TAKE THE TIME TO READ IT ALL, VERY INTERRESTING.Committee on National Defense and armed forces Wednesday, February 10, 2010 Session 10 hours Record No. 22 President: Mr. Guy Teissier, chairman.The meeting opened at ten o'clock.Mr. President Guy Teissier. I am particularly pleased to welcome the Colonel Jean-François Martini, who commanded the brigade OMLTs - Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams - in Afghanistan from April to November 2009.
Some of us have had the opportunity to go there with our troops and to share with our soldiers. We also played a role after the drama of Ouzbine to alert the Government and the President of the Republic on the lack of means, including helicopters, which have existed in the country. It seemed that the hearing of an official recently returned from mission and we can share his experience would be particularly interesting. The OMLT are responsible for military training the Afghan National Army (ANA) and are crucial for us French who have chosen to focus on training, a major component for securing and pacifying the afghanistan. Following the London conference of 28 January the Minister of Defense has announced the shipment of 80 additional instructors.
You will please, sir, we describe the organization of OMLT speak of men who compose them, their areas of action and results. My colleagues will then pose questions about the quality of the Afghan army desertions on which we seem to remain strong despite the assurances that we recently brought the Chief of Defense Staff. Perhaps you could also address the specific preparation of our troops before their projection.
Colonel Jean-François Martini. I am particularly honored to be called to testify before you under my commitment within OMLT in 2009. It is always nice to see a leader highlighted the work of his men. I will rely on some maps, the geography of Afghanistan is very important to understand the mission of OMLT
I retain three highlights for the period May-November 2009: a very high tension and many commitments that we were not surprised, having always been conducive to this, an election period in August, which induces many problems on the security front, finally, a zone change and brigade, our OMLT who joined the French zone in Kapisa-Surobi.
OMLT teams were created to assist the ANA to develop its autonomy. To this end, our mission is twofold: first, instruction and training in the field - which represent 70% of the activity - on the other hand, the bonds - 30% of the activity -- both within and between the ANA ANA and coalition forces to implement the necessary support facilities not available to Afghans - means air medical evacuation, fire support, for example. Accompanying the fight is not an end in itself and is conceived as the result of two previous, but with the desire to let the Afghans take their own battles.
The ANA is a young army - seven to eight years of age - whose rise has been gradual. Made from a single battalion (kandak), it currently has five corps. His numbers are steadily increasing. The goal is to reach 260 000 people in 2014, which is therefore a country of 34 million inhabitants. She is totally involved in securing the country and, as such, it has been in command of more than half of joint operations with coalition troops.
Members who integrate OMLT soldiers are individuals, volunteers, selected on criteria of maturity, calmness, sense of educational and skill in battle and life in hostile environments. Out of their units, they are grouped in teams of 6 and specific training for six months. This includes both physical training as English classes, technical training covering a wide spectrum from the use of weapons to Afghan guide United States through the knowledge of improvised explosive devices or Aid combat. The control missions types of ANA units also occupies an important place. Upon arrival on the scene, the first 15 days are reserved for a setting ideal condition taking into account the latest developments of the situation on the ground. Having no restrictions on use, they are autonomous and may be deployed throughout Afghanistan, which is not true of all OMLT provided by other coalition countries. French teams may well accompany Afghan units with whom they work throughout the territory.
The OMLT French, with a workforce of approximately 220 men, attached to a Brigade of the ANA, with 2 600 men, divided among the regiments which compose it. Each regiment is overseen by a group of fifty OMLT French, who are divided into teams of six men per company of 90 to 100 Afghan soldiers with whom they live permanently in the 6 months of screening. Each team of six men, which is the heart of OMLT, has two vehicles. It consists of a section chief, lieutenant or captain, an assistant under-experienced officer and soldiers, each with his specialty (transmission, engineering, health, served weapons). A seventh man has great importance: the interpreter. It is part of the team, lives with her throughout the duration of the mission, go into battle with the unit and engages fully in its mission. A team of 50 OMLT assist the staff of the brigade.
We worked in two areas within the 201st Corps Afghan elite unit whose mission is to protect Kabul and who has the best generals and top officers of the ANA: a first step in a U.S. environment in Wardak, Logar and Bamyan and, subsequently, in French environment in the valley of Kapisa and Surobi with the Task Force Lafayette.
