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DOD News Briefing with Col. Drinkwine from Afghanistan

Presenters: Commander, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division Col. Brian Drinkwine
January 12, 2010

                (Note:  Colonel Drinkwine appears via teleconference from Afghanistan.) 

 

                COL. DAVID LAPAN (director, Directorate for Press Operations, Office of the Secretary of Defense):  Good morning, all.  Our briefer today is Colonel Brian Drinkwine.  Brian is the commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.  He and the men and women of Task Force Fury are responsible for the training and mentoring of the Afghan security forces in the southern and western parts of Afghanistan.  Colonel Drinkwine has been commanding his unit in Afghanistan since August of last year, and he is speaking to us today from Kandahar air field in southern Afghanistan. 

 

                And with that, Colonel Drinkwine, I'll turn it over to you for your comments, and then we'll follow with questions and answers. 

 

                COL. DRINKWINE:  Okay, thank you.  And good morning, everybody, and distinguished guests from the media, and thanks for inviting me to talk with you today. 

 

                First, I'm extremely honored and grateful for the opportunity to share with you a little bit about the paratroopers, soldiers, airmen and civilians within Task Force Fury, the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division here in Afghanistan.  More importantly, I'm very excited to share with you some of the ongoing efforts of our partnered Afghan security forces and our combined efforts of increasing security for the population and improved development and governance. 

 

                I'd like to begin this morning with an overview of our mission and force alignment since our arrival last August, and how, as the Army's first brigade conducting security-force assistance in Afghanistan, we have continued to adapt and evolve in order to achieve greater effects with respect to training and advising our Afghan partners as well as collectively securing the key terrain, which includes the more populated areas as well as the critical economic corridors by enabling freedom of movement for Afghans within their own country. 

 

                The brigade's initial mission was to conduct security-force assistance with Afghanistan's national security forces, in cooperation with many coalition partners, in order to build Afghan capability and capacity and to defeat insurgents or criminals and bring greater security to the population and the people of Afghanistan.  We assumed this mission from the departing embedded training teams, or ETTs, and quickly integrated into both regional commands West and South, and have been operating very decentralized in aid of 10 provinces.  

 

                As you know, Afghanistan's comparable to the size of the state of Texas, and my unit is spread about half of the state of Texas, which is a first for a brigade combat team.   

 

                I'll tell you, we approached our mission through embedding and partnering with numerous Army, Afghan police and border police units. It's a much less traditional mission than other U.S. brigade combat teams operating in previous deployments.  Our overall purpose, as I said, is to increase the capability and capacity of our Afghan security forces by training, advising, conducting combined planning and conducting combined-action operations. 

 

                Across the board, I'll tell you, we were very pleasantly surprised at the capabilities we observed when we first started to work together, and in many cases, several Afghan army units today are very close to operating independently, with limited, if any, coalition support. 

 

                We also found ourselves working with quite a few of the police forces that were well-led and competent.  Unfortunately, this is not true in all cases and in all areas, and in those units where more work and emphasis is needed, this is where we've been focus[ing] whether it's training or leadership development, to increase their effectiveness.  

 

                While making gains and in accordance with General McChrystal's new strategy, we slowly began to take on more capability.  Our units were not just advisers or coaches, but became more fully partnered and embedded, and I believed we served as a good role model for other coalition forces and newly arriving units.   

 

                Embedded partnering implies living together, planning, training, conducting combined operations with a -- with one another, to include shuras with tribal leaders or local elders and mullahs and government officials, and thereby gaining the trust of the Afghans and increasing the confidence and trust of the people of Afghanistan in their own security forces.  We partner at all levels and on all operations. 

 

                Our current force array in the brigade's very unique.  One of our infantry battalions, Task Force 2 Fury, and an assigned military police battalion, the 97th MPs, work under the direct tactical control of Task Force Kandahar, who is commanded by a phenomenal Canadian officer, who leads an amazing team.  And my two battalions are integral into the security of Kandahar City and its local environs. 

 

                I'll tell you, I'm a huge fan of how the Canadian-U.S. combined task force operates and their approaches, and security in Kandahar and Kandahar City has never been better.  The only potential hiccup I see here is come February and come Olympics, and when -- make no doubt about it -- we are absolutely rooting for Team United States, and I'm especially hopeful the U.S. hockey team will be again on the medal podium. 

