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By Mr J.P. Martin

During OP CRIB 21 (Sept 12 – April 13) in Bamyan, Afghanistan Kiwi Team 3 (KT3), conducted a Building Partner Capacity (BPC) mission with the Afghan National Police (ANP) in a restricted operating environment. Not only were we restricted by usual barriers including culture, a limited period in which to develop relationships, and limits on budgets and resources, but we were also restricted by operational circumstances, and particularly the ensuing completion of the operation. The operational constraints meant that we had to focus on establishing tangible and completed objectives for the BPC mission. In order to successfully complete a number of objectives it was crucially important to gain the buy-in of all involved actors and develop productive relationships between ourselves and our ANP partners. These relationships allowed us (in conjunction with the ANP) to accurately assess what the ANP wished to achieve, and then balance that against what KT3 could realistically provide. This realistic assessment created the conditions for the successful completion of a number of objectives within the BPC mission, and also had positive spill-over effects into other operational areas.

Following the handover from CRIB 20 partnered patrolling with the ANP was restricted to local areas, and mentoring to the central police stations, local ranges and a number of checkpoints. After the withdrawal from the northern patrol bases in Bamyan, our area of operations was progressively contracted with the remaining NZDF force elements in Bamyan centralised in Kiwi Base in the provincial capital, Bamian. As CRIB 21 was now focusing on the handover of all security responsibilities to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) the distance from Kiwi Base which NZDF personnel were permitted to patrol was shortened at regular intervals. In conjunction, the transition of security operations in Bamyan, including all levels of Reaction Force meant that our mandate to be involved in kinetic operations that did not involve immediate threats to NZDF personnel was progressively curtailed. Consequently, this restricted those troops it would be appropriate to partner, and although the Provincial Reconstruction Team ( PRT) was training a Provincial Quick Reaction Force their provincial wide AO and mandate did not reflect NZDF priorities at that time. This resulted in the decision to conduct a BPC mission with the local ANP in Bamian town, who had been somewhat neglected, paradoxically, due to their proximity to Kiwi Base.

Upon the completion of introductions the immediate challenge was to establish a BPC plan that balanced the conflicting priorities of all actors. Even at platoon (KT3) level the actors directly or indirectly involved in the BPC included: local ANP, ANP Provincial Police Headquarters (PPHQ), EUPOL (a theatre-wide police training force), MFAT, PRT HQ, and the soldiers of KT3. Each actor had different priorities and timelines – and ideally all of these needed to be reflected and catered for in the BPC plan so that their resources could be utilised. EUPOL, and later MFAT, would provide the bulk of funds for infrastructure redevelopment; the two HQ provided the time and space; and the local police provided the opportunity. Consequently, as time and space became more constrained, so the interest on ongoing projects and training intensified. Ultimately, a plan was developed that generated buy-in from all the actors which was split into three distinct phases: living with the local ANP to develop relationships; ongoing training, patrolling and infrastructure development; and the completion of redevelopment whist simultaneously discontinuing patrolling links.

The first phase of the plan, living with the ANP at their compound for a week, was crucial for developing the relationships which permitted the creation of a worthwhile BPC plan. I gained an understanding that although the 2IC was far more competent and proactive than the area commander, the 2IC would not act without his specific guidance. As a result, after a number of fruitless meetings, we developed an effective system where I would discuss a plan informally with the 2IC (often sitting outside in the sun smoking), the 2IC would then discuss it with the commander, then I would have another formal meeting at which the commander would task the 2IC with what we had already agreed upon. Although convoluted, it allowed the 2IC (a 10 year veteran) to drive the training, whilst maintaining the commander’s (who was a relative of a member of government) status. Simultaneously, the soldiers and JNCOs were conducting partnered patrolling, competitive search lessons, and mentoring at two crucial checkpoints on the approaches to Bamian. Also, and perhaps more importantly for the development of relationships we were relaxing together, sharing a number of meals and becoming comfortable around one another. It was in this period we came to a consensus that ongoing range and checkpoint training led by the JNCOs would provide an immediate and tangible benefit at section level for ourselves and the ANP, and a partial redevelopment of the local station would provide a quality of life improvement for the police whilst cementing useful command relationships for the impending mission completion.

