Back in Washington, policymakers, academics and policy wonks have been discussing “transition” in Afghanistan for some time now. They talk metrics, criteria and processes, and emphasize that this is a joint effort with our Afghan partners. Think tanks hold events on almost a weekly basis regarding how transition will actually pan out, drawing parallels to Iraq, and hoping for the best. While reading policy documents and sitting in on VTCs gave me an idea of how we define transition, I was always curious to know how these policies would actually translate into action.
Since arriving in Afghanistan, I’ve developed a greater appreciation for the range of challenges that our decision makers here face, as well as their ability to move between strategic considerations and tactical practicalities. This week, NTM-A facilitated several ANP site visits for Dr. Ashraf Ghani, Special Advisor to the President for Transition, as he is preparing his recommendations to President Karzai. Dr. Ghani has held many important roles throughout his career, from World Bank executive, to Afghanistan’s Minister of Finance, to Chancellor of Kabul University, and now Special Advisor to President Karzai. His numerous key leadership positions has made him a seasoned and effective strategic thinker, but that doesn’t stop him from examining even the finer details involved in transitioning key roles, facilities and provinces over to Afghan lead.
During a visit to the MOI Material Management Center (MMC) in Kabul, the NTM-A team stood to the side as MG Timor Shah, Chief of Logistics for the MOI, and Dr. Ghani discussed the state of the MMC and issues that must be addressed for a smooth transition. The two were so entrenched in their conversation that the advisors stood back and told the interpreters not to bother with a translation….the Afghans were at work and they would ask the advisors to chime in if needed. Dr. Ghani spoke with everyone from the chief of the center to the mechanics working in the shop. After he completed his notes for the session, we traveled to Central Training Center – Kabul (CTC-Kabul), where Italian Carabinieri were training Afghan policemen on subjects ranging from riot control to building clearing to handcuffing. The Afghan police trainees demonstrate their skills to coalition observers each day, but, on this day, they proudly demonstrated their new skills before one of their government’s senior leaders. I asked one of the advisors what her impressions were from the visit. She explained that the more detailed that the discussions became between Dr. Ghani and the Afghans overseeing the various centers, the more successful the process. It was great to get a little taste of how transition translates into action.
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