A challenge for true leadership

Posted in NATO , Broader Middle East , Asia | 20-Oct-03 | Author: Dieter Farwick

General James L. Jones, Saceur, with Lieutenant General Götz Gliemeroth CinC ISAF in Kabul
Worldsecuritynetwork.com is able to present an exclusive interview with Commander ISAF in Kabul, Lieutenant General Götz Gliemeroth (GE).

NATO took command of ISAF and 5,500 troops from 31 nations, on 11 Aug 03. Lieutenant General Götz Gliemeroth is the first NATO Commander-in-Chief.

ISAF’s mission is to assist Afghanistan Transition Authority (ATA) in bringing security and stability to Kabul and its surrounding areas. This command was authorized to extend its operations beyond Kabul by Security Council Resolution 1510 dated 13 October 2003. This is a unique operation for NATO and the first time it has operated out of area. It is a demanding task that requires clear and decisive leadership. I asked General Gliemeroth questions about the present situation and the possible future.

WSN: Commander-in-Chief,
what are your most positive impressions after having been in command for more than 60 days?

My first impression, as I got to know my troops better, was a growing admiration for their determination, dedication and professionalism toward our mission. It was a deepening respect for their ability to get the job done in a quiet and efficient manner. It was a sense of pride in their ability to make the most of opportunities here under often-difficult conditions. My other most vivid impression focused on the Afghan people themselves and in particular those men and women who have made it their cause to lead Afghanistan into the light; those who have made it their responsibility to change this ancient country for the better; those whose ambition it is to bring about the birth of a lawful state where terrorism and poverty hold no sway. Politicians work for less than a dollar a day here to do this, when it is clear they could have a better life, with greater rewards in other parts of the world. The people of Afghanistan are working hard to create a better future. It is difficult not to be impressed by them.

NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson with Lieutenant General Götz Gliemeroth
WSN: What are the stumbling blocks to achieving security and stability in Afghanistan?

The current UN mandate for ISAF is to assist the ATA in ensuring the security of Kabul and its environs. Achieving security in Afghanistan has significant challenges, many of which are the after-effects of 23 years of war: Taliban and Al-Qaeda continue in skirmish fighting and acts of terrorism targeting, ATA, UN Organisations, ISAF troops, NGOs, aid workers and charities; drug trafficking and production have replaced traditional cash crops in some parts of the country, these criminal activities account for up to 50% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product provoking corruption and supporting terrorism. A strong, motivated and loyal police force and Afghan National Army must counter these activities. In Afghanistan however, the police are not paid regularly; there are illegal checkpoints and limited powers of arrest and detention. Forty-one Taliban recently escaped from a prison in Khandahar allegedly bribing prison guards USD 2000 to arrange to escape of each prisoner. Additionally, there is a chronic shortage of arrest and detention facilities; therefore criminals are often released or not detained at all. The Army also has its problems although the training programme runs apace, there are pay issues and desertion is not uncommon. These problems exacerbate the tendency to corruption, which is prevalent within Afghanistan. They also place a heavier reliance on contributing nations to assist Afghanistan until it is capable of supporting itself.

WSN: What do your soldiers think about the value of their commitment towards the security and freedom of Afghanistan?

Every soldier here has a valuable role to play in this mission. They are the backbone of our work here. Each one of them understands the significance of their task and accepts the risks they take. This was shown on 2 Oct 03 with the loss of 2 Canadian soldiers in a landmine incident. The work they do here is highly important; they are witnesses to the democratic rebirth of a nation. That is a mission that they are all rightfully proud of. It is something substantial and worthwhile.

Coordinating the efforts of 31 nations is no easy task and not one that has ever been attempted previously.

WSN: What is the cooperation like between the soldiers from the 31 nations?

