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Old 07-12-2009   #1
marct
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Default Training for Afghanistan

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This new thread is a collection of now historical posts on various aspects of pre-deployment training: COIN, language, people and more. Part of SWJ's mission is to record lessons learnt for the future. Due to the posts being old they will appear before this post (ends).

Post relevant to intelligence have been added to an old thread 'Company Level Int Led Operations', although they also apply to working in a larger command:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=3797

I still think as a non-military "armchair" intelligence officer that is one of the threads that remains of value today.



Hi Folks,

Here are the original terms of reference - just for the record

********
As a brigade we are spending the next 18 months getting to grips with COIN; a better understanding of and working in different cultures and then getting to know and understand Afghanistan.

These are in 3 main areas: COIN theory and practice, cultural awareness and flexibility. Lastly Afghanistan, acknowledging that the situation now is going to be very different from the situation in two years when we deploy again.

Army officers mostly like to be spoon-fed stuff, while acknowledging that there is an element of spoon-feeding required we have issued a fairly extensive reading list with training aids and expect then to feed themselves, but what we want to encourage and develop is the ability for our people to think more deeply and critically about the issues concerned and ask 'why': 'Why are we doing this?' 'Why are they doing that?' 'What should we be doing?’

To do this we are looking for speakers to engage with us, but also to challenge us. Speakers from non-military and non-western backgrounds can be particularly effective at this.
**********

Personally, I'm looking forward to this. I think we can do an excellent job and put together a really great program and set of resources.

Cheers,

Marc
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Old 07-12-2009   #2
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Default Initial thoughts

Attached is a list of suggestions for speakers and a variety of points - mainly on training, put together by Marc T, with some help from non-SWJ members and I.


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Old 07-13-2009   #3
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Great to have everyone on board!

By close of play today I will post on this forum the planned study day schedule for the brigade, cultural training plan and anything else that I think may be useful.

The brigade has considerable Iraq experience (last deployment 2008) but limited Afghanistan experience. Increasingly there is limited N. Ireland experience as well, and what there is is confined to Majors plus for officers and Command Sergeant Majors plus for ORs.

I think that our primary areas of weakness are:

COIN theoretical knowledge
Cultural knowledge and awareness - AFG specific
HQ procedures - specifically integration of and working with Host Nation Forces, OGD, IOs & NGOs
The whole Influence thing..........

End State: A bde well versed in COIN and trained to conduct operations amongst the people (and not around them).

More to follow.

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Old 07-13-2009   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marct View Post
Hi Folks,

These are in 3 main areas: COIN theory and practice, cultural awareness and flexibility. Lastly Afghanistan, acknowledging that the situation now is going to be very different from the situation in two years when we deploy again.
Marc,

I am very glad that these are your 3 main areas. From working at the regional, provincial and district levels in Kandahar I can tell you from firsthand experience that knowing culture/people is vital in COIN. All too many times do we have service members that want play "cowboy" when at the end of the day our efforts should be about the Afghan people.

The US COL John Cuddy, I served with in '08 could be a very good reference source for you, if interested. He was the Regional Police Advisory Command (RPAC) Commanding Officer and had a lot of positive support from the Afghan National Police (almost legendary).

Mike
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Old 07-13-2009   #5
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Mike,

US COL John Cuddy sounds like an excellent Point of Contact. As MarcT said, one of the things we want to do is establish is the DB of contacts. The UK is very good at identifying best practice, very bad at disseminating it in a timely and relevant fashion... I see the DB as much like the bde reading list, less of a reading list and more of a reading guide to what is good, not so good, relevant, pertinent and sometimes just plain fun!

We are very clear in the bde that we first need to understand COIN - the type of operations we are in, and then understand AFPAK, the context in which it is happening. The latter is going to be much more difficult then the former, especially from a distance.


RR

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Old 07-13-2009   #6
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Default Language Training

The issue has cropped up about language training. We are putting a considerable amount of effort into language training (despite one senior officer saying it added no value and all one needed was interpreters...).

We will be operating in Helmand and the majority of language training is focused on Pashtu. However some elements will be working with the ANA for which Dari may be more appropriate and some may be working with the ANP (a new experience for us). What language is most relevant for the ANP? Dari or Pashtu?