 

                Another unique challenge we have is the increased responsibility of command and control the brigade has taken on in support of the ISAF joint commanders' new operational design.  I've split my headquarters  to take on additional responsibility in Zabul province, and working inside that newly developed combined team Zabul, we have a phenomenal provincial reconstruction team led by an outstanding Air Force lieutenant colonel, a first-rate Romanian-American battle group of true professionals, and one of my own assigned battalions, Task Force 1 Fury, composed of phenomenal combat-proven paratroopers, as well as some of the best representatives of the State Department and other coalition forces I have ever served with, all working in support of the ANA brigade commander, Major General Jamaluddin's, intent, and Governor Nasiri's combined reconstruction and developmental objectives. 

 

                And I tell you, it's shaping up to be a -- quite a powerful combined team. 

 

                In addition, a U.S. Navy-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Farah and two of my battalion task forces, the 4th Squadron of the 73rd Calvary and the 2nd Battalion of the 321st Field Artillery, or Task Force Professional, are controlled by my brigade's deputy commander, a U.S. special forces colonel, and about a third of my brigade's staff.  And the collective achievements by all in the west has turned the tide against the Taliban, and we are now living and working in areas where no coalition or competent Afghan security forces have ever worked before. 

 

                In addition, my special troops battalion, it not only provides the capabilities of the brigade as a whole, but that commander and attached security forces from one of my infantry battalions support the Dutch brigade up in Oruzgan province to increase the capabilities of some of the best Afghan police in the south.   

 

                And then my support battalion of the brigade, or Task Force Spartan, not only supports the normal -- and all units spread across the south and the west, but they also work closely to advise and train [inaudible] some of the Afghan army 205th and 207th ANA Corps garrison and support units.  This mission is especially critical to really build capacity for the Afghan army to support and sustain themselves for future operations. 

 

                Since our arrival, Task Force Fury has now grown to over 5,000 service members -- and that's Army, Air Force and Navy -- to include Department of State civilians, agricultural and developmental and reconstruction effort -- experts, and NATO coalition teammates, either inside my staff, under the control of the BCT.  And we operate as a greater collective to support and execute General McChrystal's and Lieutenant General Rodriguez's strategy in Afghanistan. 

 

                We also have greater clarity, not only in the operational objectives and strategy, but how that must be implemented at the local or tactical level with our small units working alongside and with the Afghans every day.  I see us today as a multinational, multicapable unit, and every day Fury and our Afghan partners work alongside and inside with the Italians and the Spanish in the west, the British, Canadians, Australian, Dutch, the U.S. Marine Corps and Romanians in the south, all working towards common goals. 

 

                And I'll tell you, we also have the great honor and responsibility of working with the security forces from the 205th and 207th ANA Corps, as well as several provincial and district level police units and two border police brigades and an Afghan national civil order police brigade here in the south.   

 

                I'm encouraged daily by the progress each unit is making, as we continue to grow together.  And the Afghans, the coalition, to include Task Force Fury, are all committed to these goals.  And collectively we have greater confidence in our abilities and a sense of purpose that's what at stake over here.   

 

                Okay, what am I not telling you?  First, corruption:  Frankly there is some.  I think there is likely a greater perception at home and amongst the Afghans that it is deeper and more widespread than it really is.   

 

                What our Afghans have internalized is that we must all hold ourselves and one another accountable.  And we are all encouraged, as the Afghans have taken the lead, to combat corruption from top to bottom in directly dealing with this issue.   

 

                Secondly the Afghan police.  It's true in general terms, the army is a more capable and better trusted institution here in Afghanistan than the police.  And there's a variety of reasons for this.   

 

                But simply put, any Afghan unit, whether it's army or police, that has a dedicated advisor or mentor or partnered unit is more capable and more effective than units without them.   

 

                As I mentioned earlier, I've met some great, outstanding police units and police leaders over here.  And it's my belief that true reform must come from within.  And no matter how much training, coaching or teaching we can do, the Afghan security forces and their leaders and warriors must have that internal commitment to bettering themselves.  And I see it, and they do.   

 

                Lastly are we winning?  You know, I think the question is best answered in the minds of the Afghan people.  Our main effort here is to work with the Afghan security forces, so they can win this fight for their country and their people, and to also help build capacity for fair governance and set conditions for development and growth.   

