Inteqal—transition in the Dari and Pashtu languages—is the process by which security responsibility for Afghanistan is gradually transitioned from ISAF to Afghan leadership. Current Rotational Training Unit at NTC preparing for SFAAT mission, which is vital to that process.
If you’ve been around the National Training Center and Fort Irwin for a while (especially old-timer patriots who served here, retired here and continue to work here) you undoubtedly know the term “Force-on-Force.” You might even know the term COIN, which stands for counter-insurgency.
Force-on-force described the type of training rotations at the NTC that took place unequivocally from 1981 to 2003 and prepared the heavy brigades of yester-year to battle Cold War enemies, primarily the Soviet Union. The COIN rotations at the NTC, beginning around 2004, prepared reconstituted Army brigade combat teams to fight the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Recently the term SFAAT has become common at the NTC (the phrase “DATE rotation” as well, but that will be another story). So, for what type of deployment mission does SFAAT rotations prepare brigades?
The acronym SFAAT corresponds to Security Force Assistance Advisory Team, and the SFAAT mission has become vital to the transition process taking place in Afghanistan. According to the Joint Center for International Security Forces, Security Force Assistance are Department of Defense activities that contribute to unified action by the United States to support the development of the capacity and capability of foreign security forces and their supporting institutions. The Security Force Assistance mission is central to the success of U.S. strategies in the contemporary and future operating environments. The capacity to conduct SFA supports future strategies through fully integrated capabilities to organize, train, equip, rebuild, and advise foreign security forces (in Afghanistan, the Afghanistan Security National Forces) and their supporting institutions.
The U.S. military and International Security Assistance Force partners in Afghanistan are scheduled to hand over security authority to ASNF by the end of 2014. With the transition process currently underway in Afghanistan, Army brigades deploying to Afghanistan become partners of ASNF units during the SFA mission.
According to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the primary method of providing advice and assistance to the operational component of the ASNF is through partnered units. As the ANSF has become more effective, ISAF progresses from “one-to-one partnership” where ISAF units partner with ANSF units of similar size to “one-up partnership,” where ISAF units partner with ANSF units an echelon higher – an ISAF company with an ANSF battalion, and so on.
The current NTC rotational training unit – the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division – is currently in the “box” here and by Sept. 14, would have completed a “capstone” training event prerequisite for a deployment to Afghanistan. The combat tour will have the brigade performing an SFAAT mission. The unit, known as the Commando Brigade, has been preparing for their mission for some time now, having also completed a Mountain Peak Exercise at Fort Drum, N.Y., their home station, before coming to the NTC.
Preparation is key and understanding that conditions can change, are part of the SFAAT mission. According to NATO: the implementation of SFA, the level of support provided by ISAF, and the force-level and operational posture of ISAF forces is not implemented in strict compliance with model, but varies based on circumstances; that is due to the variance in individual ANSF units and the situation in their areas.
“Mind-set, not skill set, is key to a more successful advisory deployment,” said Lt. Col. Mark Ulrich of the Army Irregular Warfare Center, located at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
“How to interact with the local population, how to advise, how to understand an irregular threat is what will help you accomplish your mission,” said Ulrich, who was quoted by 2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs during a recent COIN seminar at Fort Drum’s Mission Training Complex.
Here at the NTC, the next time you see the designation OEF for Operation Enduring Freedom on the rotational calendar, chances are good that the training will be preparing the RTU for a successful “inteqal” in Afghanistan.