Developing Afghan Force Managers

By August 18, 2016September 1st, 2018Acquisition, Army ALT Magazine
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

CSTC-A’s Capabilities Development Directorate helps Afghan officers learn how to build, employ and resource units.

by Col. Garrett D. Heath and Lt. Stephen E. Webber

On Camp Resolute Support in Kabul, Afghanistan, officers from the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) gathered from April to June to hash out the fundamentals of what, until recently, was a foreign concept to most if not all of them: force management.

Through open-ended brainstorming exercises in which there were no wrong answers, just learning opportunities, the students created hypothetical units, such as a new Kandak (an ANA battalion). In the process, they addressed the unit’s structure, manning, equipping, training and sustainment while balancing materiel requirements with available resourcing. They determined the hypothetical unit’s purpose and how it would be employed, then discussed how to resource it and the possible trade-offs necessary to field the unit given current and foreseeable fiscal constraints.

This kind of inquiry, analysis and planning, provided in an eight-week course taught by advisers from the Capabilities Development Directorate (CDD) of the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A), is essential before ANA and ANP force managers can effectively advise their Afghan senior leaders on translating strategy to army and police structure. CDD implemented the course, “Force Management: The Basics,” as part of its routine train, advise and assist mission. The four-hour classes, which took place every Wednesday for three months earlier this year, are a key component of our work with Afghan partners to enhance their abilities to advise senior leaders independently over the long term.


Stephen Barth, a member of the Senior Executive Service and the director of resource management for CSTC-A’s train, advise and assist mission, presents a graduation certificate to an Afghan National Police colonel. The course was developed to address a big challenge faced by the Ministry of Interior (MOI) and the Ministry of Defense (MOD): to develop military and national police forces without a reserve of institutional knowledge or a cadre of force managers to draw from. (Photo by Navy Lt. j.g. Christopher R. Hanson, CSTC-A Public Affairs)

U.S. force management consists of very mature processes that establish and field mission-ready organizations. In Afghanistan, the processes are far less mature and focus on the basics of planning personnel and materiel requirements within resource constraints for unit authorization documents. Increasing the maturity of these processes requires that the Afghans have a greater understanding of doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities and policy (DOTMLPF-P), as well as doctrine development and sustainability and affordability analysis. Today, CDD is responsible for advising both the Ministry of Defense (MOD), which governs the ANA, and the Ministry of Interior (MOI), which governs the ANP. Tables of organizations, or “Tashkils”—authorization documents similar to the U.S. Army’s modified table of organization and equipment—reflect the CSTC-A’s resourced authorizations for the Afghan national defense and security forces (ANDSF) personnel and equipment. The ANDSF encompasses the Afghan army and police.

CDD manages the Tashkils using two adviser teams, one dedicated to the MOD and the other to the MOI, and engages with all levels of coalition and Afghan leadership to understand what capabilities the ANDSF needs and how to resource those capabilities. In early 2015, CDD advisers and their CSTC-A leadership realized that the Afghan force managers needed to move beyond Tashkil management—tracking force structure and associated resource costs—to true force management, developing processes and systems for the ANA and ANP so they can sustain themselves, evolve and assume full responsibility for protecting the nation and its people. Currently, the MOD and MOI are challenged to develop military and national police forces without a foundation or reserve of institutional knowledge or a cadre of force managers to draw on.

CDD’s analysis of lessons learned from the previous command plan review (CPR) indicated the need to address gaps in Afghan force management capacity. The CPR is an annual Afghan-led process whereby Tashkil changes are recommended to close capability gaps and build national defense forces within established force personnel caps and funding constraints for materiel requirements. The directorate saw an opportunity to educate its Afghan counterparts in force management and thus enable them to take the lead in these joint ventures.

The classes are designed to expose Afghan force management leaders to U.S. Army force management concepts and doctrine. Classroom instruction allowed students to develop as independent thinkers and true teachers who will continue to shape their organizations. Through problem-solving, group exercises and open discussion, students have learned to think like force managers: identifying capability gaps, planning to requirements, providing force options to senior leaders and properly allocating resources to achieve a desired outcome.

During summer and fall this year, ANA and ANP force managers are expected to apply what they learned during the course as they conduct their 1397 (or calendar year 2018) CPR and prepare the 1397 Tashkils. (The ANA and ANP force managers use the Solar Hijri calendar, which is the official calendar of Afghanistan.) In August, CDD and the Afghan force managers analyzed all CPR proposals submitted by Afghan organizations. The CPR took place from Sept. 1 to Sept. 30, led by Afghans and attended by CDD advisers.

In October and November, CDD and the Afghan force managers will work through the Tashkil Change Process. (For more about the change process, see “Bringing Afghan Defense Forces Under Budget,” Army AL&T magazine, April-June 2016.) ANDSF leaders will have to make some tough decisions about needed capabilities and resourcing, so there is a high demand for trained staff with the skills to assist in the process.