As the terrain, whatever the area, the principle - always the same - is to keep the lines which supply logistics Kabul, or bypass to the north. These axes borrow valleys. The insurgent sanctuary areas are located in the mountains or the valleys below. This topography explains that the conflict areas are concentrated along these lines where we want our freedom of action that insurgents intend to deprive us.
It is difficult to establish a general typology of the insurgents we are faced with several types of insurgencies that blend closely and Taliban criminals. For ten insurgents, broadly defined, there are two real Taliban, confident and trained fighters and eight intermittent or contract to come lend a hand against retribution; participation in the placement of an IED for example, is paid between 100 and 200 dollars, well over a month's salary. The insurgents, formed groups of 3 to 20 people, fully aware of the land they roam some for more than thirty years. They observe us and know our techniques with which they adapt very quickly, which forces us to constant changes.
It is obvious that preventing them from acting on our common challenge, the population, we generate greater activity on their part: the ANA, with the help of OMLT, seeks to restore public confidence, secure it ; this explains much of the activism of the Taliban.
Our first area of assignment, Wardak, was under U.S. command, there featured five American battalions, positioned along the axis, with an additional six battalions of the ANA, the same positions and in charge of the same missions as well as a Jordanian battalion and the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) for track reconstruction, development, security and governance. The coordination between all these elements, the OMLT is obviously paramount. In North Wardak, the American positions and those of the ANA were most often colocalized and OMLT coordination. Sometimes, however, that the ANA units and OMLT be isolated.
The position advanced combat (COP) is a fortified camp behind mounds of earth, which includes a living area and a combat zone. The French OMLT of Afghans and the ANA live together, six months in a row in a COP mostly isolated and not easy to resupply except by helicopter and often at night. They settled in the valleys, along the lines to defend, and may be protected from risks from the heights around them with small observation posts to prevent the enemy from infiltrating. During the election period, the mobile units were installed and were constantly harassed by the insurgents.
For three-quarters of our mandate, we have moved from regions Wardak and Logar and Kapisa to the Surobi. The move presented a particular challenge: it should be no break in the supervision of the ANA brigades passing responsibilities under cross-Americans and French in the middle of Ramadan.
The area of the Kapisa-Surobi includes a major whose opening is the major current challenge to create around a ring road from Kabul to join the Salang tunnel in the north, bypassing the capital. We have found the same topography of strategic borrowing valleys, adjacent those providing refuge to rebels. Their names often come back in the news like that of Alas. In this zone, most teams are only OMLT with Afghans and non-collocated with Coalition forces. The COP is established on the same principle as that already described. In Surobi, the device is identical, plus many small positions occupied intermittently by the ANA.
In everyday life, the OMLT are four structures of command: the French chain, under the authority of the Chief of Staff of the army, the coalition is to say the ISAF chain, chain dealing with specific instruction called Control Training - whose purpose is to control the way education is delivered - and finally the chain of command in Afghanistan. Contrary to our practices, Afghan ministers of interior and defense do not hesitate to activate the unit directly, bypassing the usual hierarchical procedure.
The OMLT were deployed for two years in the First Brigade of the 201st Corps of the ANA, bringing the highest level (CM 1), which allows him to act with full autonomy. The Afghans are very proud to have achieved this qualification, they are also pleased with these results were obtained with the help of French military they particularly value. The change has perhaps been less immediately visible to the Third Brigade: when we arrived, she already had a significant operational level.
Finally, I am firmly convinced of the value and effectiveness of this supervision mission. I think this is largely due to the trust relationship between the French and Afghans. Soldiers eat together, fight together, getting to know ... My men showed the same emotion at the death of a soldier in Afghanistan as that of a French soldier, if evidence is that they do no difference between the combatants. It is a matter of trust: when I moved with General Razik, I trust him completely and he introduced me to our interlocutors as "brother", a term very strong in Afghan culture. The Afghan soldiers are men of great value, excellent fighters with great courage and great responsiveness. I also want to emphasize that the results achieved are possible because these soldiers are independent of tribal imperative that they are loyal to the state.
