By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 19, 2013 – With an eye toward 2014 and lessons
learned from the drawdown in Iraq, a new task force in Afghanistan is
working to ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities that will set
the Afghan government and security forces up for future success, the
task force commander reported.
The NATO-Afghanistan Transformation Task Force stood up in January
as part of the International Security Assistance Force staff, Air Force
Maj. Gen. Michael J. Kingsley told American Forces Press Service during a
telephone interview from the Afghan capital of Kabul.
he explained, is to ensure the well-coordinated transfer or termination
of hundreds of tasks being carried out by NATO or U.S. Forces
Afghanistan. This includes about 20 tasks identified for transfer to
ministries within the Afghan government by December 2014.
Corps Gen. John R. Allen, who recently retired as the ISAF and U.S.
Forces Afghanistan commander, recognized that the transition process in
Iraq had started too late, Kingsley said. This overwhelmed both Iraqi
government and U.S. interagency capacities, a problem exacerbated when
failure to reach a bilateral security agreement speeded up the drawdown
“This task force was born from the lessons from Iraq,”
Kingsley said. “General Allen knew the importance of getting ahead of
this game to understand what tasks needed to be transferred to which
agency, and the need to start that process early.”
groundwork laid by a U.S.-headed Interagency Operational Planning Team,
the NATTF includes staff from eight ISAF nations and across the
One of its first missions was to evaluate
977 tasks ISAF and U.S. forces were carrying out and identify which
could be eliminated or had overlap. Based on guidance from the North
Atlantic Council about what specific roles NATO will and won’t play in
Afghanistan in 2015 and beyond, the task force then prioritized what
they deemed the 371 tasks critical for transition, Kingsley said.
It’s an exercise that’s never been done, he acknowledged, noting that
it’s laying groundwork that can be applied to future missions around the
Top priority through the team’s paring-down process went
to tasks that, if not successfully transferred, would have a negative
impact on the success of the entire Afghanistan campaign, Kingsley said.
This includes capabilities required for the Afghanistan government’s
long-term viability, many that need to be built incrementally.
“What we are dealing with is infrastructure and civil-military tasks
that have a pretty large consequence to the success of this country,”
Kingsley said, pointing to aviation and telecommunications as examples.
Seven members of the task force team are dedicated exclusively to the
transfer of airport navigational aids and control of civilian airspace
and other aviation assets to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Transportation
and Civil Aviation.
It’s a complex issue, Kingsley explained,
involving not just the transfer of assets and infrastructure, but also
the development of laws, policies and expertise to run the aviation
enterprise. Another part of the equation is getting Afghanistan’s three
airlines, all now blacklisted by the European Union, up to safety and
credibility standards for accreditation.
“All of that has to be
developed by the Afghans, because right now they have almost zero
capability,” Kingsley said. “But aviation transition is vital, because
in a landlocked country like this, it is a primary means of commerce.”
Meanwhile, a U.S. team is helping the Afghans develop a fiber-optic
network around Afghanistan. “The potential for their income revenue is
amazing,” Kingsley said. “It could reach a potential $1.5 billion per
year, if we can successfully transfer that task to the Afghans.”
While helping the Afghans build capacity in these and other vital areas,
Kingsley acknowledged that it’s not likely to be completed and fully
operational by December 2014. “So the second part of what we are doing
is to enable them to contract that capability to bridge the gap until
they gain the capacity,” he said.
The task force also is working
with the Afghans to ensure a smooth transfer of tasks related to the
NATO and U.S. mission in Afghanistan to build up the Afghan national
security forces. This covers the gamut, Kingsley said, from medical
evacuation and logistics capabilities, to the ability to conduct
operations, intelligence and security and provide mobility.
Throughout the process, Kingsley called communication -- across the
international community, the interagency and with Afghanistan government
leaders -- a vital part of the effort. That helps lay out a timetable
for what needs to be done, and when, and to identify shortfalls early on
so they don’t become surprises later in the drawdown process, Kingsley
The carefully planned process not only builds Afghan
capacity, he said, but also enables Afghanistan to step up and
demonstrate its sovereignty. That, he said, helps allay concern in
Afghanistan and among the international community about the country’s
post-2014 future, he said.
“To me, the biggest challenge is
ensuring that [the Afghanistan government] and the Afghans understand
and are able to accomplish the tasks that we are going to transfer to
them,” Kingsley said. “Through this process, we want to ensure they are
set up for success.”
The successful transfer of civil-military
tasks is the next logistical step in the strategic partnership the
United States and Afghanistan are building for the future, he said.
“This is big part of building that long-term strategic partnership,” Kingsley said.