 

                We've changed how we operate.  And the months ahead will even be more difficult, no doubt about it.  And in my discussions with Afghan and coalition senior leaders, we all agree that the Afghan security forces must be confident.   

 

                They have to believe in themselves, be trusted by their people and be feared by the enemy.  And I see it every day, in many areas where my brigade soldiers work and live.   

 

                And I am also very encouraged by the recent Afghan survey or poll results for -- that many Afghans; they see it getting better every day. 

 

                Okay, I think that's enough.  And at this time, I can answer any questions that you like. 

 

                COL. LAPAN:  Anne? 

 

                Q     Colonel Drinkwine, this is Anne Flaherty with AP. 

 

                I'm wondering if you have a sense of the ratio between Afghan forces and U.S. soldiers devoted to training and mentoring.  I've heard of cases of, you know, two or three soldiers for every Afghan that's available.  What is your sense there? 

 

                COL. DRINKWINE:  That's a great question, although it came in distorted.  I think you asked about the ratio of trainers to Afghan soldiers.  The best way to kind of explain that is, there is initial level-of-entry training for both police and army, and that is under the command of the National Training Mission-Afghanistan, where there are soldiers at the training centers, either at the regional or national level, that take initial-entry soldiers or policemen and give them an initial program of instruction to help bring them into the force.  It teaches them values, capabilities, and gives them that initial level of training in equipment and a commitment to signing on with the police or the army or the border police. 

 

                And then, these organizations are moved out to units that are out in the operational environment.  And then what we do is we partner and embed with them and continue that training path.  And we do that through advising them.  We do it by conducting joint planning, training onsite and over time, and then also conducting combined action operations, whether that's a counter-IED patrol or a patrol to do a non-lethal engagement. 

 

                So I can't really give you fair numbers of what is purely against training at the initial entry level, but I will tell you all coalition forces are committed to the partnering construct, and we understand that not only do we have to do operations, but we also have to build capacity. And the best way to do that is training.  Like in my own unit:  even though I'm deployed and conducting operations, we still do marksmanship training and battle[field] training, and we are doing it along with the Afghans.  And it's great to see them do it. 

 

                COL. LAPAN:  Daphne. 

 

                Q     Hi.  This is Daphne Benoit, with Agence France-Presse. 

 

                I have two questions for you.  First of all, General Rodriguez last month was expressing some concerns about recruitment and the capacity of retaining Afghan security forces in the south, particularly, because of the violence there. 

 

                How hard do you find it to recruit and retain those soldiers and policemen there?  And has the increase -- the recent increase of pay helped you in any way? 

 

                And my second question is, to what extent do contractors help you accomplish that mission in this area? 

 

                COL. DRINKWINE:  Okay, two questions.  And I'll work on the first, about recruitment. 

 

                Right now our assessment is a large part of the Afghan army that works in the south, and a significant portion of the police, have not come and joined the army or police from the south or the southern provinces, and this is definitely something that has been recognized and we're working on.   

 

                One of the approaches to increase the recruitment is, through the engagements that the Afghan leaders of their units, whether it's police or army, and along with a coalition in the elected or selected government officials of Afghanistan, we go out and we do -- we meet with the village elders, the mullahs, with the locals, and we talk to them.  And one of the things that's encouraging is, we're asking them to get their young men and even women to join their Afghan security forces, to take more ownership in joining this force to be a part of the solution.  And recently, even in the last two weeks, this has been a constant theme that we've had in the south, particularly in Zabul and Kandahar province.   

 

                I have yet to see droves of recruitment happen, but I know that in Helmand, where the Marines and the British are right now, they are starting to see positive effects.  But it takes time.  I think it's not something that you can walk in and say I'll hire a hundred Afghan males or females today.  It takes time, and you have to win the trust of the locals.   

 

                And the other competing demand is, here in the south many of the military-age males or -- have duties at home with regards to agriculture.  And so there's that constant tear between supporting the tribe or the family or now supporting a greater institution. 

 

                I think in the months ahead we will see greater improvement, and it's essential to winning here, of having, you know, good men and women from Zabul or Kandahar or Helmand or Farah or Herat joining  their forces, whether it's police or army, to be a part of the solution. 

