U.S., Afghan Officials Forge Olympic Partnership

U.S., Afghan Officials Forge Olympic Partnership

By Dialogo
November 18, 2011

An expansion of youth sports programs nationwide and the potential for future training opportunities for Afghan athletes and coaches are among the benefits of a developing partnership between the national Olympic committees of the United States and Afghanistan, and other U.S. sports associations, officials said.

The partnership, announced during a news conference at the Ghazi National Olympic Complex, was facilitated by a military sports diplomacy program led by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. The public diplomacy department at the embassy funded the effort, which was facilitated by the Amateur Athletic Union in the United States.

“This program is about the future of Afghanistan. We seek to capitalize on the increased security in Afghanistan to expand youth sports in-theater,” said Navy Rear Adm. Harold “Hal” Pittman, a senior ISAF communications official who participated in the news conference with Lt. Gen. Muhammad Zahir Aghbar, Afghanistan National Olympic Committee (ANOC) president.

The two men had just returned from a trip to America. They traveled with Afghan sports officials and Afghan Deputy Youth Affairs Minister Taimoor Eshaqzai as a delegation that Pittman described as “the first of its kind to travel to America from Afghanistan.”

Aghbar said officials from Afghanistan were able to gain information about the types of athletic fields to develop and invest in, as well as cementing a potential Olympic partnership between the two nations.

He added that Pittman would assist the ANOC plan for youth sports development and work with U.S. sponsoring organizations to provide coaching and sports mentorship assistance.

The AAU is among the organizations planning an almost immediate follow-on trip to Afghanistan to assist community-based youth sports.