Obviously, the Afghan army has yet to make much progress, particularly in the command, its officers to evolve the concept of gang leader to the military commander. Similarly, the arms dimension is still very incomplete: they struggle to use their guns, their genius or their nascent aviation. Level staffs, planning is almost nonexistent.
The tasks performed by OMLT cover the whole field from the civil-military supplies through recognition. The size of forces involved is highly variable and adapted to each operation. The OMLT sometimes occur only for internal missions. Most operations are instead held in coordination with the coalition force support area (space battleforce owner).
A few words about the future and the challenges for OMLT in Afghanistan. To lead a fight against insurgency-effective, we consider it necessary to have one soldier per 50 inhabitants. In areas of Wardak and Logar, the ratio was only 0.45 soldier for every 50 inhabitants. Without resources, we were forced to make choices by focusing on certain areas of population. The rise of the ANA is expected to cover more territory and physically occupy the land.
The second issue is intelligence. The ANA has no culture of information, content information often bought indicators of credibility varies. We've improved intelligence sharing with the forces deployed to the point that the exchanges are now in real time, which often gives us a decisive advantage.
Our commitment in an area controlled by French forces has facilitated our work because we know perfectly the methods and procedures and that we could work in the same language. The collaboration was equally satisfactory with other allies, but we needed time to adjust.
In conclusion, I want to remind that OMLT missions are difficult, the soldiers being subjected to constant pressure in extreme conditions. Often isolated, they must respond to taken part in almost daily. Despite these difficulties, we welcome any concrete results. I am a strong supporter of our method that enables the ANA to gain competence. The Afghans are gaining their independence and engage genuinely to achieve this goal. Finally, I wish to emphasize that the means at our disposal are very high: it is the first time that I have so many resources and we lack nothing to accomplish our missions. Beyond this, I must say that my involvement in Afghanistan has been a human experience unusual that made me enormously.
Mr. President Guy Teissier. Colonel, we appreciate your testimony very rich. These adventures are part of human tradition of our armed forces who have been involved in peacekeeping operations.
You mentioned the certification issued to regiments in Afghanistan. I welcome this measure which captures the evolution of their operational capabilities, thanks to work of a small number of foreign troops. "I measure the size of your task as the Afghans are great warriors but no soldiers. How do you ensure the maintenance over time the force capabilities certified?
You are welcomed loyalty Afghan soldiers to their country. However, during my travels, I felt that the tribal system remains strong and the army recruitment before instance reproduce the exact proportions of each tribe in the population. This logic clan can it prevent a bright feature access to high office if he comes from a minority tribe? Is it hinders integration and the emergence of a national army?
At the hearing yesterday the Chief of Defense Staff, Françoise Hostalier questioned the proposal of President Karzai to establish a system of conscription. The principle seems positive, but is it realistic? Given your experience, do you think would improve the mixing of tribes?
Finally, I hear you on the desertions. Are they still important? We train fighters, but is there not a risk they will turn against us eventually joining the insurgents?
Colonel Jean-François Martini. The certification course is based on an annual test, but upstream it is for OMLT establish a monthly comprehensive report to the authority in charge of the investigation. The indications that we send are very detailed, factual, with an assessment of the situation up to an appreciation of individual combatants.
The ethnic system is at the heart of the problem. The ANA must be ethnically neutral and why it must replicate all components of the population, making recruitment very difficult. Thus, a unit commander and his deputy are required to be from two different ethnic groups. Thus, a bright feature that we support can only progress if there are spaces available for ethnicity. This is obviously an obstacle, but also a guarantee of the neutrality of the ANA. I believe that in time we can hope that these effects are gradually smoothed.
I mentioned the goal of a national army of 260 000 men, I think it will be difficult to achieve on a voluntary basis only. Conscription could be interesting but then it does not solve the underlying issue of compensation of soldiers. Afghans involved in the military primarily for economic reasons: If the conscripts are paid correctly, there will be no problem.
On the desertions, I think we must distinguish absences and desertions. In the 1st and 3rd Brigade, the absence rate and reached 25%, including the sick, wounded, personal training ... Only 10% of them were genuine defectors. It should however be wary of too restrictive definitions. The Afghan soldiers are entitled to a few days' leave per year. Now their families are often very far and they may sometimes need five days to reach them. They then not hesitate to extend their permission to spend time with their families.
