SFA AT cultivating Afghan relationships
December 20, 2012
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- Soldiers from the 205th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, Security Force Assistance Advisor Team spent the last nine months building relationships with Afghan National Army and key Afghan forces while deployed to the Kandahar Province, Kandahar City, Afghanistan.
SFA ATs are security forces assistance teams that provide mentorship and training, enabling Afghan National Security Forces to conduct more effective intelligence and tactical operations, explained Krieger.
"When the team arrived in April, the ISAF commander was briefing the Provincial Governor daily on the significant acts around the Province," explained Maj Jerry Krieger, the team's executive officer and primary mentor for the Afghan National Army and National Directorate of Security leaders at the Operational Coordination Center Provincial, Kandahar. "He was also discussing security threats around the city."
One of Krieger's team goals was to create better working relationships between the Kandahar Governor and Operations Coordination Center, Provincial, Kandahar."
"A key component to success in Afghanistan is our Army's ability to provide training and advisors for the Afghans using these teams. It is critical that we empower the Afghan leaders to develop their own capabilities and processes" said Krieger.
OCC-P Kandahar, where Krieger's SFA AT is based, is the only OCC in the country to be located within the confines of the Provincial Governor's Palace.
"Col. Mike Considine and Lt. Col. LeRoy Klitzka, senior advisers with the SFA AT, convinced Governor Tooryalai Wesa, the Provincial Governor of the Providence, that the OCC-P was a tool for him to stay informed about security issues around the province," said Krieger. "With a July deadline for the Afghan National Security Forces in the lead, it was critical that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the ANSF establish a communication link. ISAF had to be removed from the process."
In June, Governor Wesa agreed to receive the security briefing. Once he realized the importance of timely information and reporting, he insisted Deputy Governor Patyal start receiving the brief regularly from Lt. Col. Baqi, the ANA commander. On November 8, NDS Col. Faiz Mohammond started attending the meetings.
"With the NDS involvement, the briefing took on a new role and began to focus on intelligence and threats around the city," said Krieger, who also regularly attended the meetings. "ISAF became a fixture in the background, and the information process was purely driven by Afghans."
Krieger added that during one meeting, the deputy mentioned the Governor had tried unsuccessfully over the past year to create a security plan to cover the neighborhoods around the palace. Two days later, Mohammad had a proposal in his hand that incorporated several ANSF pillars around the city.
"This was a great plan to improve the security and protect government officials around the city. We are very proud of his achievement" said Patyal.
Krieger indicated the step was critical because for the first time in many years, an Afghan government official requested the military formulate a plan, and the process was completed without any ISAF assistance. Patyal indicated that with leaders like Mohammad, he felt better about the security around the city and the future of Afghanistan.
"The fact that the NDS Director created the plan for the Deputy Governor cannot be understated. The PGOV complex is one of the top targets in the Province. By safeguarding GIRoA officials, public confidence in Afghan forces increases exponentially," Krieger stressed.
"Our goal as a team was to implement the palace security plan that the OCC-P NDS chief developed," said Krieger. "This legitimized the OCC-P as a planning center and demonstrated the value that the Afghan leaders working in the OCC-P bring to the provincial security plan."
In the past, the OCC-P only collected information. Now they are beginning to demonstrate their abilities to plan effectively, Krieger said.
"If these coordination centers are to remain viable, they must do more than pass along information. OCCs must coordinate and plan everything from military operations to responses to natural disasters," said Krieger.
The SFAAT mission is not an easy one Krieger admits.
"The mission can be more difficult due to cultural differences, but the formula is still the same. Trust is critical to establishing relationships," he said.
He went on to say patience and willingness to accept other religions and cultures is a cornerstone in the recipe for success with any mentor mission.
"Soldiers need to develop solid people skills and be receptive to very different views and ways to conduct missions," Krieger emphasized. "We must cultivate our SFA AT Soldiers to ensure they are particularly good at relationships."
"First Army Soldiers make excellent advisors because we are all trained to advise and mentor multi-component U.S. forces. Advising and mentoring Afghan leaders and Soldiers is simply the next natural step in the development of a First Army Soldier," Krieger concluded.