BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, March 19, 2018 —
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived here today to assess the campaign plan now that all personnel are in place and the South Asia strategy is in full swing.
“I want to talk to the actual advisors who are working on the ground with the Afghans every day and make some conclusions about where we are,” Dunford told reporters traveling with him.
The chairman is traveling with a larger than normal party, including senior officials on the Joint Staff who specialize in intelligence, strategy and logistics.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. John W. Troxell, the chairman’s senior enlisted advisor, is also in the party. These officials will travel throughout Afghanistan to gather assessments for the chairman on how the effort is going, ultimately enabling Dunford to get a full picture of the various challenges ahead.
Security Force Assistance Brigade
The general will meet with senior Afghan and U.S. officials to get a top-down look at the situation, but he really wants to meet with soldiers of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, which deployed to Afghanistan in February and is now close to full strength. The SFAB is the heart and soul of the train, advise and assist mission. Members of the unit will advise Afghan units down to the kandak-level — about the size of a battalion.
The brigade is composed of officers and senior noncommissioned officers with deployments to Afghanistan in the past and experience working with Afghan forces. They are all graduates of the Army’s Military Advisor Training Academy at Fort Benning, Georgia. They will serve nine-month tours of duty in Afghanistan.
“With the advisory effort now, I want to get a good feel for the campaign plan and what they expect to do over the next couple of months,” Dunford said. “I also want to have a discussion on measures of effectiveness — how will we know as this is going on over the next couple of months we are where we need to be in implementing the Afghan’s plan.”
This effort is all tied to the four-year plan promulgated by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last year.
There are many moving parts, the chairman said. He wants to understand progress in building the Afghan military aviation enterprise.
The chairman will also get a chance to see NATO forces operating in the country. NATO and partner forces contribute to about a third of the train, advise and assist effort and are “inextricably linked” down to the tactical level, he said.
Dunford knows Afghanistan well, as he served as the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force from February 2013 to August 2014. This visit should give the chairman a good baseline for the new strategy as Afghan forces confront a period of high operational tempo.
The chairman said he also wants to ensure the effort is properly resourced, and to examine the Afghan government’s reconciliation plan.
“There will always be refinements to the force and the better we can understand it, the better we can support them and provide advice to the secretary,” Dunford said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)