By Erik J. Leklem
Ministry of Defense Advisor (MoDA)
NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan
Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are preparing to assume leadership for security in seven areas of Afghanistan this summer. In many respects, the professionalism of the Afghan military and civilian leaders of the Ministries of Defense (MoD) and Interior (MoI) are critical to the success of this process.
In my role as a ministerial advisor in the MoD, I’ve had the honor of working with my Afghan counterparts to help prepare for this transition process. Known as “Inteqal” in Dari (one of Afghanistan’s two official languages), this transition of security responsibilities from coalition forces to the ANSF relies upon strong strategic planning, continued professionalization of the MoD and MoI, and interministerial coordination within the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Over the last several months, I’ve been working with one of my Afghan counterparts, Brig. Gen. Asadullah Akramyar of the MoD, to prepare for the planning and coordination of this transition process. As an advisor, my mission has been two-fold: one, to assist very capable Afghan leaders like General Akramyar in developing a “partnered” approach to transition planning with NATO, and two, to advise him on how to develop his organization and staff to conduct such planning in the future.
In reality, the advisor role is often inverted. I am frequently learning from General Akramyar. Whether it is better understanding Afghan culture and history, or learning about the constraints on planning in a society suffering from over 30 years of ongoing conflict, our partnership enables me to advise my NATO and U.S. colleagues on how we could work more successfully with our Afghan partners. It is humbling and inspiring to watch the general and his colleagues surmount the numerous challenges they face in this counterinsurgency.
There are many other military, civilian and contractor coalition and U.S. advisors that I work with on a daily basis – a core group of these are experienced civilian experts working as Ministry of Defense Advisors, or “MoDAs,” in DoD parlance. There are about 30 MoDAs in Afghanistan currently, with another 25 being deployed this summer. As part of the training and assistance mission here, we advise counterparts in both the MoD and MoI. My colleagues are civilian experts in ministerial functions like logistics, budgeting, human resource management and policy development.
The MoDA program is filling a needed gap in ministerial advising: providing tangible examples to the Afghans of how civilian control over the military is inculcated in our Department of Defense (in part) through the professionalism and daily work of hundreds of thousands of U.S. civil servants back in the States. With civilian control of the ANSF being a pillar of the Afghan Constitution, it has been rewarding to hear my Afghan military counterparts discuss how to educate and recruit future Afghan civil servants to join the Ministry of Defense. In my remaining nine months here, I’m looking forward to helping them, along with my advisor colleagues, towards this objective.