Pentagon’s newest idea to help Afghan Army is ‘firing on all cylinders’

Pentagon’s newest idea to help Afghan Army is ‘firing on all cylinders’

Col. Scott Jackson, left, greets a role player leader of the Afghan National Army during a training exercise in January 2018 (Photo by Spc. Noelle E. Wiehe, 50th Public Affairs Detachment/U.S. Army)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s newest tool to aid the fight in Afghanistan — Security Force Assistance Brigades — is hitting all its marks and boosting the ability of Afghan troops to take the fight to the enemy, the the brigade’s commander told Pentagon reporters Wednesday.

“I have to say I think I got it right,” Army Col. Scott Jackson said during a press briefing via video conference from Kabul, Afghanistan. “When we leave, our partners will be more technically and tactically capable, more offensive-minded, more self-sustaining and deserving of the trust of the Afghan people.”

The Army announced the creation of SFABs in February 2017, and the first one began work in Afghanistan almost 100 days ago. SFABs are designed and equipped for the specialized mission of training, advising, assisting and on occasion accompanying Afghan forces in the daily rigors of conflict.

“Since our arrival we have deployed advisory teams to every Resolute Support (the name of the Afghan campaign) regional command and partnered them with Afghan army, police and border force elements ranging from (battalions) to Afghan brigades and police districts and all the way up to Afghan corps, division and police zones,” Jackson told reporters.

He said the SFAB members, all volunteers, have gained credibility with the Afghans because of their wide range of skills, the quick application of those skills, and showing “actions and values that represent the best of America and the Army.”

“The goal is to make our partners better in every measurable way,” Jackson said. “We go to where we have to go, to achieve the effects with our partners.”

Six SFABs, including the one already operational in Afghanistan, are planned. Each will have roughly 529 soldiers assigned to the unit and will be tasked to conduct advise-and-assist missions for the Army in any part of the world, according to the Army.

The advise-and-assist mission is one the Army has done for years, mostly however in “ad hoc” fashion without units specially trained for the task. That meant that teams that were created may not have consistently engaged in the highest quality of preparation or specific training, the Army said when it announced the SFAB initiative

SFABs are designed to rapidly deploy into a theater of operations in support of a combatant commander and are already trained and staffed to assist partner nation security forces — on anything they need help with, the Army said.

In Afghanistan, the SFAB has provided ground maneuver-focused teams, and specialty teams focused on engineering, field artillery, military intelligence, logistics and communications, Jackson said.

Among the lessons the Afghan forces have learned are the advantage and ability of the unequal fight, how to maintain pressure on the enemy and the wise use of resources, he said.

“I think the Army got it right with the first SFAB,” Jackson told reporters. “It is firing on all cylinders.”

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