 

                On your second question, on contractors out here in Afghanistan, there's a couple of different types of contractors in my experience. There are contractors that help us, with our support or logistics or some of our very technologically advanced communication equipment, that help sustain that or repair that.  And there's a fair number that help us with those systems, so that we're more effective.   

 

                We've also worked closely with contractors that are specifically designed at really the Afghan army corps-level staff or police, and they've been significant with the police, to help us for some of those more policing or investigation-type functions.   

 

                A soldier -- an infantry or cavalry soldier has some great skill sets to how to teach, you know, offensive security or how to interdict or how to do patroling.  What we may -- what we look for for the resources that help us, with some of the contractors, is how would the police do investigations or really run a police district.   

 

                And we see that a lot in Kandahar City specifically under Task Force Kandahar, where both there's a little bit of contractors and there's -- the Canadians have used Royal Mounted Police to help them -- which are a more police-based force -- on those things like investigations, criminal forensics and things like that.   

 

                It's different between the urban and the rural areas.  But I will tell you, contractors are very effective when employed correctly.  And I think they're a critical part of the effort over here.   

 

                Thank you.   

 

                Q     Colonel, this is Joe Tabet with Al Hurra.   

 

                I would like to go back to what you mentioned about corruption and problems within the police units.  Could you give us more details, about what kind of corruption you are seeing and what kind of problems you are facing, within the police units?   

 

                COL. DRINKWINE:  Hey, Joe, that's a great question.  And good morning.   

 

                One of the things, I think, overall there's a difference between corruption and graft.  And in an institution where there's unmentored or unadvised or unpartnered units that have not undergone formalized training or understand and grasp the rule of law that is growing here in Afghanistan, you are likely to see some level of corruption.   

 

                What I always like to ask is, why is there corruption?  Is it for personal gain of an individual in power?  Or is it more because that unit might not be paid, because there's a breakdown in the Afghan pay system?   

 

                We've worked very hard over the last year, all the forces here, to make sure that the pay of the police is equitable, to the army, [inaudible] in the south, that some of these more remote-based Afghan units have, you know, the right amount of pay to support their infrastructure or to get fed well or to be able to take that pay they get and take it back to their families, when they do get leave.   

 

                So I think it's being addressed.  And it's clearly not widespread.   

 

                The way to make further progress is the Afghan leadership, from top to bottom, and every Afghan who joins the police or the army has to agree to it.  And I'm seeing that happen every day. 

 

                You also asked about some of the problems in the police.  And I think fundamentally we very early on, several years ago, committed against the army, from a partnering or advising perspective; and a couple of years later, focused on the police.  And so there's a natural latency, I think, in the level of competency. 

 

                But what I -- what I've seen -- and again, I said I've been very encouraged.  I've seen some phenomenal police leaders.  And I think it's a function of leadership and the level of training and partnering with the police unit.  And I think some of the troop increase, clearly, in the south is going to be able to put more coalition forces -- whether that's U.S. or other contributing nations -- working with the police day-in, day-out, and not commuting to work.  And we're going to see greater improvements.  So thank you for that great question. 

 

                COL. LAPAN:  (Off mike.) 

 

                Q     Colonel, I'm Carl Osgood, with Executive Intelligence Review.  If I understood you correctly, you said that most of the soldiers and police in your area, in the units in your area, come from outside of your area.  Do you have any problems with respect to attrition because of this, or because of their relation -- or is there any issues with their relationship with the local population, like ethnic issues, things like that? 

 

                COL. DRINKWINE:  Carl, thanks for the question.  One of the dynamics is, there is -- if a soldier has come from the north and has joined the army, and he operates in the south, and he works in largely a Pashtun area, he may speak Dari, and so there is a language gap in some cases.  You will find in every police or army unit there's enough Pashtun or Dari speakers that they can directly engage and communicate with the people. 

 

                One of the great things that I've seen change:  One of my first patrols that I participated on was with the MPs, or the military police, at Kandahar.  And I observed the police in Kandahar not really make eye contact with the people that they were there to serve and protect.  And very slowly over time, working closely day-in, day-out with the police in those subdistricts, we were able to coach and advise them.  And they were actually able to watch us and the Canadians talk to the people, talk to the storekeepers and make contact and actually dialogue with them and ask them about security, ask them about the price of their goods. 

