commandos,’” the general said.

Gen. Waziri was born in Kabul in 1966 and grew up in nearby Paktia province. As a young recruit he attended military school in Afghanistan and graduated in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree from the Infantry Department of the National Military Academy of Afghanistan.

From 1986 to 1987 he served as a company commander for the Ministry of Defense, and from 1990 to 1992 as chief of staff of the Reconnaissance Detachment of the 9th Infantry Division. The Taliban years curtailed his military career, but the post-Taliban Afghan Ministry of Defense appointed him a battalion commander in 2004.

Afghan National Army commando training in 2007 led to his assignment as commander of the 3rd Commando Battalion in Kandahar province. He assumed the top position in the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) in 2015. 

“ANASOC grew from a battalion to a division, and then a division to a corps. The transformation to a corps was based on needs and effectiveness of our forces,” Gen. Waziri said.

“Our growth is based on our four year plan, and we are on track with our growth plan. We don’t have any problems, and the international community is supporting and equipping us. Afghan youth are very interested in joining our forces, so our recruiting is on track with the growth plan.”

The general divides his forces into three main groupings: “special forces” that conduct pinpoint raids, “commandos” that clear enemy positions in support of regular Afghan Army forces, and mobile strike forces complete with armored vehicles and superior firepower. ANASOC also hosts a School of Excellence to enhance the training of its forces.

The ANASOC’s unofficial motto is to be ready for any mission, anytime, anywhere. Afghanistan’s international military partners have helped with that preparation. At Camp Commando near Kabul, trainers from countries such as the United States, Poland, Slovakia and Spain have lent expertise acquired as part of NATO.

Some training occurs abroad. A unit of Afghan commandos traveled to the U.S. in September 2018 to participate in U.S. Central Command’s Regional Cooperation 18 exercise. The staff training — centered on directing operations at a multinational Special Operations Task Force Headquarters — provided Afghans the opportunity to cooperate with U.S., Uzbek, Tajik and Mongolian troops. 

The acquisition of new attack helicopters and multipurpose Super Tucano warplanes provides Afghan forces aerial advantages, allowing Gen. Waziri’s troops a maneuverability the enemies of Afghanistan cannot match. 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has expressed his desire that the Afghan National Security Force boost offensive operations against the Taliban with the aim of forcing them to reconcile with Afghanistan’s elected government. 

Gen. Waziri notes that intense fighting has occurred in all parts of Afghanistan — Faryab, Helmand, Kunduz, Ghazni and Nangarhar provinces — highlighting his forces’ geographical reach.

In Nangarhar, Afghan commandos smashed ISIS-Khorasan’s attempt to create a self-proclaimed “caliphate” after the terrorist organization suffered crushing setbacks in Iraq and Syria.  

Gen. Waziri places great stock in being an inspirational leader. For example, at a graduation ceremony of 980 commandos in May 2018, he personally addressed his men and paraded a thoroughbred horse captured from an ISIS terrorist leader.

His personal credo is never to ask his troops to do anything he would not do himself. Personal and professional ethics are paramount.

Recruits appear to be responding. The ANASOC has enlisted the first of more than 10,000 Soldiers it needs to supplement its ranks and complete the compulsory 14-week Commando Qualification Course at Camp Commando. 

As the general told the graduates in May 2018: “This is a huge responsibility. You are the best Afghanistan has to offer against dark forces. … Because of you, many sleep well at night knowing you are now their defenders.” 

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