International cooperation on this scale is unprecedented in modern times. But the work we undertake is our priority and we are all here for the same reasons: to help the people build a better future for the benefit of everyone in Afghanistan. When you work side by side with soldiers from different nations on a daily basis, you learn a great deal about them and indeed yourself. Every nation has its unique contribution to make and does so to the best of its ability. Of course, there are constraints and limitations; domestic public opinion, domestic constitutional law, budgetary concerns and individual nation’s understanding of force sustainability. But there is unanimous agreement that ISAF’s mission is imperative and the international community has demonstrated its resolve to assist in this country’s reconstruction; this is why ISAF’s mission continues and will be successful.
WSN: Do you experience problems with individual nations playing “national red cards”?

Identifying the constraints of contributing nations is a significant issue. Every nation here retains its own sovereignty over its troops; each nation has its own legal framework within which it must operate, even within the Alliance. Frequently, such issues arise only after the fact. Commanders must plan ahead clearly and understand the competing interests and limitations of individual nations. This does not impose restrictions on ISAF, but does require clear leadership. The onus is on individual troop commanders to ensure that soldiers are deployed effectively on achievable tasks in support of the overall mission.

WSN: How intense is the cooperation between ISAF and the American leadership of Operation Enduring Freedom?

Close cooperation between the two forces operates at the highest level; their strategic objectives are the same after all. Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) formally implement cooperation and embedded staff officers ensure its practical application. MOUs make provision for air support and reconnaissance. This was put to the test recently when, having lost contact with a recce team, a Coalition aircraft was diverted from its task to locate them. Two Blackhawks were also scrambled to HQ ISAF in support of a medevac exercise; they were on site within 21 minutes. There is also a very close degree of cooperation between the two forces in ANA(Afghanistan National Army) and Police training. There is such synergy between the two forces that it is not incomprehensible to imagine the forces being combined under one overarching command structure at some point in the future.

WSN: What do you think about the PRT concept?

PRT(Provincial Reconstruction Teams) is a straightforward concept geared up to spreading the influence of the central government to all the provinces and outer regions of Afghanistan. They are particularly suited to devolving government and administration to a largely inaccessible country where rapidity of movement and ease of communications are difficult. PRTs are also vehicles for bringing security and stability to the provinces; they are bases for counter-narcotics operations as well as centres for law and order. They are capable of recruiting for the police and ANA and function as a base from which these forces can operate. Additionally, they provide practical assistance to NGOs, aid workers and charities, allowing them to concentrate on civil reconstruction and humanitarian aid in an environment where logistic support for these functions is almost non-existent. There are currently four PRTs: Gardez and Kunduz (US), Maz-e-Sharif (UK) and Bamyian (NZ). Up to five additional PRTs are planned at Herat, Jalalabad, Khandahar, Ghazni and/or Parwan. Although there is no ‘blueprint’ for a PRT, each individual nation will operate its own concept, however they operate, their practical application is immediately obvious. Many nations have indicated a willingness to provide additional support for this concept, for example Germany’s decision to take over from the US PRT at Kunduz . There is now a UN-resolution expansion of NATO’s role “beyond Kabul”. PRTs, once again, are an ideal base of operations for this expansion. The time is now right to extend ISAF’s influence to other areas of the country where President Karzai’s authority and that of his government is not so readily accepted.

WSN: What is the prospect of President Karzai’s Government gaining authority beyond Kabul?

President Karzai was selected to govern Afghanistan by the ELJ(Emerging Loja Jirga) in 2002 and bring the country to democracy. His authority in the regions is still limited, expansion of the ISAF mandate by the recent UNSC Resolution will assist in this respect. Never the less ,he has implemented key changes: approval of pilot DDR(Disarmament, De-Mobilisation ,Re-Integration) projects starting with Kunduz from 24 October 03, reform of the MOD, changes in key appointments to governorships, striving to achieve ethnic balance in government, reforming legal institutions and laws, delegates for the CLJ( Constitutional Loja Jirga) from Badaksham were elected yesterday and elections for the CLJ will be complete by the end of Nov/early Dec. Nevertheless, his ability to extend his influence outside Kabul is limited. He is only now building the military resources to respond to security challenges and has yet to develop adequate organs of government to administer effectively beyond the capital. He must address issues of pay, corruption and desertion within the police and army, there must be judicial reform, and the constitution must be accepted and put in place. His government must effect practical administration throughout the country and the people must see the benefits. His political survival depends on his ability to consolidate his power base and broker precarious political alliances throughout a broad cross-section the country’s political elite. He must clearly exercise authority over key military commanders and provincial governors. Helping President Karzai and the ATA to achieve all these objectives is a key function of ISAF’s mission in Afghanistan. When this administrative infrastructure takes root within the country as a whole, the President will be able to extend his influence in a clear and strategic manner.

