Academic journal article Military Review

International Security Assistance Force Joint Command 2014: The Year of Change

Academic journal article Military Review

International Security Assistance Force Joint Command 2014: The Year of Change

Article excerpt

Transitions typically are not discrete events. Rather, they consist of overlapping groups of actions that, over time, interact to create a potent mix of challenges. Transitions can take on numerous forms--sometimes they are relatively simple. For example, during World Wars I and II, units rotated regularly, with fresh troops executing reliefs-in-place with their beleaguered front-line counterparts. At other times, the changes can be more nuanced and complex. For instance, after the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, many Army units struggled to make the mental and physical shifts from major combat operations to counterinsurgency.

This article discusses how the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Joint Command managed transitions at the operational level during the shift from Operation Enduring Freedom to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in 2014. The experience offers seven lessons learned:

* Plan early and often.

* Build flexibility into plans.

* Be as transparent as possible.

* Integrate transitions across lines of operation, and synchronize them with operations in support of campaign objectives.

* Ensure key leaders play an active role managing both imposed and conditions-based transitions.

* Adjust staff processes to account for increased requirements during the transition process.

* Design organizations and processes with consideration for their short- and long-term consequences.

Although the focus of this discussion is on counterinsurgency, these lessons can be applied to future contingencies across the range of military operations.

Not all transitions are created equal, but transitions are a part of all military operations. The experiences of the ISAF Joint Command, together with similar experiences during drawdowns in Iraq and elsewhere, beg the question: What should military forces do, if anything, to prepare for the inevitable transitions that will occur during a campaign? Moreover, how should units plan for, manage, and execute the myriad transitions they will encounter?

To answer these questions, the U.S. Army needs to develop better doctrine and training on conducting and managing transitions. It needs to explore transitions through rigorous academic study so that forces can ensure transitions support tactical as well as operational and strategic objectives. The experiences of the ISAF Joint Command provide a starting point. These experiences and lessons can inform future leaders' efforts to oversee their own transitions so they can better anticipate challenges and capitalize on the opportunities.

Reducing Force Posture

In the final year of Operation Enduring Freedom, the ISAF Joint Command adjusted its force posture to set the conditions for the transition to Resolute Support by closing or transferring 75 bases, retrograding over 77,000 pieces of rolling and non-rolling stock, and redeploying over 90,000 personnel--including military, civilian, and contractors--from 48 troop-contributing nations.

Base closures and transfers. The ISAF Joint Command reviewed in detail the effects base closures and transfers would have on its operational reach and on the Afghan National Security Forces' (ANSF's) support structure. They balanced the ANSF's eagerness to assume control of the ISAF footprint with the concern that too many ANSF bases would render them a static force. The Command developed detailed criteria to determine which strategic bases would remain, which would be closed or transferred, and in what sequence.

In cases where property would transfer, the ISAF Joint Command worked closely with commanders on the ground and the Afghan-led Joint Base Closure Commission to develop plans and procedures for base transfers, including identifying real property and infrastructure that would go to the Afghans.

Retrograde and redeployment. In a process similar to base closure efforts, the ISAF Joint Command balanced retrograde and redeployment tasks with current operations to set conditions for Resolute Support. …

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