WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The screen at the head of the two tables in the operational coordination center here displayed statistics about coalition and insurgent activities in the area. Members of the Afghan security forces listened as one of their countrymen briefed the data.
Seated quietly at the table, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Larry Daley listened to his interpreter translate the fruits of his team’s labors.
Daley says his job as senior U.S. advisor for the operational coordination center here is the future of the coalition presence in Afghanistan. The Preston, Minn., native, who is attached to the 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Patriot, has worked since November to foster better cooperation among the Afghan security forces components in Wardak province and to improve their ability to handle security.
Daley’s position in Wardak came about by order of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who established the a system of operational coordination centers in Afghanistan’s provinces. Originally, the centers coordinated efforts related to elections and natural disasters, but they worked too well to stay within such narrow parameters, Daley said.
“It has evolved into a way that all of the entities of the Afghan national security forces can be integrated for operations and have a unity of effort in securing the population,” said Army Lt. Col. Michael Kelley of Newnan, Ga., the coalition’s regional operational coordination center commander for southern Afghanistan and senior advisor. The coalition presence in the centers is in an advisory capacity, Kelley said, helping the Afghan security forces work together and share information, he said.
Brig. Gen. Muhammad Daood, an Afghan army officer who serves as regional operational coordination center commander for the south, said he is encouraged by the growth of cooperation among Afghan forces in his area. “I hope one day we’ll be able to provide security in the whole province,” he said through an interpreter. To get there means a lot of drinking for Daley. “A lot of late-night chai sessions is how you get it done,” he said.
Chai, or tea, is a means of overcoming a problem that sometimes shows up in organizations: a lack of communication. The various branches of Afghan forces have not been sharing the data they collect in Wardak, Daley said, noting that that the U.S. military was no different before the 1980s. Before congressional action forced jointness on the services, he explained, each U.S. service had its own set of data and did not necessarily share it with the others.
Daley said drinking tea, a ubiquitous custom in Afghanistan, helps him to develop personal relationships. By establishing friendships and respect among the representatives of the Afghan security forces branches, he added, he is able to improve cooperation.
“Maybe the organizations don’t really care for each other a whole lot, but if, as individuals, we can get along, we can make things work,” Daley said. “It’s something you’ve got to work at every day. If you’re not working at it every day, you’re probably going backwards.”
Daley recently began teaching Afghan personnel how to analyze data and ask what is causing those statistics. The result, he said, was a desire on the part of some Afghans to learn more.
“We’re getting there,” he said. “It’s just taking time to make them sit down and think through very complex problems.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)