WSN: When will the time come for national elections?

The Bonn process set out a clearly defined timetable for elections in Afghanistan. There is no reason to move away from the target date, which is in June 2004. However, there are certain preconditions for national elections. There must be an acceptance of the constitution and resolution of several difficult issues not least amongst which are women’s and minority rights, centralization of power away from provincial based feudal/tribal systems, press freedom, and a plethora of human rights’ issues. Security Sector Reform (SSR) and all that it implies must spread throughout the country, critically, disarmament of AMF and their subsequent reintegration into society must be well advanced. Indeed, SSR and the stability it engenders, is a critical prerequisite of voter registration, let alone elections themselves. Naturally, there must be an overall sense of security and the people must understand the political issues at stake, which requires better media coverage over more of the country than is currently the case. This is difficult to achieve when 65% of the country is illiterate. Conditions for national elections must be right. ISAF’s strategy, based upon the five pillars of SSR (DDR, ANA Training, Police Training, Counter Narcotics and Judicial Reform) do not define the limits of everything ISAF hopes to achieve but represent the foundations of its work in assisting the ATA create the right environment for elections. There is no doubt that the timetable is challenging, but it is at the heart of our work here, and we will achieve it.

WSN: What is your impression of the threat represented by Taliban?

There has been a resurgence of the Taliban threat; there is no doubt that they seem to be better organized, better equipped and more resilient than for some time. They have effective communication and C2 networks, high tech weaponry systems (RCIEDs) and are much more mobile (frequently use of motorcycles). Neither does the Taliban represent the threat in isolation. Al-Qaeda and HIG (Hezb-e-islami.gulbuddin) are also active within the country and militate against what President Karzai and ISAF are trying to achieve. There have been more attacks against NGOs and aid workers in the southern areas of the country than in the previous 2 years as well as evidence of extensive infiltration and the use of ‘foreign’ recruits particularly from Middle Eastern Arab states. Nevertheless, Coalition forces working under Operation Enduring Freedom have been successful in countering their threat, as has ISAF. Several high profile HIG commanders have been captured and there have been dozens of successful raids against active Taliban and Al-Qaeda formations. Numerous attacks have been made against these hostiles capturing large quantities of munitions and weapons before they could be deployed against ATA, NGOs, aid workers or ISAF troops. The US led Operation Mountain Viper, based in the mountainous southeastern area of Afghanistan, has won numerous key victories over remnant Taliban and other forces. Importantly, Afghanistan has secured close cooperation with Pakistan on the vexed question of cross-border control. ANA, Coalition and Pakistan security forces have all worked closely to combat terrorism on the eastern border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Terrorist organizations seek to endure beyond the international community’s will to succeed in this country; it is in that respect a war of attrition. They target ATA, aid workers, charities, NGOs as well as ISAF and Coalition troops with the intention of intimidating organisations into abandoning Afghanistan. The solution to the problem of terrorism, however, does not lie merely with the use of military force. A harsh economic climate provides fertile breeding grounds for extremism; social hardship and deprivation must be combated as vigorously as those who take up arms. Terrorists have underestimated international resolve. This is clearly evidenced by NATO’s intention to expand ISAF’s mission. It is this expansion that will assist ATA in bringing stability and eventually prosperity to Afghanistan.

WSN: Commander-in-Chief, thank you very for spending so much time for Worldsecuritynetwork.com. We wish you success in your mission and good luck for your soldiers.
We are looking forward to coming back to you in due course.