My experience of Afghanistan was in the north and I focused on learning Dari. Dari was touted as the 'lingua franca' of Afghanistan. How widely spoken is it in the southern provinces?
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Old 07-14-2009   #7
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Gentlemen,

Thank you for including me in this PTP. My requirements might lend themselves best to working the seams and margins, and providing insight or tools where applicable, but I readiy admit that my degree of contribution will be limited by my day job as an executive officer and all the babysitting that that sometimes requires.

Some truth in advertising:

-I have been to Iraq three times...'03 for the invasion, '04-'05 in Al Anbar and Fallujah v.2.0, and '08-'09, where we started off in Anbar, but shortly wound up in the north near Mosul, where the situation was vastly different from the south and it took us a long time to get past the drama of the intel report and start seeing things for what they really were, then do something about it.

-I am the lead for working the Lines of Operation, in whatever capacity they might be by the time we get over, which will be in less that a year.

-I hope to glean the following from this forum:

-An understanding of the economics of Helmand and points south (i.e. current USMC territory.
-An understanding of the current state of LOOs (Economics, Governance, Security, Rule of Law, Agriculture, Essential Services), and what makes the Afghan mind tick in relation to them. For example, is it uncommon to care whether the streets are being kept clean and young men kept at work?
-An understanding of successful development projects that have taken root and provided alternatives to being on the take for the Taliban, providing comfort, aid, and sanctuary for the Taliban, or at least generated information to fill intelligence gaps.
-Successful engagement strategies for key leaders at the village and major urban area-level.
-An understanding of the common narrative that the Taliban is exploiting (if it is more than simple threats of bodiy harm), and the common narrative used by Pashtuns.

I need to learn a lot, but I will try to ask intriguing questions .
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Old 07-14-2009   #8
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I can't answer for the breakdown, but my guess would be Pasto would be more important. Ideally, all of your people should have basic survival language skills in both. BTW, "survival" level language skills vary with the complexity of the language: in English, it's about 300 words with little or no grammar.

You might want to take a look at this and see if it would be useful (I've heard some pretty good things about it). Last I heard, it's about U$1200 per network.
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Old 07-14-2009   #9
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A few quick points...

ANP (at the lower levels) are local to the area so if you’re working with them know Pashto.

ANA more than likely they will be speaking Dari because they are from all over the country (working in the south is considered a "hardship duty")

Something that you might find interesting is that the majority of senior officer do have some Russian training which you'll have to take the good with the bad (understanding of maps and tactics but is extremely stove-piped and corrupt).

A good terp is vital... spend the 300-500 dollars (each) a month to get a good group of them
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Old 07-14-2009   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhusband View Post
A good terp is vital... spend the 300-500 dollars (each) a month to get a good group of them
Absolutely! You also need to establish a protocol both for the interpreters and for those using their services. One of the key points is that they should translate everything, not just a synopsis, and that it should be recorded. The reasons for this are simple. First, you are dealing with a primarily oral culture group that uses stories both to inform and answer questions. Second, the choice of which story is used may give you clues as to the probable / expected outcome of an event and/or the perceptions of what is actually going on.

Steve Featherston had an article in Harpers last year that illustrates some of this quite nicely (I just tossed it up at the Rat Pack library).

Cheers,

Marc
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Old 07-14-2009   #11
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Good stuff, and reinforces what I thought with regards to ANA having a dari capability and local ANP having Pashtu.

I was aware of the senior officers speaking Russian, I remember an afternoon's conversation (via 'terp, my russian is limited to some sailing terminology) with an Afghan Air Force officer who also happened to have been a cosmonaut...

We have a lot of experience with 'terps from Iraq and the Balkans. The former tended to be Somalis and the latter tended to be pretty. I am not too sure what the 'terp situation in AFG is like. As an army we have been investing in military interpreter training (as opposed to civilian hirings) for the last 2 years and they are now coming on line in ever increasing numbers. It takes them 6 months in theatre just to get proficient however.

Interesting point that MarcT made about recording everything, something that certainly does not happen that I am aware of. Presumably best practice at a shura is to sum up at the end and ensure that everybody signs off on the same narrative rather then us walking away thinking we have said/agreed one thing and them walking off thinking something else entirely?

Last edited by Red Rat; 07-14-2009 at 10:34 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 07-15-2009   #12
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My experience is a mixed bag when it comes to linguists. Making one translate everything at a meeting can sometimes totally bog things down, confuse you and your host or vice-versa, and create an unintended result of fatiguing the linguist.