There are soldiers who go to the rebellion, but I note that relatively few deserters joined the insurgents would do because people know and that senior military exercise effective supervision over their troops. There is a real monitoring and, moreover, the generals are very easy to access, which maintains the cohesion of the army.
Mr. President Guy Teissier. I conclude that you have never seen a section or group consists army deserting collectively as could happen in other conflicts and reach the other side. Does this mean you've never had any concerns about the reliability of ANA soldiers?
Colonel Jean-François Martini. I can not exclude that some ANA soldiers have warned the insurgents operating but, again, we live and work in close collaboration and trust. We protect each other and Afghans are very proud of this balance. Incidents are always possible, which explains that certain operations we are informing the Afghan forces at the last moment. I do believe however that this is specific to Afghanistan, it is characteristic of a country at war.
Daniel Boisserie. At his hearing, the Chief of Staff of Armed mentioned difficulties in the kidnapping of two journalists. On site, there does a rejection of journalists? Their presence is a problem? How did you feel?
Colonel Jean-François Martini. We have hosted many journalists and always in excellent condition. I am not aware of the case you mention, having already left the theater during their abduction. I would add that the presence of journalists is indeed binding, but also a valuable way to explain and enhance the work of OMLT and we always received with pleasure.
Mr. Alain Moyne-Bressand. You insisted on the training provided to troops engaged in OMLT. In this context, they learn to know the Taliban, their organization, their leaders, their weapons? Is there a link with the intelligence services about this? What actions do you hire locally to disrupt al Qaeda? How do you act against its leaders?
Colonel Jean-François Martini. The training lasts six months, which can be familiar with Afghanistan, including the structure and organization of insurgents. Data are updated during the first fifteen days on the ground and, subsequently, we continually update our data. The ANA knows our opponents and we have so reliable.
Regarding senior Taliban commander identified, mainly special forces involved. We are possibly involved to secure the area.
Yves Vandewalle. Thank you for your thrilling testimony showing that "Afghanization" is possible. You referred to the ethnic dimension of the army, but beyond that appears is a sense of patriotism? What about the emergence of a national consciousness? How ANA is positioning itself does compared to the state and against the Karzai government?
It is often said that the Afghan soldiers are poorly paid. Is that enough to explain the desertion?
Colonel Jean-François Martini. The word "patriotism" seems a bit much. I would say that today the ANA meets the Afghan government, which is seen as the leader that must execute orders. Members act as obedient servants to the government. If some generals may have here and there some acquaintance political leaders kandak, like the soldiers do not seem particularly influenced.
The balances are a major factor of success in a country where wages are low. I note also that they have experienced a significant increase in late last year, about 20 to 25%.
The important thing is that we understood the need to properly pay the soldiers to commit themselves beyond the first years of the original contract, the objective being of course their reappointment.
Mr. Jacques Lamblin. What are the facilities available to insurgents in particular the ground-air defense missiles and light?
You indicated that the helicopters could not operate at night, is it because the movement of day is too dangerous?
Colonel Jean-François Martini. The situation varies across valleys, so it is difficult to formulate a general answer. In some, the insurgents have the support weapon with a range of 1 000 meters, allowing them to maneuver. They also have machine guns and Kalashnikovs, while in other valleys, they have only shotguns or very old models of Kalashnikov.
They may also have modern weapons, that is to say, longer range and give more depth to their flexibility, in particular rockets or heavy machine guns. This allows, for example, to reach a helicopter landing gear. But, to my knowledge, they are not in possession of antiaircraft weapons as such, at least not in the area where we operate. The RPG 7 are obviously widespread
But our main concern was on the radio. If the insurgents are equipped, they can maneuver quickly responding to our actions. Otherwise, they must be content to follow predetermined patterns, which is easier to counter. I've seen a few Motorola in areas where I spoke.
Mr. Philippe Folliot. For having visited the field, I found that having given greater operational coherence to our quota has improved cooperation with Afghans.
What's your analysis of the relationship between the ANA and Afghan police (ANP) that is corrupt?
What is the added value of our mobile police to train the ANP?
Colonel Jean-François Martini. The weak Afghan government is essentially that of the police, who suffers from a local recruitment and balances too low, two factors that promote corruption.