Afghan Army Maj. Gen. Dadang Lawang, chief of defense strategy and policy for the Ministry of Defense (MOD), addresses the force management class. Additional and more advanced force management courses will be necessary over the next several years, as part of the mission to help the country develop its own force management doctrine. (Photo by Navy Lt. j.g. Christopher R. Hanson, CSTC-A Public Affairs)

MOD and MOI senior leaders sent 22 force managers ranging from captain to colonel to attend the classes at Camp Resolute Support. The course was at maximum capacity, and all students were enthusiastic about honing their craft and making a difference for their nation—as was evident in the questions they asked: Why, for instance, had CSTC-A disapproved establishing units that their most senior officials had approved? Why did existing units lack needed facilities? We answered these questions in detail as we taught balancing resourcing with requirements (sustainability and affordability analysis) and DOTMLPF-P.

Each session began with remarks from a coalition or Afghan senior leader. Among the speakers was Brig. Gen. Mohammad Akbar, MOI force management director. “The hard work of our Afghan security personnel and the support of CSTC-A will help improve our organizations as we grow as leaders and managers,” he said. The Afghan senior leaders also were beginning to understand the need for force managers to provide analysis for informed decision-making.

Maj. Gen. Paul A. Ostrowski, CSTC-A deputy commanding general for support, led a class discussion about the integration of new aircraft into the ANDSF force structure. “It’s not just about buying aircraft, but holistic thinking in order to make the hard decisions on modifications to doctrine; additions of specialized personnel, including mechanics and pilots; modifications to training; incorporation of facilities, including ammunition bunkers and hangars; institutional leadership who are competent in the employment of this new capability; and rules of engagement for employment the aircraft,” he said.

Ostrowski’s words echoed the course’s objective: to develop thoughtful Afghan leaders who can navigate force management processes in the near term and pave the way for those who will lead and improve those processes in the coming years. Working hand in glove, ANDSF and CSTC-A leadership are engaging the students and providing real-world examples that reinforce the principles of sound force management.


Stephen Barth, a member of the Senior Executive Service and the director of resource management for CSTC-A’s train, advise and assist mission, and Afghan Army Maj. Gen. Dadang Lawang, chief of defense strategy and policy for the Ministry of Defense (MOD), pose for photos at a ceremony marking completion of the force management course. Additional and more advanced courses will be needed to address force management doctrine development, as well as sustainability and affordability analysis. (Photo by Navy Lt. j.g. Christopher R. Hanson, CSTC-A Public Affairs)

The desired endpoint for MOI and MOD force managers is to use disciplined systems and processes to identify the capabilities that their forces need so that they can accomplish Afghanistan’s national security strategy without relying on international advisers. This force management course is just a critical first step toward enabling our Afghan partners to manage their own force structure. More such efforts will be necessary over the next few years, including additional and more advanced courses, workshops to develop Afghan force management doctrine and more detailed instruction on sustainability and affordability analysis.

During the upcoming CPRs, CDD advisers will reinforce and guide their counterparts in applying what they learned during the course as they develop the next Tashkils. To improve the course and the next cycle of learning, joint working groups will form to capture lessons learned from the CPR process so that our Afghan counterparts can take greater leadership in managing their force structures.
Afghans who have demonstrated a clear grasp of force management and were able to apply the principles during the CPR should be identified to help teach the next force management course with the goal of developing them into lead instructors. This will posture the MOI and MOD to educate their leaders and become self-sufficient as they move toward a secure, stable and peaceful future.

For more information, contact Col. Heath at Also, the work of CDD, CSTC-A and Army acquisition in Afghanistan was the focus of a special section in the April-June 2016 issue of Army AL&T magazine. Find it at


Members of the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army celebrate completion of a class led by the Capabilities Development Directorate (CDD) of the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A). The course, begun in April, is designed to teach Afghan security personnel the ins and outs of force management. (Photo by Navy Lt. j.g. Christopher R. Hanson, CSTC-A Public Affairs)

COL. GARRETT D. HEATH was the CDD director within CSTC-A from July 2015 to July 2016; he’s now chief of staff of the Army senior fellow with the Institute for Defense Analyses. He holds an M.S. in operations research and systems analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School and a B.S. in electrical engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

LT. STEPHEN E. WEBBER is a U.S. Navy Reserve officer serving in CSTC-A’s CDD. He holds an M.A. in security studies from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and a B.A. in studies in war and peace from Norwich University.

This article will be printed in the October – December issue of Army AL&T magazine.

Subscribe to Army AL&T News, the premier online news source for the Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology (AL&T) Workforce.

Related Links

Resolute Support Mission


Resolute Support Facebook page