The checkpoint mentoring activities, led by a section commander, were a successful example of section level BCP. The section commander developed effective relationships in the first phase by identifying his peers at both checkpoints, and then consistently returning to engage with them. This continuity of relationship, and observation, allowed him to gauge what the ANP wished to achieve but accurately balance that against the realities of our restricted operating environment. The mentoring focused on section level soldiering skills including the development of SOPs and Actions On (for Contact, IED, and Suspicious vehicle et al.), the construct of range cards, and the recording and transcribing of information. A potential for friction over our inability (due to time, cost and impending retrograde operations) to harden the ANP’s checkpoint positions was avoided by providing technical advice (through an RNZE JNCO) and support for the checkpoint commanders to submit a proposal to their PPHQ. This also tied into the higher aims of ANSF BPC, to develop processes and structures that could be effective post our withdrawal. Tangible positive outcomes had been achieved through a sound appreciation of capacity and desire, both NZDF and ANP.

Simultaneously, EUPOL and MFAT were providing funds for the physical redevelopment of the local ANP station and relationships formed at the command level were crucial to overcoming a number of challenges. The redevelopment, encompassing the repair of walls and ceilings, installing of windows, and the building of a car shelter and toilet block, would provide a vastly improved quality of life to the ANP who primarily lived on site. This was an ANP priority, but due to the impending mission completion was managed by KT3 on behalf of MFAT and EUPOL, who were expected to provide a completed project prior to the withdrawal of NZDF personnel. The two major challenges in the redevelopment were the unrealistic expectations of the ANP in terms of the scope of the work, and the relaxed attitude of Afghan contractors to deadlines. At command level, the trust and understanding formed in the initial phase of co-habitation allowed for frank discussions about the intended scope, and increased the pressure the ANP placed on the contractors to complete the work, in accordance with the timeline imposed by our withdrawal. These command relationships were crucial in realising a successful conclusion of the physical redevelopment.

As the BPC progressed, its remit was progressively curtailed in line with operational requirements to prepare for the withdrawal and progressively diminish support to the ANSF, but it continued to provide tangible positive outcomes. By the final weeks of the deployment the only BPC movement permitted outside the FOB was the final meetings and payments to contractors that could not be conducted at the FOB. At this stage there was  limited friendly force situational awareness of the AO, reduced troop numbers and reaction capability following the withdrawal of all NZLAV, and an heighted alertness towards ‘green on blue’ (ANSF) threats. The relationships and networks formed as part of the BPC provided another source of human intelligence that enhanced our situational awareness, an additional layer (albeit of varying effectiveness) of security to the FOB and airlifts, and the requisite level of trust to complete BPC activities. Although its remit was curtailed, the lingering effects of successful BPC enhanced the operational security of the retrograde.

The BPC mission undertaken by KT3 had to overcome additional restrictions imposed by operational requirements outside our control, in order to achieve tangible positive outcomes. The early development of honest and productive relationships at a number of levels, which was greatly assisted by living with the ANP, was the crucial step in realising these positive outcomes. These relationships formed a base upon which a mutually acceptable BPC plan was created, which had been bought into by all the actors involved. This plan was then put into effect and friction points, disagreements and areas of confusion managed through frank discussion and sensible appreciations of ANP requirements and NZDF capacity. These discussions were often conducted in a manner quite divergent to NZ Army practices and without the early understanding engendered by continuous, close proximity would have been more challenging to bring to mutually satisfactory outcomes. The relationships developed were further enhanced as the mission progressed through the completion of agreed upon training outcomes, section level mentoring and combined efforts to complete the redevelopment of the local police station. The ability to achieve positive outcomes was ultimately attributable to a combined plan, agreed upon by all parties, that was enhanced by effective relationships.