Islamic Republic of Afghanistan
Much of the territory now known as Afghanistan was known as Khorasan during the Middle Ages and into the 19th century. Much of the region has been traditionally inhabited by tribal cultures, with their own distinctive languages, customs and spiritual values, although there were some major cities such as Herat and Balkh. The region was overrun by Mongols during the 13th century, marking the beginning of several centuries of dynasties and contending powers vying for control of the territories.
European attempts to gain control of Central Asia during the 18th and 19th centuries were largely unsuccessful in Afghanistan. The First Anglo–Afghan War (1839-1842) resulted in a highly unstable occupation and eventual withdrawal by British forces after heavy losses. Russia gradually advanced into the region over the next thirty years, but in 1878 Great Britain again invaded, sparking the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880). By terms of the Treaty of Gandamak, Britain was granted control of Afghan foreign affairs in exchange for protection, but the Afghans retained control of their internal sovereignty. The Third Anglo-Afghan War (6 May to 8 August 1919) resulted in an armistice and the resumption of control over their own foreign affairs to the Afghans.
Although unaligned to either the United States or the Soviet Union during the Cold War, both nations vied for political influence from the 1950s to late 1970s. In April 1978, the Saur Revolution resulted in a political takeover of the government by the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) after President Mohammad Daoud Khan was assassinated. A socialist agenda and radical modernization of traditional Islamic and tribal laws were adopted and support by the Soviet Union encouraged. By spring of 1979 large portions of the country were in open rebellion against the government and significant numbers of Afghan soldiers deserted to fight with the Afghan Mujahideen. At the request of the PDPA government, Soviet military units began entering Afghanistan on 31 October 1979, leading to a ten year occupation and the Soviet War in Afghanistan (1979-1989). Aided by several nations, particularly the United States, the various Mujahideen factions waged a relentless guerilla war against the Soviet and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) armed forces. Suffering heavy losses, a demoralized Soviet Army ultimately withdrew from Afghanistan between January 1987 and February 1989, leaving the government and infrastructure of Afghanistan in shambles.
A civil war then raged in Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992, pitting the forces of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against the Mujahideen forces. The Afghan government began to collapse in April 1992, and the nation became the Islamic State of Afghanistan for the next several years, but there was little stability as the remaining Mujahideen factions (supported by Iran, Pakistan and Uzbekistan) continued to wage war in an effort to wrest complete control of the country.
The Taliban (طالبان) siezed control of Kabul in September of 1996 (aided by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the assistance of independent Arab sources), creating the Taliban Emirate. In reaction, two former rival leaders combined their forces into the United Front (Northern Alliance), which waged its own guerilla war against the Taliban. Following the terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001, the USA led a coalition of nations to invade the country, ostensibly to hunt down Osama Bin Laden and destroy the Al-Qaeda training facilities believed to exist in Afghanistan. Working with the Northern Alliance, coalition forces toppled the Taliban regime, but have been embroiled in the Afghanistan War since. Afghanistan is today officially known as the Islamic Republic of Afgahnistan (د افغانستان اسلامي جمهوریت), and is in the process of being rebuilt along progressive, Western standards.
The armed forces of Afghanistan consist of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Air Force (ANAF). Paramilitary forces include the National Police and the Afghan Border Police.
Afghanistan has never had a thriving textile industry, so most of its military uniforms were either imported or locally-produced from imported fabrics. Camouflage is no exception. Originally the province of commando and airborne units, camouflage is now commonplace among all units of the ANA. Most contemporary uniforms are imported from Chinese factories and constructed to professional standards.
Camouflage Patterns of Afghanistan
- One of the oldest documented camouflage patterns issued to Afghan troops is a tricolor "blotch" design, similar in many aspects to the old Italian Army m1929 telo mimetico. These were worn by the Commando brigades from 1974 into the 1980s, and produced locally from fabric printed in-country.
- From the late 1980s to early 1990s, Soviet-style uniforms in the 1980 TTsKO tricolor pattern were provided to some Afghan units by the Soviet Union.
- DRA Commandos of the early 1980s wore a derivative of the duck hunter camouflage design seen here. Although locally-made, the fabric itself was printed in the Soviet Union for export.
- From 1985 to the mid-1990s, Afghan Commando brigades wore uniforms made from imported Bulgarian splinter pattern camouflage fabric.
- For a brief period, the Jamiat-I-Islami mujaheddin (anti-Communist insurgents) wore uniforms made from imported Pakistani brushstroke fabric. They did not retain the uniforms long, however, as it was determined the wearing of camouflage created too great a likelihood of being mistaken for Soviet or Afghan government troops.
