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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default Key Leader Engagement (KLE) TTPs

    Prior to my most recent deploy, I asked a few members from the Council what they had to say about shura etiquette, and how Afghans interact in those settings. I received good advice across the board, and put it to good use. In the wake of my last deployment, I compiled a few observations and lessons learned about the process of interacting with local leaders in a deployed context. If there is any interest, I'll post a copy of the KLE SOP that I drafted for use as a guide by our companies, once I can dig it up from my external hard drive.

    In no particular order:

    -KLEs were always an exhausting experience, both physically and mentally. Trying to have a sit-down in 120 degree heat with just a few bottles of tepid water as refreshment will guarantee an aggravating time for all, especially if the conversations aren't headed in the direction one hopes. The setting has to be considered if time allows for prior planning.

    -KLEs were also exhausting because of the mental energy required to point-counterpoint with the leaders, keep them on topic, and stay two to three steps ahead of them. I can recall a number of KLEs where (especially if I was not the primary negotiator on the coalition side) I found myself nodding off due to sheer exhaustion from operations the previous night, or simply staying up way too late. In short, don't underestimate the benefit of a good night's sleep.

    -You have to consider the audience - all of them - that you are dealing with, and how they fit into the overall picture. Put another way, the message you are trying to deliver to one leader might be completely counterproductive to the message you intend for another leader who is at the function. As a rule, it is generally better to be able to limit the number of attendees at a KLE, for this primary reason. If you can't do that, and you are not in control of the venue, make the investment in time to have the hosting leader conduct a detailed introduction of everyone in the room. Keep a human terrain expert (i.e. someone who is a SME in the tribal players and from your unit) close by to advise on the issues for consideration when a particular player is on scene.

    -Don't be afraid to call a tactical timeout and step outside for some fresh air, a quick huddle to consider the next step, or simply make a head call. Too often we would sit for a lot longer than was reasonable, and when you are trying to stay hydrated in 120 degree heat, why sit cross-legged trying to hold it in because your host is able to go for hours without the need to relieve themselves?

    -There are times when you have to read the mood and environment, and simply decide that today is not the day to push an issue, or delve too deeply into a subject. There were a number of times when it was simply more practical to pay a social call and reinforce the social bonds that you have already established.

    -Our hubris tends to drive us to push our agendas in KLEs, almost to the point of no return, and that can be fatal to overall progress if the leaders are seen to have lost face. I can't stress how important that became during KLEs. If you go into a KLE and treat it like the negotiation that it really is, you'll probably fare better than if you strive to bend your audience to your will and coerce them into courses of action that are inimical to their interests. There are often layers of interest in competition with each other when security forces, tribal leaders, and government officials meet. For some of the attendees, their presence is not voluntary, but rather a necessity driven by a need to simply get their tribe's name "out there" so to speak. Understanding that fact, and understanding the benefit of positive sum game results, will help you achieve your aims.

    ETA: Please share your lessons learned, and how the handbooks you used or training you received did or did not offer good guidance.
    Last edited by jcustis; 12-20-2010 at 02:20 AM.

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    Council Member IntelTrooper's Avatar
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    I really like your last point, and your other points are so true as well.
    To add on to your last point, I would say two things:

    1. Don't get defensive when the participants invariably point out the shortcomings of the American/GIRoA/ISAF efforts in the area. Let them blow off some steam, maybe agree with them a bit, and re-emphasize the need to work together to come to a solution.

    2. Know what your side is willing/able to provide beforehand; what you can commit to at the meeting, what projects are a possibility, and what you definitely can't provide. Even saying that you'll "look into" something can be perceived as a promise, and next time you show up empty-handed it can get a little uncomfortable.
    "The status quo is not sustainable. All of DoD needs to be placed in a large bag and thoroughly shaken. Bureaucracy and micromanagement kill."
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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Inteltrooper,

    Good additions.

    Your avatar...Brit or Rhodie? I've seen that pic before I think.

