FORT BENNING, Ga., -- A cookie-cutter approach to helping Afghan forces take back control of their country is not what the people of Afghanistan need, said Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, addressing thousands of Soldiers Tuesday, at the 2009 Infantry Warfighting Conference in Columbus, Ga.

Caldwell, commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and the commandant of the Command and General Staff College, spoke on training, equipping, advising and building the confidence of Afghan national security forces as the Army transitions its advisory mission from smaller, transition team elements to brigade combat teams.

"Doctrine which has always been our touchstone is still just as relevant but it's not a cookie cutter approach," Caldwell said. "We need to understand our doctrine and how it applies, but we cannot afford to let our doctrinal molehills to literally become impassible mountains ... the complex situations we are operating today require nothing less.

Caldwell's seminar focused on changing the American Soldier's mindset toward security force assistance and he encouraged Soldiers to partner at all echelons with the Afghan national security forces. If the U.S. advisory mission in Afghanistan fails it is the Afghans who will live those consequences, said Caldwell, citing a story from a deployed lieutenant who recalled an Afghan village that refused U.S. aid because the Taliban threatened to return and kill the villagers once the U.S. pulls out of the area.

"It's imperative for us to develop the Afghan security forces with sufficient capability to protect their people, their government and their borders," he said. "We must leave the Afghan people with enduring capability and force generation capacity for security or they will lose the means to resist (the Taliban) when we leave in the end. It's not (about) how well we can secure them in the short term, but rather how well we prepare them and assist them for the long term."

In building Afghan security forces, Caldwell said there were three conditions for reaching a desirable end state: the force should be able to provide reasonable security, be founded on a rule of law and be sustainable. But Caldwell cautioned Soldiers not to attempt to "Americanize" Afghan forces by imposing rules that impact their culture.

"As we establish training standards and conduct the training of foreign security forces, we need to keep in mind that an American solution may not be culturally acceptable to the local population or any foreign culture," he said. Caldwell encouraged Soldiers to build a rapport with Afghan security forces and foster relationships that build trust.

Key elements that are paramount to be successful in the advisory mission include a change in mindset, flexible brigades, relationships built on trust and being prepared to share intelligence. When considering sharing information, "don't ask yourself, should I do it, ask yourself why can't I do it'" he said. "As General (Stanley) McChrystal said in his guidance 'share the same battle rhythm and information, integrate them into your command and control structures. We must be prudent with OPSEC but we also must realize the need to embrace the development of these forces,'" Caldwell said.

"It's not just sharing intelligence, it's the mindset that tells you how critically important it is that you operate as one entity and develop that trust between yourselves. Our strength comes from our partnerships - and it's about people," he said.

"This is the method and the tools that will allow us to get after what we need done in that battle space in order to create room for national forces to secure the population and create police," said Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter, commanding general of Fort Benning.

Following his speech, Caldwell took questions from the audience and was presented a 'Follow Me' statue mounted to a brick from Fort Benning's Building 4, the future site of the Maneuver Center of Excellence.

Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey, senior NCO for 4th Infantry Division, said Caldwell's speech re-emphasized the concepts 4th Infantry Division has integrated into its ranks and hopes it will lead to more resources being available. "We've been living it and training it for some time now," said Dailey, who has one brigade combay team training for the advisory mission, one currently deployed to Afghanistan and another brigade that recently returned home.

Dailey said he expects the advisory mission to be the culminating effort in Iraq that will help security forces transition and take complete control for the country's defense. More work will be needed in Afghanistan but Dailey said the concepts discussed at the conference may make a big difference in the country.

The Taliban has had and will continue to have a foothold in Afghanistan for a long time but the U.S. can make an impact by focusing on training and building the confidence of the security forces, he said.

Page last updated Wed September 23rd, 2009 at 13:48