- From the mid-1990s until the Taliban government toppled in 2001, a variety of camouflage patterns could be found scattered amongst Afghan government troops. Most of these were locally-produced to Afghan standards from fabrics imported from Pakistan, China or Iran. The brown duck hunter spot pattern seen below is believed to have been worn by both Taliban government and Northern Alliance combatants.
- Another pattern found among the Taliban forces is this leaf design imported from Pakistan.
- The DPM camouflage variant seen here also dates to the Taliban era. Also produced from imported fabric, although in this case very good quality.
- The woodland camouflage pattern seen here was probably sourced through Iran. Probably dating to the Taliban era, it is likely remaining stocks of uniforms and fabric remained in use with the newly formed ANA.
- The Northern Alliance were supported and supplied by several Western sources. Although outfitted with whatever gear was available, this lizard pattern Northern Alliance on Wikipedia was quite prolific with the group in 2001 when the Taliban regime was overthrown. Uniforms in this pattern were imported from China.
- Another well-documented camouflage pattern worn by the Northern Alliance is this duck hunter spot pattern seen here. The uniforms were made in China.
- The newly formed Afghan National Army (ANA) was short on supplies for several years, and received assistance from both coalition member nations and friendly neighbors like Iran. The woodland camouflage pattern seen here is one such Iranian-sourced design.
- Another Iranian pattern issued to some new Afghan units is the four-color woodland design seen here. This may have been issued to National Police or Border Guard units, rather than Army personnel.
- For several years, the standard camouflage pattern of the ANA was a copy of the US m81 woodland design. There were several sources for these uniforms, including surplus BDUs from the USA, imported Chinese BDUs, and locally-produced copies made from imported fabrics. Seen below are three variants, illustrating patterns from all three sources.
- In addition, the US designed tricolor desert pattern has also been worn by some units of the ANA and the Ministry of Interior. Again, the uniforms were probably sourced both from the USA and Chinese exporters. Circa 2013, the pattern was adopted by the Crisis Response Unit (CRU) of the Afghan Police.
- One of the coalition nations that contributed a large quantity of uniforms and equipment to the fledgling ANA was Turkey. The "elongated leaf" pattern was found in significant numbers among ANA members for several years.
- Some special units of the Afghan forces were outfitted in commercially-produced desert tiger stripe pattern uniforms, probably provided by their American instructors/advisors circa 2002. The pattern continues to be worn by the National Security Directorate (NDS).
- Some units of the ANA were issued special uniforms in the USMC MARPAT temperate camouflage pattern around 2002. The pattern was later adopted and has been retained by the National Interdiction Unit of the Afghan Police.
- The Afghan Border Police are issued a grey "chocolate chip" desert pattern very similar to that also found in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. A variation of this pattern, with shades of blue rather than grey in it, has also been documented.
- A special anti-terrorist unit of the Afghan National Police have been issued uniforms in the same commercial tiger stripe pattern commonly found in the USA. The pattern is also worn by the National Security Directorate (NDS).
- Special units of the Afghan Police are being issued copies of the US-made Multicam design.
- In 2008-2009, the ANA began to issue its own pixelated camouflage design, designed by Hyperstealth Industries and named "Spec4ce Afghan Forest" pattern. The ANA pattern incorporates black, brown & grass green on a light olive green background. Initial batches of these uniforms were made in China, but subsequently the Afghanistan garment industry has assumed responsibility for producing most military uniforms for the Afghan Armed Forces.
- The Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) have been issued with their own arid/desert camouflage design, also developed by Hyperstealth Industries and known as "Spec4ce Sierra" pattern. This design consists of medium brown, lichen green, and khaki shapes on a light tan/sand-colored background.
- Circa 2012, the Public Protection Forces (a local militia program designed to provide localized security for isolated villages) began wearing a pixelated camouflage design essentially copied from the USMC MARPAT design. The colors in some cases are not quite perfectly copied, and no doubt the fabric is imported from Asia.
- The Public Protection Forces also wear a unique pixelated pattern seen here.
- Special units of the National Security Directorate (NDS) or Amaniyat ریاست امنیت ملی, have worn several camouflage designs, including the dark tiger stripe, desert tiger stripe, and the ERDL or leaf pattern derivative seen here. The design incorporates black, dark brown, and light brown shapes on a tan or sand-colored background.
- The Afghan Partner Unit (APU), a special operations unit that reputedly works closely with Tier 1 units of the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), adopted the Ghostex Kilo-1 pattern, developed by Hyperstealth Industries, in early 2012.
- The pixelated camouflage design seen here is worn by some special units of the Ministry of the Interior, including the Parliamentary Guards.
- The camouflage design seen here has been documented in use by some private contract security companies working in Afghanistan, including KTC. The pattern may also be in use by other organizations or branches of the Afghan Armed Forces.