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ISAF and Afghan leaders discuss counter-insurgency and civilian casualties

ISAF and Afghan leaders have ended two days of discussions on improving counter-insurgency operations and preventing civilian casualties by cataloguing best practices that can be shared by all units operating in Afghanistan.

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Major General Rouzi of the Afghan National Police talks to a group of more than 100 people at the first ISAF Joint Command counter-insurgency shura

Major General Rouzi of the Afghan National Police talks to a group of more than 100 people at the first ISAF Joint Command counter-insurgency shura [Picture: Master Sgt Steve Horton, Copyright US Air Force 2010]

More than 90 representatives from all regions of Afghanistan, the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police participated in the counter-insurgency (COIN) shura, the first of its kind hosted by ISAF Joint Command (IJC).

US Marine Colonel Bradley Weisz, Deputy Chief of IJC Current Operations and shura co-ordinator, said:

We want to ensure that we are doing everything we can to reduce civilian casualties. We need to change the mindset of our troops to the COIN approach of ‘protecting the people’, and the best way to do that is by sharing best practices and improving overall COIN awareness.

The four main discussion topics the participants focused on were training and education, partnering with Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), escalation of force and civilian casualties, and best practices around the Afghanistan theatre of operations.

These discussions were based, in part, on observations brought back by IJC Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) that were sent to gather information on how units handle escalation of force incidents and report on standard operating procedures that are being used to help reduce civilian casualties:

We need to make good decisions to help reduce civilian casualties,” Lieutenant General David Rodriguez, IJC Commander, said. “The MTTs bring back many good lessons of restraint and good decision-making from our young soldiers.

75 per cent of civilian casualties have occurred when we are not partnered, so it’s very important to work with our Afghan partners to solve this problem,” he added.

Some of the observations and recommendations from the discussions included the need to filter information and COIN awareness down to the lowest soldier level; getting real-life examples to the training centres for units to use; sending ANSF partners to help train units prior to deployments; and focusing more on non-kinetic measures.

To help address these recommendations, a COIN working group was established to discuss lessons learned, best practices and initiatives. Additionally, a monthly IJC training and education plan is being established, and consequence-management drills are planned for units down to platoon level:

Overall, the COIN shura was a success in that it brought the people from around the area of responsibility who deal with these issues every day together to talk about ideas and solutions to the problem of civilian casualties,” said Colonel Weisz.

“This is an ongoing process and we have a long way to go, but this is a great start to lead us down the path to success.”

Published 18 May 2010