Karl-Heinz Lather: "COMISAF's new tactical directive has put the Afghan people at the centre of ISAF'S efforts"

Posted in NATO | 02-Aug-09 | Author: Dieter Farwick

"Ideally troops should in principal be provided without caveats."

- Exclusive interview with General Karl-Heinz Lather (GE), Chief of staff HQ SHAPE at Mons, Belgium, conducted by Brig Gen (ret) Dieter Farwick (GE) -

WSN: What are the major military stumbling blocks on the road to success?

Karl-Heinz Lather: NATO an ISAF in particular are assisting the people of Afghanistan in their struggle for a better future in peace and self-determination. We think that capacity building of the ANA, that is the Armed Forces, and the ANP, that is the Afghan National Police, is of high importance. The expected endstate would be that Afghans can protect their security without foreign assistance. SHAPE expects that NATO and other willing nations will contribute sufficient resources to that effort, mainly qualified training and mentoring teams, both military and police, as well as equipment to be donated and funds to be provided.

I would agree as well that we, the international actors, can always do better in coordinating our joint efforts with the Afghan authorities. Responsible action by the Afghans themselves and local ownership are paramount to overcoming trends of corruption, narco criminality and Islamic extremism.

COMISAF's new tactical directive has put the Afghan people at the centre of ISAF's efforts. That is the right approach as it strives to avoid civilian casualties.

The international, mostly western media have a tendency to exaggerate negative events in Afghanistan. A more balanced reporting would help our people back home better understand and eventually support the joint effort.

WSN: Are national caveats still a problem for the operational freedom of the commanders in the field?

Karl-Heinz Lather: There are still some national caveats mostly because of domestic legislation within our troop contributing nations. However, given the current up-lift in troops and capacities, I think COMISAF and his regional commanders can cope with the present situation. Having said, ideally troops transferred from national to NATO- command should in principal be provided without caveat.

WSN: Do ISAF have sufficient capacities for reconnaissance -from strategic to tactical level?

Karl-Heinz Lather: In a theatre of operation as big and wide as Afghanistan it is unlikely that you have a true 24/7 coverage of recce, we better call it ISTAR capabilities. Most of our operations are intelligence driven, facilitated by a vast variety of supporters and enablers. Feeding the information they gather into a consolidated operational picture remains a challenge where we are collectively battling for a more optimal solution. Here is definitely room for improvement, both technically and doctrinally in order to be enabled to share information and intelligence timely and effectively.

But, ISAF is already today reasonably well supported: strategically by nations and NATO, operationally and tactically with systems deployed to support commanders in the field.