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    I also like your last point.

    One of the greatest challenges in getting SSAM prepared to conduct KLEs is ensuring that they understand the purpose of the meetings. In many instances, it appears that KLEs are simply a metric for the BUB. We conducted x number. The larger the number, the greater the success.

    That's not how it works, but 7-8 years on, that feedback is still out there. A helpful addition to the preparation would be to develop meaningful measures of effectiveness to enhance the meaning of the MOP numbers that we focus on now. You can literally conduct hundreds of KLEs and accomplish absolutely nothing if you don't understand the underlying principles.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    One of the greatest challenges in getting SSAM prepared to conduct KLEs is ensuring that they understand the purpose of the meetings.
    I don't recognize the acronym SSAm, but I catch the drift.

    That made me remember one more point, and that is you need to make sure that the leaders you are about to engage (unless it is a on-call meeting, which are not really KLEs anyway) understand the purpose of the meeting.

    I can't recall how many times we were on time for a meeting, had everything prepared and scripted, only to find out that there were several additional leaders on scene, and they wanted to use the face time to petition us about issues that we had not rehearsed. The thing to remember is to calculate the full range of topics that might come up - murder board style - when time permits.

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    Council Member IntelTrooper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    Inteltrooper,

    Good additions.

    Your avatar...Brit or Rhodie? I've seen that pic before I think.
    Thanks -- my avatar is a Rhodie. You probably have seen the picture before -- it's him sitting on top of a vehicle and a couple guys hanging out below.

    http://media.photobucket.com/image/r...ry/RLIVest.jpg
    "The status quo is not sustainable. All of DoD needs to be placed in a large bag and thoroughly shaken. Bureaucracy and micromanagement kill."
    -- Ken White


    "With a plan this complex, nothing can go wrong." -- Schmedlap

    "We are unlikely to usefully replicate the insights those unencumbered by a military staff college education might actually have." -- William F. Owen

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    Default Ssam

    soldier, sailor, air---, Marine

    For all I know, I made it up.

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    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
    ETA: Please share your lessons learned, and how the handbooks you used or training you received did or did not offer good guidance.
    Great topic. Your points all sound logical and sound.

    I'll add some points below, with an over-arching disclaimer that they were gained over a 6 month period that in the scheme of things is all too brief to properly develop and test such concepts, and that even if they were valid in my area in 2009 time and geography can change everything.

    - It's important to know who is at your meetings. It is also a nice-to-have to get photos of everyone there and what they do/ their connections to the community. I always wanted to have one of my soldiers sit in the meeting with me, and we would intro ourselves and ask that everyone did likewise. The Heads of Shura would appear a little annoyed at this but it did help us in the long run. Other times, when I was friendly enough with a school teacher or similar figure in the community who would be in the background, we would approach later (often outside the meeting house) and politely enquire about who was where and what they thought of us. One point with photos - we were initially encouraged to 'covertly' snap away during meetings, which is just comical as you cannot hide someone using a camera. Either asking permission to openly take images (sometimes denied, especially by the Mullahs or Malauwis) or requesting a formal everyone-stand-together-afterwards shot was preferable.

    - RFIs we were given were very narrow in their application. I ended up with a meeting format whereby I would state why we were there and what we wanted to achieve in the meeting. I would then ask the local leadership how we could achieve our goals in the area, before asking them what they wanted/ needed. Asking for local perspectives and for them to frame their own problems and solutions was helpful to understand their perspectives and frame-of-mind while minimising the bias we imposed upon their problems.

    - I always debriefed with my intepreter after a meeting. Asking them how they thought the meeting went and anything they thought of interest raised a few gems, especially with a competent 'terp who had been in the area for a while.

    - KLE's need not be static. I got the best information when I walked around with a Head of Shura after a meeting, when the hangers-on had been left behind or were distracted in their own conversations as we moved through the area. One trick I would use would be to ask the HoS to show me a well or foot-bridge in the area. By walking through the streets a short distance the HoS would often be able to have a hurried conversation with my interpreter, passing on the kind of information that makes the S2 cell get all gooey over your reports.

