NATO training mission generals visit 4/10
October 1, 2010
By Zach Morgan
- Two brigadier generals from NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan meet with Fort Polk's 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division
FORT POLK, La. -- When U.S. forces eventually depart Afghanistan, the country's security will depend on its own army and police force. The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division will deploy this month to Afghanistan to engage and destroy the Taliban - they will be working with local security forces to help bring peace to their area of operations.
Those security forces are a product of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Training Mission-Afghanistan, which is based in Kabul. Brig. Gen. Gary Patton and Brig. Gen. Jefforey Smith, deputy commanders of the mission, met with the 4th BCT leadership Sept. 28 to inform and educate them on the current operating environment.
Patton's area of expertise is the Afghan National Army and Smith covers the Afghan National Police. They train, grow, develop and sustain the Afghan army and police.
"We're here to help the brigade as part of their preparation for deployment. We want them to understand the current state of the Afghan army and police," Patton said.
One issue Afghan forces are facing is underdeveloped accountability systems for equipment and supplies.
"There is potential for a breakdown after we issue equipment to the Afghans," Patton said. "They have a lack of logistics capabilities which requires us to be more directly involved in observing what they do with equipment when they get it. The 4/10 is receptive and want to understand everything they can about their operating environment. This is an element of that environment. The Afghan systems are immature and this brigade will have to give more attention to the Afghani's maintenance of equipment, accountability of property and utilization of resources."
There is little time left for the 4th BCT to adapt to the information, but they were receptive to the briefing.
"We're here on the back side of their preparation," Smith said.
"In many respects it was reinforcing things they've already learned in their training environment. It raised their awareness of our priorities in Afghanistan. One priority we focused on was better stewardship of U.S. resources that we're providing to the Afghans. When the brigade arrives in theater, they will establish relationships with the police and army so we get our moneys-worth out of the training and equipment we're providing to the Afghans. They have a lot of other tasks besides worrying about the accountability of Afghan equipment but it is one of the critical tasks they'll have to perform to leverage the Afghan forces to do missions."
Accountability is not the only issue the 4-10 Soldiers will deal with when they work with their Afghan counterparts. "Another thing we talked about is the expectation that a large part of the Afghan force is illiterate," Patton said. "Seventy percent of the noncommissioned officers in the Afghan army are illiterate. That doesn't mean they're stupid, it just means they haven't been through formal education and they have a problem reading and writing."
Patton said the brigade leadership was receptive to the information. "They understand that a large part of the security environment depends on the success of the police," he said. "The police are out in the community, they have more daily interaction with the people and a lot of the brigade's focus right now is how best to partner with, organize and train their partner police forces. That shows a detailed understanding of their operating environment."
Though there are areas for improvement in the Afghan forces, some signs of progress can already be seen. "The army will grow from 138,000 to 172,000 soldiers by October 2011," Patton said. "We have no problem recruiting, training or generating units for the army. We have irreversible momentum. The extent to which they then become a capable, successful force depends on units like 4-10."
"4-10 will be right in the thick of things," Smith said. "We look forward to their arrival. They're a great brigade and have a good reputation. They're arriving at the right time - they'll make a difference."