 

                And this basically drew the Afghan security forces into the conversation and started to build a trust relationship.  So I think that's critical in the plan here. 

 

                And where I'm seeing greater success is where the security forces realize and internalize they're there to secure the people but must have a relationship and earn the trust of the people.  And wherever we're partnered, that gets better every day.  And I think it's true across the board, in every brigade or every area where coalition forces or Afghan forces are working.  So thank you. 

 

                Q     Follow-up on Carl's question, maybe make it a little bit more pointed.  Is there a higher desertion rate in units that are assigned to the south?  Do the -- do the soldiers and police, are they more likely to leave their unit and return to their home if they get assigned to some place where the fighting is heavy? 

 

                And a related question is, where, within your area of operations, has been the -- has improvement of the security forces been the most dramatic?  Where are those units that are nearly operating by themselves? 

 

                COL. DRINKWINE:  Right now, there has been -- you know, there's been discussion, and you've seen it at times in the south -- you have some AWOL -- AWOL rates, or absent without leave rates, that are somewhat high.  And what we have found, as you track that back, I think it ties to the level of leadership in those Afghan units, the amount of partnership that we have with them, and also the ability of those soldiers to take the lead. 

 

                You know, for instance, if soldiers come out of Mazar-al (sic) Sharif and are part of a company staged on the south of Zabul province, it may take them a week to get home and to bring their money and the pay and see their family.  And so you will typically have a higher leave rate, or sometimes absence without leave, because these soldiers don't come back at the prescribed time, than we would all like. 

 

                Again, I think the way to fix that is, you know, the pay is good and it's getting better; better leadership by the Afghans; and, you know, a training cycle.  And this is one of the designs of adding a fourth kandak company to each of the battalions so that you could actually get into a cycle between the companies of an operational cycle, a leave or school cycle and then a training cycle.   

 

                And habitually what's happened here in the south -- because, you know, in many cases the enemy gets a vote here and he initiates attacks that we respond to or we interdict -- is that there has been no training and the leave cycle has been shortened.   

 

                So by adding in the "tashkeel" design -- and that's their -- the Afghan word for their organizational design -- by adding another company to the "kandak," or the battalion, I think that will relieve some of the pressure of the operational tempo.  And that's a good thing.    

 

                I mean, in my own Army, when we go back we enter into a leave or a training or a deployment and employment cycle.  So I think that's worked.  And we've seen it work very well with those forces -- coalition forces that work with the commando units, that have subscribed to that cycle for a year or two, and it's shown great results.  Over.  Thank you. 

 

                Q     Hi, Colonel.  This is Courtney Kube from NBC News.  If I can ask you another question on some statistics.  What's the current literacy rate among the ANA and the ANP?  And then, can you update us on the Afghan National Civil Order Police?  How big is that force now? And what part of the country are they primarily operating in? 

 

                COL. DRINKWINE:  Okay, thanks for the question.  I'm really not the best individual to kind of talk literacy rate from a statistics standpoint.  I think what's more important and more pressing is that the Afghan senior leaders, either the brigade commander, the corps commander or provincial police chief level, have all realized that literacy is something that they need in their security forces and that Afghanistan needs; it's just not their security forces.  So in the initial training program for both the police and the army, there are literacy classes, and that's just a start.  But I think that's a very positive move forward, and the recognition to have literate young officers and noncommissioned officers in the security forces over here. 

 

                With reference to your second question, or the Afghan civil order police, they're designed a little bit differently than the normal Afghan National Police or uniformed police, and their tashkeel or organization is more noncommissioned-officer-centric.  Right now you have a brigade of the NCOP in the south and there's one in the west. I'm not quite as sure on the other parts of the Afghanistan, but there are other brigades. 

 

                And these are nationally controlled by, you know, the ministry of what their operations are going to be. 

 

                One way that they've been used and been very effective is in support of what's called the focused police district development program.  And the FPDD is a program where you'll take a district of police and move them together to either a regional or the national training center, or maybe a provincial training center, and put them through, as a unit, a training program of instruction, and build a cohesive unit.   

 

                But when you move that police out, typically we bring in the Afghan Civil Order Police to really hold things together in that area or that district until what comes back is a trained and better-led Afghan National Police unit.  So that's one capability I've seen and used, and it's been very effective for the eight to 16 weeks that they might be in a district, operating in that capacity.   

