Afghans equipped to meet tomorrow’s challenges
4 September 2018
Sustainment is an essential military function, and ensuring Afghanistan’s troops are properly equipped to meet future challenges has been the recent role of an Australian Army officer.
Deputy Director Sustainment, Brigadier Haydn Kohl, of Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan, was deployed to Afghanistan with the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.
The Command is focused on helping Afghanistan develop a sustainable, effective and affordable Afghan National Defense Force in support of the Afghan Government.
The Command trains, advises and assists within Afghan security institutions to develop resource management capability, Inspector General and rule of law capability. It provides resources in accordance with Afghan requirements while ensuring fiscal oversight and accountability of funds and materiel delivered.
Brigadier Kohl said his role within the organisation was to provide support to logistics, medical and information and communication technology elements.
“There are teams in Kabul who work with the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Interior advising up to the deputy minister level to help them develop and implement their policies across Afghanistan,” he said.
“We’ve come a long way from the days of the Mujahadeen era where the fighters largely relied on finding stores and equipment on the battlefield to keep fighting.
“Now, they’re building a modern army, with a logistics supply chain across the country along with modern medical support, which includes aero-medical and ground evacuation capabilities as well as hospitals with state-of-the-art equipment.
“This modernisation also applies to the information and communication technology services – where in 2003 there were about 20,000 mobile phones in Afghanistan, now there’s close to 20 million.”
Command advisors work closely with people such as the Surgeon General of the Afghan National Police and the Medical Commander of the Afghan National Army to develop their capability and introduce them to more modern approaches to medical support.
Brigadier Kohl said the biggest challenge was trying to describe to Afghans something they may never have seen or experienced before.
“Explaining how to use a computer network to organise the resupply of equipment or stores means having to describe the system in different terms until it is understood and can be achieved,” he said.
As the Afghan National Defense Force-led fight against the Taliban and other terrorist organisations such as the Islamic State of Iraq ash-sham Khurasan continues in Afghanistan all stores and materiel are supplied centrally by the coalition through Kabul, except for fuel which was distributed directly to the units in the regions.
“The Afghan National Defense Force manage their own logistics systems to get supplies from Kabul out to the military and police units, hospitals and supply depots across the country, and the fact units in the field have been able to continue fighting is a testament to the advances they’ve made in logistics,” he said.
“An example of this is when the National Military Hospital in Kabul was attacked by gunmen in March last year, the Afghans were able to have it operational again in 24 hours.
“The Afghan National Police Hospital, which is the centre of the police health care system, now has new, modern facilities and on the management side we’ve watched the Afghans increase their capability for maintaining and maintaining their equipment instead of just replacing it.
“A key focus for the Command is ensuring that we are working with the ministries to develop a sustainable and affordable Force for the Afghan government.”
The temporary armistice in Afghanistan during the religious holiday of Eid-ul Fitr in June was the first time the Afghan government and the Taliban agreed on a ceasefire since 2001.
“It was a huge turning point, and now everyone is starting to talk about what reconciliation will look like, where before it was unimaginable to many people.
Corruption is also a focus for the Afghan National Defense Force and the Afghan government.
Brigadier Kohl said his team met regularly with the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Interior Affairs, who were committed to fighting corruption at all levels, regardless of individual rank or influence.
“They understand the goodwill of the international community is largely based on the confidence that their donated money and resources are being looked after well,” he said.
“It’s a big focus ensuring the resources we supply actually get to the policemen or soldiers on the ground and don’t end up on the black market.
More than 16,000 personnel from NATO member states and partner countries are deployed in support of the Resolute Support mission.
Brigadier Kohl said it was the highlight of his deployment to work with people from so many nations, including the Afghans who are fighting for the future of their country.
“These people genuinely believe in what they’re doing and believe there’s a positive end in sight.
“My biggest achievement has been working with the ministries and seeing the Afghan systems maturing and as a result we are seeing equipment we are supplying, such as vehicles, being maintained by Afghan mechanics, rather than simply replaced.”
Brigadier Kohl said the Australians within the Resolute Support mission are held in high regard by every nation of the coalition.
“From the Force Protection Element through to the mentors and advisors and the senior officers in the headquarters, their reputation has credited Australia as a nation,” he said.
“The influence we’ve gained from our reputation of having such good people, soldiers and officers on operations is spreading from the Pentagon to NATO.”
Brigadier Kohl was awarded the US Legion of Merit for his exceptional service by Commander CSTC-A, Maj-Gen Robin L. Fontes, on 20 July 2018, and handed over his role to Brigadier Suzanne Melotte in early August.