    - Only on a few very rare occassions did I involve the ANP/NDS (there were no ANA in my AO) in KLEs. The reason for this was laziness, as the local population preferred to speak to us without them in attendance. If I had me way again I would involve them in every KLE.

    - The 'culturally sensitive' rules we were taught were all situationally dependent. We were told that it was heresy to attend a meeting with boots on, but often we would go to take them off and the HoS would tell us not to worry. Same with paying for food during long shuras - I would offer to pay the HoS afterwards for the chai and naan bread served, and sometimes the offer would be taken up - even though this was supposed to be incredibly insulting to the Afghani culture. My best cultural advisor was my interpreter and I relied on him heavily in all the situations I was unsure of and wanted confirmation in.
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    The indigenous Afghans are often more forgiving of our cultural missteps than our Kabul-born cultural advisors, and wearing boots indoors, sunglasses when talking, or accidentally allowing the sole of your boot to face an Afghan is not going to inflame the insurgency. I think we tend to put too much emphasis on what I call, "doing the dance", when in fact our hosts would much rather sit down and talk business.

    And when it comes to dealing with GIRoA officials, it is wise to remember that they may have an impressive grasp of English. It is like my wife and mother conversing in Tagalog. I might not understand everything, but I certainly know when they are talking about me!

    Great point Chris about getting up and moving, from a privacy perspective. I attended a Regional Security Shura once, and as soon as some of the attendees could get away with it, they slipped out of the main room and began holding discussions out in the courtyard and hallways.
    Last edited by jcustis; 12-21-2010 at 02:08 PM.

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    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    "Advance to Shura" became a mission task verb for us. Our company had a pretty slick set of TTPs for Shuras that I can pass on to a .mil address; PM me if interested.

    A Pashtun cultural expert can validate this, but I was always under the impression that shuras with foreigners and outsiders from the village were "show shuras" and that the real shuras, when the village elders got together before or after the "show shura", was where the real decisions were made.

    In dealing with village leaders (many whom I had frequent meetings with), I'd often announce a shura and than push something on some of them in private, knowing that the "show shura" would involve a lot of grandstanding, likely as village elders try to impress the villagers.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    A Pashtun cultural expert can validate this, but I was always under the impression that shuras with foreigners and outsiders from the village were "show shuras" and that the real shuras, when the village elders got together before or after the "show shura", was where the real decisions were made.
    We saw this occur on multiple occasions. It was funny to see them advance a specific position for a while before the shura might break down into tribal and individual interest. As the meeting continued and we got deeper into tough negotiations, or the discussions began to break down, the leaders would pretty easily come back to their original points, especially if they were trying to present the facade of supporting the district governor, and display solidarity. Rehearsed consensus was what I jokingly called it.

    There were also a few instances of a proxy "leader" presenting himself to us when making contact with target village that had previously seen limited visitation and contact from us or the previous unit. I had seen that in a cultural engagement handbook that I read before the deploy and carried with me.

    ETA: The British paid a few visits down our way with some SOF troops, and I could swear I heard the term FIND, FEEL, INFLUENCE used during a few coordination meetings. I think that very appropriately describes the battle drill involved, much like Infanteer's comment about "Advance to Shura" used as a mission task.
    Last edited by jcustis; 12-24-2010 at 04:45 PM.

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    From Tim Lynch's Free Range International comes an important dictum - "Under promise and over deliver" - and in that, the cultural advisors get it right when they preach similar advice (but make no mistake, Lynch is better than an advisor).

    Nothing used to fascinate me more than how the other side of the carpet returned to something promised or even mentioned in the vein of, "we can take a look at that." when they thought they could gain from it.

