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If one wants to learn how well the Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Afghan National Army (ANA) have progressed in their ability to procure and distribute equipment for its soldiers then you only have to look as far as their ability to provide boots for its infantrymen.

Not so much!

The inability of the MoD and ANA to provide basic equipment for the Afghan army soldier is appalling. This is primarily due to mismanagement, ineptitude, and corruption. For many years the Coalition (primarily the United States) provided clothing and boots for the ANA. While this method provided plenty of quality boots the distribution of the boots to the lower level units was wanting. However, things have taken a turn for the worst since the United States has given the responsibility to the Afghans to procure equipment and clothing using their own procurement processes.

Early Military Boot Manufacturing in Afghanistan (1902). The Afghan army has had local production of boots for its soldiers as early as 1902. An Englishman was contracted by the Afghan government to set up a boot factory in Kabul and it operated successfully for a number of years. 4. 

Early Boot Procurement in 2000s. In the early part of the Afghan conflict the Office of Military Cooperation - Afghanistan (OMC-A) was responsible for providing military equipment to the Afghan security forces. In order to meet the rapidly increasing size of the Afghan army local contracts were provided to Afghan businesses to provide for boots. Unfortunately, the OMC-A had difficulty in establishing requirements and shoddy boots were bought.

Defective Boots for Afghan National Army
Photo from GAO Report June 2005 3.

Boots Provided From U.S. For a number of years boots for the Afghan police and army were manufactured in the United States and then shipped to Afghanistan. While it took a long time to award the contracts and procure the boots it was generally known that the boots were of good quality. Eventually some made it to the Afghan soldier if the boots got by the very inept and corrupt Afghan logistics system.

"Afghan First and Afghan Made". This program, where Afghan firms provided clothing and equipment for the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) was called the "Afghan First and Afghan Made". It was supposed to run several years which would, under U.S. mentorship, help kick-start Afghan commercial firms and provide for responsible contractors to supply the Afghan security forces. However, the program was terminated in October 2012 - 2-3 years ahead of the promised schedule - putting some Afghan firms into economic difficulties. 1. and 5.

In fact, at one point, the Coalition assisted in setting up a factory in the Kabul area to manufacture boots - a facility that provided hundreds of jobs. 2.  The firm was called the Milli Boot Factory and it employed hundreds of people from the Kabul area. The NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan (NTM-A) provided guidance and expertise to ensure good quality boots were manufactured. The boot factory was cited as a source of pride for the Afghan people.

U.S. Makes Huge Error. At one point the United States determined that the Afghans could manage procurement of supplies, clothing and equipment on their own. However, this proved to be a big mistake. The U.S. prematurely eliminated a robust program that employed hundreds of Afghans, produced quality boots in a timely manner, and kept money in the Afghan economy in an attempt to get the Afghan MoD to take responsibility for equipping their army with boots.

Now An Afghan Process. However, once the Afghan MoD took over the contracting for the boots - corruption entered the process, the factory lost the contract, and the quality of the boots, made by various firms from China, Pakistan, and elsewhere, went down significantly. The Afghan procurement specialists from the MoD opted for cheaper foreign contracts (mix in a large amount of corruption as well) to provide boots to the Afghan army.

Failure. The Afghan MoD's failure to provide boots for its army is reflective of a larger systemic problem with the Afghan security organizations. Corruption and ineptitude plague the Afghan security institutions. Currently (Spring 2016), the United States is once again awarding contracts to U.S. boot manufacturers to provide footwear to the Afghan army. According to news reports the shipment of boots from the U.S. will cost about $100 million in 2016 with another $215 million for boots, uniforms and gear in fiscal year 2017. 6. 

Resources about Afghan Army Boots

"Afghan Boots" by OEFOIF Forum.

Photos of Kabul Melli Trading, Ltd Boot Factory on flickr by ISAF Media

News Reports about MoD and Army Boots

May 5, 2016. "Despite billions in U.S. funding, Afghan forces have a problem with boots", by Tim Craig, The Washington Post.

December 27, 2013. "Task Force Guam donates boots to Afghan security guards", Guam National Guard. The members of the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) are issued low-quality boots that fall apart within one month of use.

May 11, 2012. "Afghanistan army boot deal row", BBC News.

May 3, 2012. "Army procurement switch puts boot into Afghan dream", Reuters. A news story on how the Milli Boot Factory was closed despite being promised years of contracts to provide the Afghan army with boots.

August 20, 2010. "Afghan First Manufacturers Help to Revive Economy", DoD News. NTM-A outlines program to provide boots to the Afghan army.

July 10, 2010. "Kabul Factory Gearing Up to Make Boots", Voice of America.

June 7, 2010. "NATO Plan Ties Economy to Growth of Forces", DoD News. Report outlines the use of the "Afghan First" program to provide boots to the Afghan army.


1. For more on the Kabul Milli Company read "Afghan Company Provides Boots for Afghan National Security Forces, NATO Training Mission Afghanistan Facebook, January 24, 2010.

2. For more on how NTM-A helped the Kabul Milli Company with quality control read "Buy Afghan, By Afghans, For Afghans: The ANSF Boot Acquisition Success Story", by Maj. Darren W. Rhyne (USAF), Defense AT&L, July-August 2011.

3. For photo credit see Afghanistan Security: Efforts to Establish Army and Police Have Made Progress, but Future Plans Need to be Better Defined,  United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), GAO-05-575, June 2005.

4. Read Leaves From an Afghan Scrapbook by Ernest and Annie Thornton. Story of the experiences of an English official and his wife in Kabul who set up a boot manufacturing facility for the Afghan army. Posted on World Digital Library.

5. For more on the "Afghan First" program read "Afghan First: Building a Stable Economy Through Strategic Acquisition", Defense AT&L,  May-June 2011.

6. See "Despite billions in U.S. funding, Afghan forces have a problem with boots", by Tim Craig, The Washington Post.


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