The relationship between the ANA and ANP are bad, the army trying to serve the state where some policemen are enriched particularly fast. A large number of gangsters find themselves in the PNA. It was therefore decided, in the months of November and December, to strengthen efforts for training. It was found in August that the previous attempt to raise quickly and without proper training a large number of policemen had been a failure. But we must remember that the goal is to achieve a workforce of 108 000 police officers by the end of the year.
I emphasize one point: OMLT training of Afghan police (POMLT) were very positive. It was observed in the French zone proper coordination between the units supervised by OMLT and police supervised by POMLT. The joint ANA-ANP credible were conducted under French command.
Michel Grall. It is observed that many soldiers join the ANA for economic reasons. Now, you tell us that 80% of the insurgents are only "contractual". So I wonder what that one chooses to serve in the insurgency rather than in the ANA and thus, if no economic means to recover the staff who joined the Taliban.
Colonel Jean-François Martini. Soldiering is in Afghanistan, a job like any other. The choice responds to cyclical reasons. Do not forget the concept of balance between people. Before the Soviet invasion, people feel indebted to their families, their villages and their ethnicity. The intervention has somewhat altered the balance by introducing dependencies financial ties due to the fighting, corruption, etc.. A person can find themselves liable to a Taliban through a distant member of his family. He even could not refuse to place an IED, action for which he will also help. We must give him a job, do participate in the construction of a road so that he refuses to lay an IED, or at least financially able to evade that obligation.
The key is economic. If we can give work to the Afghan rebellion was found confined to the valleys and we have succeeded: the population will realize that with the state and the Afghan army, she found security and prosperity. This is precisely the meaning of our action, especially when we secure the axis Vermont Kapisa, essential to economic development in the area and employ many Afghans to the opening of this road.
Mr. President Guy Teissier. Dare I compare with Africa? Is it impossible to imagine a national cooperation? Beyond security missions, the Afghan army could she participate in the construction of wells or building schools and the wider economic development?
Colonel Jean-François Martini. A form of civil service could be an option.
I note that in some villages, the militias are armed and recognized by the State to preserve the strength of the army, still insufficient.
Moreover, what is true in a valley is not necessarily in the door. This is something that we talked regularly with the U.S. brigade in our area that had initially tend to make grids easier reading.
Guillaume Garot. The army is also the crucible of a nation. What eyes Afghan public opinion is she on cooperation between the army and our forces?
Colonel Jean-François Martini. The answer varies by region: in some of them where the PRTs are developed and effectively support the local economy, the coalition is popular. In others, it is the Taliban who are present. So it was staged fighting and part of the population sometimes feel that the coalition presence is the cause of the destruction of houses or the death of a son. Indeed, the feeling of the valley bends easily from one side or the other. Overall, the people of Afghanistan welcomes the presence of the coalition, economically profitable.
Mr. Michel Voisin. There, you just pointed out, a rise of the Afghan National Army, both in terms of staffing and equipment. Meanwhile, President Obama has asked its allies to increase their workforce engaged in the coalition when the peace may she be obtained through the combination of these two elements?
Colonel Jean-François Martini. I am unable to answer you accurately. I can say, however, that we'll get it. We are definitely on the up. In two years of existence, the OMLT French have created and made an autonomous full Afghan brigade of 3 000 people. There is also a multiplier effect. So I think the Afghans will be able to take control of security in their country, although I can however move to delay.
They are already in Kabul, for example. There were certainly attacks recently, but we must remember above all their extremely positive: the Afghans have maneuvered and found themselves the perpetrators of these attacks without being supervised. That would have been impossible just a year ago.
I think we're on track.
Mr. Michel Voisin. My question was rather on increasing the allied coalition, in addition to the staff of the Afghan army.
Colonel Jean-François Martini. This is linked. It increases the size of the Afghan National Army and, to overcome a slow progression, increases at the same time the coalition troops. There are 30 000 U.S. troops and more effort to bring in 80 key areas identified until the 260 000 troops in Afghanistan can take over. I think it allows us to accelerate the timetable.
Mr. President Guy Teissier. Colonel, thank you for this testimony of man field. The lab report was quite exciting.
The meeting adjourned at eleven forty-five.
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