Today’s Bloggers’ Roundtable was with Colonel Jeffrey M. Haynes. former Commanding Officer, Regional Corps Advisory Command â€“ Central (RCAC), 201st Corps, Afghan National Army. Col. Haynes spoke with us from Okinawa.
The Afghan Army’s 201 Corps is charged with operation in eastern Afghanistan, including Kabul, Lowgar, Kapisa, Konar, and Laghman. It’s battlespace includes the Afghan capital of Kabul as well as vital routes running north and south, and valleys leading from the Pakistani border into Afghanistan.
Col. Haynes provided us with a nine point brief on the situation as he saw it while mentoring the 201 Corps.
- Under good leadership, the ANA can excel in this COIN fight, it is all about leadership… much more so than equipment and supplies.
- When ANA owns the problem they excel. They must be required to do more independent operations. The ANA intuitively understand COIN.
- RCACs must mentor the ANA to develop and execute campaigns that transform the valleys TO WIN the population and defeat this rural insurgency, we can not have a strategy based upon temporary incursions into enemy influenced areas that lack lasting effect.
- The ANA is ready to assume ownership of the ground in certain areas. However, we lack a clearly articulated plan to transfer battlespace to the ANA.
- The ANA owns the ground in lower Tagab, they are building their own FOBs, they are transforming the environment. To be more successful in the long-term, the ANA must be given access to COIN enablers: various ministries, USAID, and more CERP, all under the auspices of an AFGHAN Provincial Reconstruction Teams IOT better synchronize developmental resources with security operations/ANA force laydown.
- As battlespace migrates to the ANA, so must the PRTs (under ETT supervision).
- The population as a force multiplier. We must enable the population to be part of the solution to achieve a sustainable level of prosperity and security worth their fighting for…. We do not want to set an expectation with the population that we are in a location to simply give them resources. This contributes to a welfare mentality.
- Expeditionary FOB concept is key to allow the ANA to project influence in this rural insurgency.
- Partnering with coalition forces works well in the early stages of a Kandak’s lifecycle, however, over-partnering leads to a “needy” army.
Col. Haynes pointed out that the Corps is tied up performing police duties in many instances because the Afghan police have not been able to field the numbers needed to free military units for combat ops.
The Afghan army has assumed great control over its mission when possible. They have conducted their own air assaults, using ANA helicopters and have planned and executed route clearance operations in the region. The Army is using its integrated engineering capabilities to build its own bases and especially forward operating bases [FOBs] where it can take and hold ground.
The Tagab Valley is an example of the success that 201 Corps has had in planning, executing and supplying COIN ops. They have an integrated Afghan provincial reconstruction team in the Corps and the Tagab is seeing those humanitarian and infrastructure building efforts put in place.
Corruption remains a concern. The ANA does not have an equivalent to our Uniform Code of Military justice. The mentors for 201 Corps have tried to point out the problems and allow the Afghans to solve them. The Ministry of Defense controls the officer appointments and the Corps commander does not have the ability to relieve subordinates for cause.
Army leadership remains a serious issue. Identifying, educating and placing real leaders is not something the ANA is good at.
The ANA will fight, and is capable of learning the engineering and logistics skills necessary for a modern military. Much of the 201 Corps’s forces are tied up in operating check points, and other police tasks. With a capable Afghan police force, ground lost to the Taliban or continually contested with them could be taken and held. Effective COIN, counter insurgency operations, requires that happen. In addition, the Col. believes that the various assistance agencies, NGO’s, as well as NATO and US efforts need to be coordinated and targeted better. The goal is to make COIN an Afghan army task, and to make them responsible for moving into and holding the territory currently held by insurgents.
As an aside and not from the Col., the two biggest issues with reaching the size force that the ANA would like to have are the lack of education of its soldiers and the lack of experienced officers and non-coms. Much of the ANA is illiterate, and it is a multi-cultural force where several languages are spoken. In Iraq, there was a pool of military veterans to draw on for the Iraqi Army. That pool in Afghanistan is small and their training is two decades or more old.