LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan — With the reduction of international assistance, cooperation between civilian and military actors, both national and international is imperative to ensure a more stable and secure government in Afghanistan.
U.S. soldiers and civilian representatives met to discuss civilian-military integration to establish goals and align their operations at Forward Operating Base Gamberi on June 13.
Soldiers assigned to Alpha Company, 486th Civil Affairs Battalion, from the Oklahoma Army Reserves, are working with development experts to help the Afghan government increase its capabilities enabling Afghans to stand on their own.
“During these types of meetings we can synchronize our efforts and not duplicate them,” said Maj. Mark Clancy, Alpha Company commander.
By working closely with Afghan government military and civilian institutions, they can build its capacity to better serve the Afghan people. Civilian-military planning often demands communication and coordination between all of the diverse Afghan and international actors. By highlighting the positive and negative developments, they can work together to make adjustments to current strategies.
Clancy said the goal of the meetings are to integrate and understand what civilians are doing in their advise and assist role and the military can let them know what they are doing with the (Afghan National Army) 201st Corps.
“We accomplish the mission so that diplomacy can advance further, hopefully without bloodshed,” Clancy said. “That is a concept done in America more than anywhere else.”
He said it is hard to get foreign militaries to understand the military works for civilians. Clancy said civilian-military cooperation was often reluctant in the past, with neither side not fully understanding the others concerns. During his 2003 deployment Clancy said the military and civilians rarely worked together.
“Now it is more of an ‘us’ thing because we are in this thing together to hand it off to the Afghans in a way that they can run with it,” Clancy said.
The improved communication links will allow the representatives to have better dialogue with their Afghan counterparts. Those efforts will assist Afghan government assume a more effective leadership role.
“What will come from these meetings is the collection of more information you can use with your provincial counterparts,” said Karen Decker, the senior civilian representative to Regional Command-East.
While at Gamberi, Decker told the group of soldiers and civilian representatives what happens in one province will affect the other. She said there has been a lot of money spent over the past decade and a lot of great things have been done to help Afghanistan. Decker said with improved Afghan civilian-military cooperation they can take the lead as the number of coalition forces is reduced.
“There aren’t going to be any unfulfilled promises,” Decker said. “It is going to be a task for the Afghan government to undertake.”
If there was a project by the international community, for example a school being built, Decker said those kinds of projects would be a good opportunity for the Afghans to continue to maintain.
“I think U.S. civilian-military cooperation can really make a difference by passing along our knowledge and expertise,” Decker said. “By working together we can help Afghans address the challenges that come from governance and development.”
She told the advisers to ask themselves how they can better advise and assist their Afghan counterparts. As the number of military and civilians decrease and the Afghans increase their capabilities, it is more important for the military to coordinate with their civilian counterparts.
Master Sgt. Daniel Gilliss, with the Civil-Military Advise and Assist Team, based in Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, said it is challenging at times but it gives his team the opportunity to share their knowledge with their Afghan counterparts.
He also advises Afghan representatives on how to manage their budget. Adding that Laghman Province only used 25 percent of their budget last year.
“There was a lot of money that could have been utilized to improve roads, hospitals or schools,” Gilliss said.
Gilliss said with the reduction of coalition forces there must more Afghan civilian-military coordination and hoped there would be more meetings in the future.
“We are really shrinking in numbers north of Kabul and that is a very good sign the Afghans are taking over,” Clancy said.