“A Cause Worth Doing” – DoD Roundtable

“A Cause Worth Doing” – DoD Roundtable

I have never heard the Afghan people described as resilient and intelligent. I pictured them as tough fighters who over time always managed to make the foreigners leave (ie., the British and Soviet invaders) after a long fight but the guest at today’s Roundtable brought a different perspective. He also described this war as a “cause worth doing”. With 38 years experience as a US Marine (active and civilian), Mr. Dave Clifton, senior advisor, Ministry of Interior, NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan (NTM-A) certainly brings a wealth of experience to his job supervising a team of advisors that coach Afghan leaders on ministerial and leadership development, and building a standalone Afghan National Police force.

Clifton provided a great metaphor for the current fight and the development of Afghan security forces. As a long time aviator instructor I could identify with training a new student in aviation. He listed their progress in four steps:

1- We fly
2- We fly – They watch
3- They fly – We watch
4- They fly
Right now the Afghan forces are transitioning to the third step! We are training their units to fly on their own while we watch. We are still flying and they are watching but training of the Afghan National Police (ANP) is but one example of the continued growth of their security forces and how one day they will fly on their own! Right now the police must operate in a counter insurgency environment with security for the Afghans their biggest concern. Clifton described himself as very optimistic as to the outcome but said one of the biggest challenges is developing all the functions required to establish the rule of law in Afghanistan. Functions such as acquisition, training, logistics, etc are still in development and plans to reach the Afghans goals for self sufficiency are being drawn up with NATO’s assistance.

One of the success stories he cited was the counter narcotic efforts of the judiciary and police. He described the attorneys involved as great prosecutors and the counter narcotics officers as the “best small units” in the ANP. He said the counter narcotic effort has seen a change in strategy. The police are now actively tracking with success the drug dealers and their logistics instead of the poppy farmer/family. In order to win the hearts and minds of the people they are finding substitute products for the small farmers to grow and assisting them. By attacking the drug infrastructure instead of the fields seems to make a lot of sense and allows the police to be seen in a more positive light. Further, Clifton described the Afghan people as good people and that their culture and religion are counter to drug dealing. The horrible conditions of a country which has seen war for so many years created an environment for the drug growth and the tide seems to be turning.

Mr. Clifton closed with comments on the wide ranging skills that the NATO team brings to Afghanistan. He said that he was very impressed with the team in place and that the mission would not end in 2011. More work would be needed to finish the effort which we started in 2001 (I actually was there in December 2001 flying C-17s into Bagram and Kandahar). Coming from an on scene perspective this runs counter to some of the current political leanings in DC calling for withdrawal in 2011. Maybe we should stop and review where we are at and how soon before the Afghans can fly on their own. A commitment to withdraw at a certain date runs counter to military strategy and supporting our friends in Afghanistan.

If you would like to listen to an audio or read a transcript of this Roundtable please go to DoDLive. For further articles on Afghanistan please go to MilitaryAvenue’s Reading Room or Our Letters to You blog. A big thank you to Mr. Clifton and the team at DoDLive that made this Roundtable possible!

Photo Credits: David Clifton, Senior Civilian Advisor Ministry of Interior, Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of NTM-A.byColonel KonFriday, October 15, 2010Military Life:,,

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