 

                So thank you for the question. 

 

                Q     Hi, Colonel.  This is Jeff Schogol with Stars and Stripes. We've reported that trainers don't always trust the Afghans that are -- they are training.  Have you issued any guidance to commanders about what to look for in terms of indications that Afghans might turn on them? 

 

                COL. DRINKWINE:  You know, that's a great question, you know, and I think the best way -- one of the things that I realized as I came in and started to observe Afghans or talk to other commanders who are operating in other areas, there are some -- you know, there is at times a problem with drugs.  It's not widespread, and I think it's very localized, and it's -- typically might be seen in like a police unit that has been unmentored or unadvised or unpartnered.  And everybody has realized and really the Afghan leadership has realized there's no tolerance for drugs or use of hashish inside of any security force.  And so they have instituted urinalysis testing as they go through training, and there's a constant theme that, you know, units -- good units don't do that. 

 

                So I think any time, if we were to work in, you know -- hypothetical -- if we were to work with units that had -- or habitually were, you know, drug users -- and that is not the case at all with the Fury regiment that we have seen -- I would be concerned.  

 

                I would be more concerned. 

 

                You know, I think in all the outposts that we're at, the security of that infrastructure is a shared and combined responsibility.  You know, maybe day one that you step in and a company commander or a platoon sergeant and his platoon step in, you start to build trust and confidence with those Afghans, and you become a very tight knit and very capable unit.  And, you know, when an Afghan is wounded, it's just like one of my soldiers or paratroopers are wounded.  We bleed together, we fight together, we live together and we train together. And we're trying to make it better together. 

 

                So I'm very couraged -- encouraged about that.  So thanks for the question. 

 

                Q     To follow up, have you issued any specific guidance to your -- the people underneath you saying, look for these signs that the people you're training may in fact be working for the other side? 

 

                COL. DRINKWINE:  I think -- I -- it actually has been the Afghan commanders that have issued guidance, and I've supported that guidance, that if they see or find any drug usage or any potential for infiltration, that gets addressed and investigated inside their own systems.  And that's very positive.  It's more effective, I think, of the Afghan leaders, whether it's the police or Army commander who issues that, and I support those orders and as I talk to my paratroopers.  So I think that's specific guidance that you're talking about. 

 

                Q     Colonel, this is Raghubir Goyal from India Globe and Asia Today.  First of all, happy new year to you all.  My question is that young men and women are still trained there by the al Qaeda, joining al Qaeda and terrorism or Taliban.  So some Afghans are still living in fear, or they are fear of -- from the Taliban.  So what kind of education [are you] giving to those young men and women, going in the communities and meeting the leaders, that this is not the way, but the way -- the democracy, and you have elections coming up there? 

 

                COL. DRINKWINE:  Sir, thanks for your question.  I'm -- I had a little bit of distortion there, so I don't know if I captured it all. I think the question was the influence of the Taliban, the Taliban either intimidating or holding something over the young men and women of Afghanistan.   

 

                I'll tell you, the Taliban is clearly not winning. 

 

                And the Taliban uses terror and intimidation and fear to gain its resources or to try to take control of small pockets, you know, of Afghan population or small villages. 

 

                What I believe happens over here, in some areas, you know, an Afghan family or an Afghan male has a couple of options, and I call it the fourth option.  The first option is, if there's heavy Taliban influence in your area, you can either support or kill for the Taliban.  And maybe the second option is, if you don't do that, you'll be killed or intimidated or influenced by the Taliban.  The third option is, when you present a security force from Afghanistan, that that family can support or join or young males or women can join and actively support that official institution of the government,  Islamic government of Afghanistan.   

 

                And I think what we're all working toward is what I call the fourth choice, is that families' men and women, you know, can live in some sort of security and stability and choose what they want to do, whether that's be a farmer to grow crops, to run a fruit stand, to run a bicycle repair shop.  And the more and more that security gets better, the more and more effective governance there is, you start to see more people with the fourth option and that believe that their government, you know, is supporting them to create that fourth option. 

 

                So I think that's where you see success.  And it's won by district by district, and sometimes village by village.  So thank you for your question. 

