Monday, November 3, 2014

Advisor Selection for Afghan SFA Mission

The Security Force Assistance (SFA) mission is a difficult one. Members of ISAF are expected to deploy to Afghanistan and train, advise, and assist their Afghan counterparts in the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. The SFA mission began in early 2012 with the deployment of hundreds of Security Force Assistance Advisor Teams (SFAATs). Unfortunately, the most important factor that contributes to the success of an advisory mission was not considered in many cases by the United States military. That factor is the proper selection of advisor personnel. In many instances, advisors did not (and do not) have the needed attributes to be effective with their Afghan counterparts (age, experience, training, education, rank, personality, etc.).
"The decisive point of any SFA mission may very well be the selection, training, and education of personnel in preparation for deployment". SFA Handbook, Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance, June 2012.
For instance, if one traveled through Regional Command East in 2012 and met the Intelligence officers serving as advisors on SFAATs you would find that almost 50% of them were Infantry Lieutenants with less than two years in the U.S. Army. While these young men were undoubtedly intelligent, smart, physically fit, and motivated they had (maybe) six months experience as an Infantry platoon leader, no previous combat deployment, and knew very little about the importance and role of intelligence in a counterinsurgency environment. An Infantry Lieutenant, age 24, with no previous combat deployment, and no Intel training or experience was expected to establish rapport with, develop a relationship with, and train, advise and assist an Afghan Intelligence officer (Captain, Major, or Colonel) for an ANA kandak (battalion), who may already have Intelligence training and experience, who likely had ten to 30 years of combat experience, and who was in the range of 30 to 50 years old. A tough job for a young inexperienced Infantry Lieutenant. Probably the only thing the Infantry Lieutenant could offer of importance to the senior Afghan Intelligence officer were maps, printer cartridges, and fuel.

In 2013 the Intelligence advisors to the 201st and 203rd ANA Corps in Regional Command East were Captains (fortunately with an Intel MOS and both very capable, smart, and motivated). However, these young Captains were advising Afghan Corps G2 staff officers with the rank of senior Colonel or General, more than 30 years in the Afghan Army, and with over 20 years of combat experience. A difficult task for any Captain; even our best. So this is an example of the U.S. Army's best effort in personnel assignments to important advisor positions.

Contrast the experience level of the U.S. Army Intel Advisors to the 201st and 203rd ANA Corps in 2013 with the current Intelligence advisor to the 205th ANA Corps in southern Afghanistan - Australian Army Major Mich Hahn. Major Hahn works in Train Advise and Assist Command - South (formerly Regional Command South). Read more in "Finding credibility through experience: Australian Intel officer brings 30 years of intelligence experience to TAAC-South"DVIDS, October 28, 2014.

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