By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Dec. 10, 2014 – The Operation Resolute Support mission that formally begins Jan. 1 provides the chance to cement in place all of the security gains made in Afghanistan, a senior U.S. commander said here yesterday.
As the International Security Assistance Force mission winds down and transitions to Resolute Support, coalition personnel will assist Afghans to develop a new set of capabilities that will sustain the national security forces, Army Maj. Gen. John M. Murray, deputy commander for support at U.S. Forces Afghanistan, told DoD News.
“We’ve done a lot of great work at the kandak, or battalion, and brigade levels, and the Afghans really proved themselves during the course of last year’s fighting season,” Murray said. “That’s continuing.”
The Afghan army and police are handling Taliban attacks on their own. Murray said the number of attacks is a bit higher than it’s been historically, and that he anticipates that will continue during next year’s fighting season. “But I expect [the Afghan national security forces] will acquit themselves very well,” he added.
Advising, Assisting Afghan Corps and Ministries
American and coalition personnel already have shifted to their new missions and are advising and assisting at the Afghan corps level and with the Afghan government’s ministries. “That’s where the coalition work is being done now,” the general said. “That’s the crux of Operation Resolute Support.”
Operating an infantry unit takes bravery, good leadership and training. Making it effective takes much, much more, Murray noted. “These are the things we struggle with, too,” he said. “It’s the budgeting. It’s getting the right equipment to the right people at the right time.”
Murray also identified other areas upon which success will depend:
-- Developing processes for gathering intelligence on enemy activities to get to a unit that can act on it in time to make a difference;
-- Ensuring the Afghans have the assets to transport personnel to and from battlefields and have the capabilities to retrieve, evacuate and treat casualties; and
-- Ensuring Afghan personnel know how to maintain weapons and equipment and fix them when they break, which in turn means having the right spare parts when they’re needed.
These factors can be downright mundane, U.S. Forces Afghanistan officials said, but a military cannot be effective without them.
Shift in Responsibilities
Under ISAF, Regional Command East at Bagram Airfield owned the battle space of this area, located nearAfghanistan’s border with Pakistan. That is not the case now, and while Murray has combat units at his disposal, they are for force protection only.
The “battle space” now is with the Afghan corps and Afghanistan’s Defense and Interior ministries. The coalition personnel skew older and have higher ranks than the typical unit, because the Afghans need personnel with experience in building these capabilities, Murray said. “They are all about developing the connective tissue between the corps, the Ministry of Defense, the police and the Ministry of the Interior,” he added.
“We’ve been in and out of this country for 13 years, and now the biggest change is the mindset,” Murray said. “Soldiers are coming back for their third or fourth rotation, but this is going to be fundamentally different. Those coming to the command need to approach it with a fresh perspective and an open mind.”