    They are smart opportunists, but that stems as well from the some of their foundation as a survivalist culture.
    Last edited by jcustis; 01-03-2011 at 11:32 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jcustis View Post

    -There are times when you have to read the mood and environment, and simply decide that today is not the day to push an issue, or delve too deeply into a subject. There were a number of times when it was simply more practical to pay a social call and reinforce the social bonds that you have already established.

    -Our hubris tends to drive us to push our agendas in KLEs, almost to the point of no return, and that can be fatal to overall progress if the leaders are seen to have lost face. I can't stress how important that became during KLEs. If you go into a KLE and treat it like the negotiation that it really is, you'll probably fare better than if you strive to bend your audience to your will and coerce them into courses of action that are inimical to their interests. There are often layers of interest in competition with each other when security forces, tribal leaders, and government officials meet. For some of the attendees, their presence is not voluntary, but rather a necessity driven by a need to simply get their tribe's name "out there" so to speak. Understanding that fact, and understanding the benefit of positive sum game results, will help you achieve your aims.
    Excellent observations. The ability to step back and reassess is often going to decide the outcome. Nice work.

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    Don't be surprised if what is said in public by Afghans during a shura or KLE is completely different then what they say in private leading up to the event. They may agree 100% with your viewpoint and seem like they've completely bought into your plan, but if it is a controversial topic they will side with the majority. In their society they can say whatever they want in private, only what they say in public counts.

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    Greetings -

    I would appreciate a copy of the KLE SOP you mentioned. I am a US Army civilian employee working on an advanced degree.

    My dissertation is a blend of computational intelligence and cognitive science. I need to create a cognitive task analysis model and am planning to use KLE as the scenario. I am trying to make it a civil works mission to avoid controversy at the university.

    Developing a realistic task network having no field experience is more than difficult! Having your SOP may be a big help. I promise to cite you properly.

    Thanks and good luck!
    Allison
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-24-2012 at 07:53 PM. Reason: PM to author with guidance

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    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    I sent a reply to your PM Gargoyle. Using a KLE as the backdrop for your research looks interesting.

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    Council Member Sparapet's Avatar
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    Default KLE by any other name...

    I'm sorry I missed this topic on the original run through... If there is still interest I would like to ask those with OEF KLE experience how they would compare it to the OIF (especially post Sons of Iraq genesis) version. My experience in uniform is limited to the latter, but I would imagine that when it comes to it, the basic skill sets would be the same.

    This brings to my other thought on KLEs. My work civilian-side is in diplomacy, and at negotiations or international meetings it is invariable that the majority of problem-solving happens on the margins. In other words, if you are at the table at the scheduled time and you are hearing something for the first time, it is either that 1. you are behind the power curve or 2. this new item just added work for you on the next break or after the meeting closes. I found this to be true in OIF as well. If a couple of Sheikhs and the local IA commander are present for a KLE it would be mostly posturing, rehashing of known points, and/or expression of outrage over some recent event or development. At no point did I find those meetings to be the appropriate time to solve anything or get anything meaningful done other than work on the posturing in the room. One-on-one meetings before or shortly after the big scheduled one is where the real negotiating happened.

    OIF KLE's were my first major exposure to negotiating outside of the stateside business world. In retrospect, the KLE prep that attempted to apply "TTP's" to something as unscientific as negotiation was wanting. The TTP's needed context to make sense, which was often very superficial "culture stuff". I am still perplexed by how a KLE is different from an international negotiation.....
    “History is Philosophy teaching by examples.” ~Thucydides

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Learning & Sharing KLE experiences

    Sparapet,

    Thank you for the observation and this sentence acted as a catalyst for my comment:
    I am still perplexed by how a KLE is different from an international negotiation.....
    With very few exceptions the Western military have a very limited experience of international negotiation, so would IMHO not consider learning from that arena and maybe not from "Foggy Bottom" either.

    I recall in my student studies of the SALT process the references to exchanges between Soviet and US diplomats that the Soviet military had not given a full picture of their forces, which made the talks rather difficult.

    Incidentally you may find the just updated thread on Political Officers useful.
    davidbfpo

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