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Khatool Mohammadzai

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Khatool Mohammadzai (Pashto: خاتول محمدزی‎; born ca. 1966) is an Afghan brigadier general who serves in the Afghan National Army. She was first commissioned in the military of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan during the 1980s, when she became the first woman from the country to be trained as a paratrooper; she has since logged over 600 jumps in her career. She continued to serve in the Afghan military as an instructor until the Taliban took power in 1996. Reinstated to the military created after the United States invasion in 2001, she became the first woman in Afghan history to reach general officer rank.[1]

Khatool Mohammadzai
Khatol Mohammadzai in 2012-cropped.jpg
Mohammadzai in 2012
Born ca. 1966
Kabul, Afghanistan
Allegiance  Afghanistan
Service/branch Afghan National Army
Years of service
  • 1983–1996
  • 2001–present
Rank Brigadier general
Battles/wars War in Afghanistan (1978–present)


Mohammadzai was born in the Afghan capital of Kabul around 1966. She joined the Army in 1983 after she graduated from secondary school, and volunteered to be a paratrooper After succeeding at the strenuous training, including completing a 150 kilometres (93 mi) march across the mountains in two days, she made her first jump in 1984.[1] After earning her wings, she studied at the Kabul University legal faculty, graduating with a bachelor's degree, so she could be commissioned as an officer. She would later undertake advanced studies at a military academy in the Soviet Union.[2] During the Soviet–Afghan War, she was denied combat positions, so she served as a paratroop instructor training soldiers for paratroop and commando roles.[1][3]

She married in 1990 and had one son before her husband, a fellow army officer, was killed in combat in 1991. After the collapse of the government in 1992, she served under the Mujahadeen government during the civil war in the early 1990s, and was put in charge of women's training for the army's air defense branch. However, she was barred from parachute jumps and subject to new restrictions such as a requirement to wear an abaya while in public.[1] After the Taliban took control of the country in 1996, she was forced out of the military and as a widow was effectively confined indoors. She survived on odd jobs such as sewing, and ran a secret school for girls.[1]

Khatool Mohammadzai with women of the Afghan National Police

Following the fall of the Taliban in 2001, she joined Afghanistan's newly formed military, and was promoted to the rank of brigadier general by President Hamid Karzai.[3] At first, Mohammadzai got back into physical shape and resumed parachute jumping. She trained with American paratroopers, and worked with NATO officers on starting a new paratroop training program for the ANA. In 2004, she competed against 35 male competitors from Afghanistan and other countries in a parachuting contest, and won.[1]

In addition to serving to serving as a paratrooper, Mohammadzai was made deputy director for women's affairs in the Ministry of Defense.[3] However, as a result of what some observers, such as Amnesty International, say is institutionalized gender discrimination in Afghanistan's leadership, she has not been allowed to jump since 2006, instead serving at Ministry of Defense headquarters, starting in a position not befitting a general officer.[1] By 2012, she had been promoted to director of women's affairs in the National Army, and deputy director of planning and physical training for a planned disaster preparation force, and was the highest ranking female officer in the Afghan military.[1][4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Yousafzai, Sami (November 28, 2011). "Afghanistan: The Trials of Woman Paratrooper Khatool Mohammadzai". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 22 November 2013. Retrieved December 22, 2016. 
  2. ^ Ramazzotti, Sergio (January 8, 2011). "The Afghan military's death-defying exception". The National. Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi Media. Retrieved November 29, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "Afghan woman general jumps into men's world". Dawn. December 31, 2002. Retrieved December 22, 2016. 
  4. ^ "CECOM analyst meets first female Afghan general". U.S. Army. April 26, 2012. Retrieved December 22, 2012.