 

                Q     Colonel, it's Mike Mount with CNN.  Kind of throughout this briefing you've given us, you've kind of mentioned that unmentored units seem to be the ones with the most problem, which may be a blinding flash of the obvious, but how many -- how many units in your area are unmentored compared to mentored units?  And why are those -- why are there units that are unmentored?  How does -- how does that end up happening if the goal is to kind of mentor these units? 

 

                COL. DRINKWINE:  Hey, Mike, that's an excellent question. And I'll tailor my response because of operational security concerns. I don't want to pick out specific units, you know, within my specific area of responsibility that may not have mentorship or mentoring.   

 

                But I will say that, you know, with the 4th Brigade receiving its mission, originally we were targeted to go to Iraq as a BCT.  We were one of the commitments by our senior leaders to put a brigade in, to help with the mentoring, partnering, training and advising -- some units that just did not have enough coalition forces, whether that was U.S. or some other contributing nation, against.   

 

                I think the commitment by the leaders -- to increase, you know, troops and capacity over here -- just further shows the resolve that we're going to get against as many and all the Afghan security forces that we can.  A way to explain this is, I may have a certain size element working with a police district in one province.   

 

                Now, typically a police district will have a district headquarters that's near the district government building.  Now, that district might be very large and similar to a U.S. county per se.  And it will have sub-districts that are out there or even sub-checkpoint commanders.   

 

                Well, it's very hard due to the size of the units to be in every place at once.  And so we will use different methods to work with all of those units.  But mainly focusing on the district leadership and district capabilities to support its efforts and really, in the higher populated areas, to try to do population-centric and achieve the effects of counterinsurgency.   

 

                Again I think with the troop increases and a more effective realignment, we've undergone a realignment under General Carter here in the south, to better be in a position for partnering and embedding with these units that has shown immediate results and immediate effect of increasing the capacity and the confidence, I'd like to say, the confidence of our Afghan security forces.   

 

                And it's to the point in some units, you know, the missions are planned to develop, the intelligence is developed by the Afghans.  And we're there just to enable them and maybe provide them resources such as access to medical evacuation or, if we really get into trouble, some things like close air support.   

 

                So I think it's going very positive.  And again you know, every place we are mentored or partnered, it gets better.  So thanks, Mike.   

 

                Q     Good morning, Colonel.  Jim (sp) -- (inaudible) -- Aerospace America magazine.   

 

                Can you talk a little bit about how the Afghan units interplay with our surveillance and reconnaissance assets?  Are they getting better at it?   

 

                Do you have to mentor them a hundred percent in that or are they coming into their own? 

 

                COL. DRINKWINE:  The best form of intelligence gathering that we've found with the Afghanis (sic) has been their ability to communicate with the people, build relationships with the Afghan people and gather intelligence from that.  And that's more than just kind of environmentals or atmospherics of how is security or what are the problems in this village, but what becomes true, actionable intelligence that we bring into our combined what we call fusion and where Afghans and coalition look at the intelligence that's available and then we just -- we ultimately decide what to do about it.   

 

                In some cases, some of those decisions will be to go do an operation near a village and meet with the village elders and ask for a call-out for individuals suspected of, you know, being a part of the insurgency or harming Afghan civilians or putting in IEDs.  That's one method.  But I think overall, the best intelligence here is gained by the Afghan security forces through their ability in the social terrain and the human network. 

 

                On the tactical side, they're creating greater capability and greater capacity, I think, in some specific tactical nuances of, you know, area reconnaissance.  You know, I'll tell you, give you a perfect example of finding IEDs; the Afghan security forces are much better than us.  They have trained individuals that we've helped train them and some of the contractors have helped train them, but they can do a route clearance patrol, as we call it, and through their human eye they can tell when something is different, and then we will send out the right capacity, identify if there was an IED or possibly homemade explosive.  And I'll tell you, there's a success rate -- I won't share the statistic, but it saves lives and it's very, very impressive.   

 

                So it's improving.  I don't think we're trying to design nor are they trying to design a reconnaissance or surveillance capability maybe like my Army or the British army, but they're designing and they're showing practical application that they need for the fight and or the problem sets over here in Afghanistan. 

 

                So, thanks. 

 

                COL. LAPAN:  One more last question.  Rich? 