Depending on the linguist's proficiency and exposure to working with you, the protocol can be made more or less restrictive, but I would not recommend making him attempt to translate everything in a conversation unless he is "collegiate level".

Recording conversations is great for documenting and recapping sometimes long engagement events. It is, in fact, one thing that we did not do well our last time out, but I will make a point to ensure it gets done this next time.
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Old 07-15-2009   #13
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Default Not training, but access

The UK police and others make extensive use of 'Language Line' for telphone translation; I've only used it for prisoners in custody, when upon arrival their rights etc need to be explained (seperate arrangements for interviews). Their website is: http://www.languageline.co.uk/ (they are originally a USA based company).

Given that mobile phones now are in wider use in Afghanistan (no idea of coverage) would it make sense for a similar in-theatre set-up? Each patrol, without a "terp", can callback and get help.

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Old 07-15-2009   #14
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Through out the Kandahar Region AWCC or Roshan cell phone coverage is shotty at best. Even when your in a coverage area there are frequent problems connecting and in many areas the Taliban force the cell phone towers to be turned off or are willing to destroy them via RPG attacks.

I would highly recommend that you vet interpreters and have them do some training with their assigned unit while waiting around Kandahar Air Field or FOB Bastion before heading down range and due to OPTEMP I would recommend that you have 2 terps per combat team.
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Old 07-15-2009   #15
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Hi JC,

Quote:
Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
My experience is a mixed bag when it comes to linguists. Making one translate everything at a meeting can sometimes totally bog things down, confuse you and your host or vice-versa, and create an unintended result of fatiguing the linguist.
That's certainly possible. What i was thinking of when I made the suggestion was a story in Steve Featherston's Harpers article. Steve was out with a patrol which had a 'terp. The local elder they were talking with, when asked about whether or not the Taliban were in the area, responded with a story about an elephant being nibbled to death by ants. The 'terp translated this as "No Taliban activity around here" .

The story itself actually illustrated how the Taliban were operating in the are and, if it had been translated, would have opened up a fruitful discussion. Because it wasn't translated, the partol leader had no idea that there was activity in the area.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
Recording conversations is great for documenting and recapping sometimes long engagement events. It is, in fact, one thing that we did not do well our last time out, but I will make a point to ensure it gets done this next time.
Generally, it's a good idea and, since data storage is cheap, it really isn't that much of a problem technically speaking. I use a digital data recorder during field interviews that has an 11 hour capacity and a USB download - plug it into my laptop, copy it, and I'm done.

The other reason why recordings are useful goes back to story telling. If you have a couple of 'terps back at HQ, they can track commonalities in stories that start to show up in an area and that can be used to track Taliban activity in terms of their physical actions (ants vs. elephants) and IO activities. Hopefully, that will give you a faster loop inside their actions letting you counter them before they really get rolling.
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Old 07-15-2009   #16
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Default Just noticed this...

There's a new, hardened thumb drive that could be really useful for field recordings (see here).
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Old 07-15-2009   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mhusband View Post
Through out the Kandahar Region AWCC or Roshan cell phone coverage is shotty at best. Even when your in a coverage area there are frequent problems connecting and in many areas the Taliban force the cell phone towers to be turned off or are willing to destroy them via RPG attacks.
Good points; they are also completely insecure.
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Old 07-15-2009   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marct View Post
Good points; they are also completely insecure.
I doubt that the TB are listening in on your cell phone but it's always a possibility.

On the flip side of that... It would be a VERY good idea to invest in ICOM radios for your units. The TB operate by using them in the clear because they think you're not paying attention.
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Old 07-15-2009   #19
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Default ICOM radios

Quote:
Originally Posted by mhusband View Post
I doubt that the TB are listening in on your cell phone but it's always a possibility. On the flip side of that... It would be a VERY good idea to invest in ICOM radios for your units. The TB operate by using them in the clear because they think you're not paying attention.
According to this ICOM radios are standard issue and presumably the Taliban know that now: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/5...ghanistan.html

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Old 07-15-2009   #20
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For the US it's not standard issue (we had to beg borrow and pay for one out of what ever operational budget we could find). However, I know teams that have had terps banter back and forth with TB on ICOM's.

Typically before TB attack there is increased traffic on their radio's. It's how they coordinate almost everything.

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