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NATO trains senior Defence Ministry Officials in Afghanistan

Published Dec 11, 2019
Updated Feb 06, 2020

The 2019 Executive Senior Leaders’ Seminar (ESLS) took place at SHAPE and at NATO Headquarters from 24 to 29 November. Fourteen executive-level officials and practitioners representing Afghanistan’s defence sector ministries participated. This year, for the first time, three women delegates took part and gender integration in defence and society was one of the subjects on the agenda.

ESLS has been a component of the defence institution-building portfolio of NATO’s Defence Education Enhancement Programme with Afghanistan since 2010. It brings carefully selected Afghan civilian and military officials together with experienced academics, subject matter experts and senior officials from NATO countries in the setting of NATO’s strategic headquarters.

The Seminar is unique and achieves impressive results over time by focusing on building strategic thinking and practical skills at the senior leadership levels and within the Marshal Fahim National Defense University.


Delegates form interagency working groups in an academic setting that is firmly grounded in Afghanistan’s strategic and operational circumstances. The methodology includes historic case studies, lectures, Socratic dialogue, practical exercises, engagement with subject matter experts and presentations by the Afghan participants.

ESLS is more than an academic endeavour promoting how to think strategically. It also embraces practical reality and fosters professional relationships and intellectual operability among the Afghan participants and between NATO and Afghanistan.

NATO has constructed the Executive Senior Leaders’ Seminar (ESLS) as a part of the Defence Education Enhancement Programme for Afghanistan. The Defence Education Enhancement Programme (DEEP) is a vehicle for reform, providing tailored practical support to individual countries in developing and reforming their professional military education institutions.

Through faculty development, curriculum development and peer-to-peer consultations, the DEEP Programme fosters defence capacity building, cooperative capability development and standardization, and promotes interoperability of processes and methodologies to enhance democratic institutions.

DEEP features specialised engagement on pedagogy to provide institutions and instructors with access to the latest teaching methods and to support their efforts to foster critical thinking in the classroom. The ESLS is thus tailor made for Afghanistan to cater for the needs of the Afghan security managers in general management of defence issues which has been observed as a key deficit with the Ministry of Defence as well as the interior.

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