Afghanistan — Engineers Work to Train Leaders in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2010 — Engi­neers with NATO Train­ing Mis­sion Afghanistan and Com­bined Secu­ri­ty Tran­si­tion Com­mand Afghanistan are work­ing with their Afghan part­ners to build infra­struc­ture to sup­port the growth of the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces, a senior offi­cer involved in that effort said yes­ter­day.

Dur­ing a “DoD Live” blog­gers round­table, Army Col. Mike Wehr, direc­tor of the Com­bined Joint Engi­neer Office for the train­ing com­mands, said Afghanistan can­not sus­tain itself with­out the prop­er infra­struc­ture in facil­i­ties and gov­er­nance.

Wehr’s office ensures ade­quate facil­i­ties are avail­able, devel­ops engi­neer lead­er­ship at the min­is­te­r­i­al lev­el and builds sus­tain­able capac­i­ty and capa­bil­i­ty to enhance the Afghan government’s abil­i­ty to hold and build sta­bil­i­ty and secu­ri­ty, he explained.

It’s imper­a­tive, Wehr said, to keep the growth of lead­er­ship at pace with or ahead of the growth of forces at the troop lev­el. With­out com­pe­tent man­age­ment at the min­is­te­r­i­al lev­el, he added, no amount of on-the-job edu­ca­tion will cre­ate a sus­tain­able Afghan engi­neer corps.

“We’re con­stant­ly decid­ing how to best exe­cute con­struc­tion,” he said. “If we do an imme­di­ate build that gets the require­ment done, it may sat­is­fy the con­struc­tion of a build­ing. But what we’re real­ly after is the build­ing of an endur­ing capa­bil­i­ty with­in Afghanistan, specif­i­cal­ly for the engi­neers.”

Team­ing with the Afghans is very impor­tant to the process, the colonel said. Cre­ation of a facil­i­ties shu­ra, or con­fer­ence, has helped to expand team­work between the Joint Engi­neer Office and the Afghan gov­ern­ment. In the shu­ra, he said, issues broad­er than basic con­struc­tion or land ques­tions are addressed.

The Joint Engi­neer Office is active­ly work­ing through some key chal­lenges, includ­ing pro­ject­ing facil­i­ty require­ments two years ahead of cur­rent oper­a­tions, build­ing tem­po­rary facil­i­ties in the mean­time for coun­terin­sur­gency oper­a­tions, allow­ing con­tin­ued min­is­te­r­i­al devel­op­ment and use of engi­neer­ing lead­er­ship and knowl­edge that has not been used in gen­er­a­tions.

“We’ve made a sig­nif­i­cant amount of progress in the past six months since I’ve been here,” he said. “There’s a dis­tinct chal­lenge … as we accel­er­ate the field­ing of forces. Whether it’s the police or the army, there are sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges in keep­ing up with facil­i­ties.”

Wehr said his engi­neers con­tin­ue to work on con­struc­tion projects to keep the bur­geon­ing Afghan secu­ri­ty forces housed, and mak­ing sure they don’t come to rely on U.S. or NATO assis­tance to build facil­i­ties before their troops begin to leave the coun­try. His team knows they have to ensure they’re cre­at­ing sus­tain­able growth in Afghan engi­neer­ing, the colonel said.

“Our mis­sion is to ensure ade­quate facil­i­ties,” he said. That ranges from tents and oth­er tem­po­rary struc­tures to pre-engi­neered build­ings to more endur­ing brick-and-mor­tar facil­i­ties.

“It doesn’t do us a lot of good if were just con­struct­ing for them,” he added. “We want them to do it with us, and in fact under­stand how to main­tain it.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)