 

                Q     Colonel, Richard Sisk, from the New York Daily News.  You mentioned the State Department personnel in your area.  Can you tell us how many?  And what are they doing?  Do you provide security for them?  Do they pick projects?  Do you pick projects?  How does it work, sir? 

 

                COL. DRINKWINE:  Okay.  That's a great question, Richard. 

 

                You know, the Provincial Reconstruction Team is one of the main methods that Department of State, the U.S. -- you know -- AID, and several -- and as we nest in NGOs and coalition forces -- is one of the main methods to work with the provincial-level leadership, and even district-level Afghan leadership.  In many cases, these provinces -- and specifically, a couple that we work in -- have pretty effective reconstruction or development councils.  And one of the main missions, I think, is capacity building.  And so day-in, day-out, you might see a Provincial Reconstruction Team that has State Department experts working to grow competencies inside a governor's staff, or working with a governor to help him focus and prioritize the requirements for his province. 

 

                We've seen -- just recently, I've seen one of the governors -- Governor Naziri who works out in Zabul has put together, with input from his district leaders and his council, a -- what's starting to be a three- or five-year plan for reconstruction and development -- from everything in the schools, to some staffing of schools, to road- improvement projects.  And I think what all the mission and the State and everybody who's over here to help in reconstruction and governance and development, we are now supporting and building capacity with the Afghans so they can prioritize, and we can see it through. 

 

                So that's kind of the best way I see that we do that.  And how we're joined at the hip is, we sit every week and do meetings or working groups together to discuss priorities.  We also -- we do what I call helicopter diplomacy, where I'll load up Governor Naziri with me, and I'll take the ANA brigade commander, General Jamaluddin, and his operations officer and intel officer, and I'll take Brigadier General Sarjang, who's the provincial police chief, and the other security officials, and some of the governor's staff and the Provincial Reconstruction Team and the State reps.  And we'll fly a couple of helicopters, and we'll go visit the districts and villages. 

 

                And typically what we do is, in the morning we talk with the -- with the elders and the tribal leaders, and we'll talk about security, we'll talk about their issues and concerns.  And then what we'll do is we'll go out, walking tour of the village.  And we'll talk to the people and see what they say.  And we'll -- and it allows the governor and the leaders to communicate with the people and receive direct feedback from the people. 

 

                So I think that's kind of a -- what I've seen, and a very effective way of working together, joined at the hip, working for the outcomes that the Afghan leaders have picked.  So thanks again, Richard. 

 

                COL. LAPAN:  Colonel, we need to close.  Colonel Drinkwine, back to you for any closing comments, so we can let you get back to work. 

 

                COL. DRINKWINE:  Okay.  Thanks.   

 

                You know, in closing, I'm very proud of the Afghan security forces and members of Task Force Fury and our coalition partners and all that we've accomplished in support of the people of Afghanistan. 

 

                You know, also, we could not do this without the love and support of our friends and family back home.  This is the Fury brigade's second deployment in Afghanistan in three years, and I'll tell you, many of my senior leaders, this is their third or fourth or even more deployment since 2001. 

 

                You know, we firmly believe in our mission and the approach at hand and the strategy over here.  We've also suffered fallen and wounded, and that's both Afghan and amongst my soldiers.  And I think we honor them and our families and the Afghan families by doing our duty, remembering their sacrifices as we take on this very complex mission. 

 

                You know, the Fury brigade, like all brigades, is proud of our history and of our soldiers, and the 82nd Airborne has had a long and notable history of being assigned challenging and complex missions. And today ours is no different.  And our veterans and forefathers can be very proud of what our young men and women are accomplishing in the service today.  I know I am. 

 

                You know, in closing, a final thought.  I have found that the people of Afghanistan are honorable, generous and welcoming.  You'll find no better hospitality and compassion anywhere in the world, but they've endured 30 years of harsh -- you know, brutal conditions and constant fighting and all that comes with war. 

 

                And yet today I see young Afghans enlist and join their security forces.  I see people coming out to talk to the Afghan security forces.  And I see the Afghan security forces that we work with every day internalizing the responsibility that they have and doing better and better. 

 

                And they know their future is in their hands, you know, and it's an honor to serve with them at this critical time and to be a small part of this. 

 

                So thanks for your time and thanks for what you do.  Fury from the sky and all the way.   

 

                COL. LAPAN:  Thanks. 

 

                Q     Thank you.

 

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