By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 21, 2014 – Today is Nowruz, the first day of Afghan Year 1393, and Marine Corps Col. Michael E. Langley said his Afghan “brothers” assure him this year will be a year of prosperity.
Langley and about 100 other international service members are working to train, advise and assist the 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army. He spoke today via teleconference from his headquarters in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
“We train, advise and support the corps writ large to achieve their operational successes and mainly to develop sustainability and their institutional capability across the board,” Langley said.
There is a tactical piece to the training, he added, but the biggest mission now is what he called “institutional management.” This encompasses battlefield tactics, maintenance, requisition of parts, and maintenance of infrastructure.
“I look at it as warfighting capabilities are our first line of operations – operational planning, coordination and execution,” the colonel said.
Then there is what American service members would call Title 10 responsibilities. Title 10 refers to the U.S. law that makes the services responsible to “man, train and equip” the force.
The Afghan army is still building, “so I advise the corps commander on manning, training and equipping his unit,” Langley said. The assistance and training covers the full gamut of activities a military must accomplish to field a force, from personnel to intelligence to logistics to operations to financial management.
An Afghan corps is roughly the equivalent of an American division. The corps commander has to be both a tactical commander and involved in manning, training and equipping his troops. “He has to fight his forces to achieve security and stability in the battle space,” Langley explained, “but he also has to make sure they grow and be a resource provider.”
Afghan Gen. Sayed Maluk has been the 215th Corps commander since the unit stood up in 2010. They have the tactical portion down – the Afghans are good fighters, Langley said. “General Maluk’s responsibility in a very kinetic part of Afghanistan was to win,” the colonel said.
As the situation on the ground stabilized, Langley said, the general had to worry about the sustainment part of commanding the corps catching up later as Afghan literacy got higher.
“The Afghans have the aptitude. They just need the time to develop into good mechanics, fixing generators and running the infrastructure,” Langley said. “Getting capacity and capability in those areas will take some years. Learning to sustain the formation is more difficult and time-consuming and will be a big part of Operation Resolute Support,” the mission that will begin Jan. 1 if a bilateral security agreement is signed and U.S. forces remain in Afghanistan beyond this year.
The next decisive point for the 215th Corps is next month’s national election. How the corps does, Langley said, will provide metrics for his team.
“Afghan security forces have to ensure the population feels secure enough to vote,” he added. “They have to secure the ballots themselves and transport them to the collection points. We’re confident they can do this.”