ERA OF TRANSITION
The formation of the National Unity Government under President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah is inspiring renewed optimism in Afghanistan. In support of the new government, General John Campbell is leading Resolute Support (RS) in a Train, Advise, and Assist mission that provides mentors at the ministerial and Army Corps level. The Combined Security Transition Command -- Afghanistan (CSTC-A) is supporting the RS mission by building both the capacity and the capability of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).
CSTC-A is the oversight and administrative authority for $5.1 billion in defense spending, which includes the salaries of the Afghan National Police (ANP) and Afghan National Army (ANA); the delivery of 1.4 million pieces of equipment worth more than $13 billion; and the construction of $8.5 billion in facilities and defense infrastructure. This significant investment in the future of Afghanistan requires continuous and focused oversight made possible through the dedication of CSTC-A's personnel and the increased transparency and anti-corruption mindset of the new Afghan government.
In the initial days after taking office, President Ghani shared with the Resolute Support leadership a critical observation that is used to shape CSTC-A's efforts. The President said the legacy of the coalition will not be guns, ammunition or equipment, but instead, the enduring processes and systems that we establish to enable Afghanistan's future stability and prosperity. While the majority of Resolute Support is rightly focused on ensuring the success of this fighting season, CSTC-A is using this vision to look beyond the next few months and establish the conditions for an ANDSF that can be successful three, five, ten or even twenty years into the future.
INFLUENCING INSTITUTIONAL BEHAVIOR
CSTC-A's goal in 2015 is to influence effective leadership and institutional behavior through the conditions-based provision of funds and resources. Our ability to place conditionality on the delivery of funding and capabilities is the backbone of our work. At CSTC-A we are very open with this philosophy and share it with every senior Afghan and Coalition military leader, elected official, and international representative interested in how CSTC-A operates.
Annually, CSTC-A and the ANDSF mutually draft and sign commitment letters that establish conditions the Afghan government must meet in order to receive funding, equipment or infrastructure. This year leaders from the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Finance signed the letter, obligating their organizations to meet 93 (45 MoD/48 MoI) mutually agreed-upon goals. These goals drive Afghan government processes and save millions of dollars in donor contributions by reducing fuel and ammunition excess (by 40 and 60 percent, respectively), addressing corruption at multiple levels, and setting procedures that reduce fraud and abuse opportunities. It is the commitment letters that enable CSTC-A the leverage to hold or debit funds and drive fiscally responsible behavior. As we look forward to 2016 the letters will be more detailed and ask even more of the Afghan government.
Before adding his signature to this year's commitment letter, the Afghan Minister of Defense offered a telling statement when speaking to CSTC-A leadership, which is paraphrased as: You make it sound like the lack of discipline and capacity is our fault. For 13 years, the Coalition has fed us on a silver spoon and we never had to learn, never had to plan, and never had the opportunity to build the capacity that we need now that you're leaving. Before we even knew what we needed you brought it to us and in greater quantities than we could ever use.
War is bad business and inherently inefficient as you want the fighting force to have every capability they need to win. From a fiscal standpoint, it teaches habits and processes that no country can afford long term. There is a difficult balance between providing the resources needed to fight the current insurgency and instilling the fiscal discipline and processes that will ensure long-term ANDSF success. While we must be successful in both missions, the waypoints to their success don't always overlap. That is the difficulty of the Resolute Support mission and one which requires constant and difficult deliberation.
DONOR CONFIDENCE AND THE CENTER OF GRAVITY
The international commitment to Afghanistan will no longer be measured in "boots on the ground," but rather in the money provided by donor nations. While the current 352,000 man security force is necessary to beat the insurgency, Afghanistan will require many years of economic improvement before it can afford to train, equip, and man that force structure. Without significant international donor commitment, the size of the ANDSF will be forced to hollow out or reduce, putting the new government at risk. Therefore, the willingness of foreign nations to continue contributing to Afghanistan will be the new center of gravity.
The Afghan government and CSTC-A are divesting excess infrastructure, reducing reliance on generator power, and taking other cost cutting measures that trim yearlythat siphon funds from combat forces requirements. CSTC-A continues to build infrastructure that makes good business sense by seeking opportunities where an upfront investment will reduce future operations and maintenance costs.
CSTC-A holds regular meetings with foreign ambassadors, charge de affairs, senior civilian representatives and other international dignitaries, and almost unanimously they believe the success of the Afghan government is vital to regional and international security. However, after nearly 14 years of war and amid ever-tightening federal budgets, countries are seeking assurance that Afghanistan is a wise investment. CSTC-A's primary mission is to provide that assurance, which we do through diligent oversight and fiscal controls.
The strategic importance of donor confidence cannot be overstated and is absolutely essential to Afghanistan's survival.
CSTC-A will focus on several critical programs over the next year. First, we will work with the ANDSF to fully establish modern oversight and management of their personnel and pay accountability systems. Just this year the ANDSF increased enrollment in the Afghan Human Resources Information Management System (AHRIMS) to nearly 85 percent. When coupled with an established force structure (Tashkil), the Afghan Financial Management Information System (AFMIS) and the Electronic Pay System (EPS) we are better able to account for people and pay. Eliminating 'ghost soldiers' and ensuring Soldier and Police Officer pay is accurate and timely is a vital tenant in a stable defense force. Secondly, CSTC-A must support ministerial capacity and capability building through the civilianization of key positions. While this is a significant cultural shift in the MoD and MoI, senior Afghan leaders recognize it is essential to recruiting and retaining the best of Afghanistan's work force. CSTC-A is working with the MoD and MoI to develop the job descriptions and organizational structure that best supports a self-sustaining, modern defense force.
Finally, CSTC-A must actively inform international donors of the planning and preparation needed to transition from Resolute Support to Security Cooperation. The international commitments made in Chicago and the potential for continued investment will depend on our ability to maintain oversight of donor funds and procurement processes while simultaneously providing ministerial development and capacity building. Transitions are inherently dangerous and it will require good integrated planning and clear objectives to minimize operational risk.
Resolute Support and CSTC-A have developed a strong partnership with the Afghan government, and our commitment to the ANDSF has resulted in an increasingly capable and professional force. Our progress has come at great cost as we lost two outstanding senior leaders in Major General Harry Green and Sergeant Major Wardell Turner. While we honor their sacrifice and the sacrifice of other coalition and Afghan heroes, we recognize this is a fight worth winning and we are, as an organization, committed to the development of a stable and self-sustaining Afghanistan.
POC: LTC Joseph R Geary; email@example.com