LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – On March 2, 2008, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai signed the decree that initiated the creation of Operational Coordination Centers at the provincial and regional levels for the Afghan National Security Forces.
The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan designed these OCC-Provincials and OCC-Regionals to serve as hubs of information wherein the different pillars of the ANSF could share intelligence and coordinate operations in real time, even while missions are being executed.
Six years later, OCCs are now located across the country. Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, Afghan Border Police, Afghan Civil Order Police, and the National Directorate of Security, all work together under the same roof at these centers to help keep their country secure.
“OCCs have a very important role in the ANSF and in the government,” said ANP Brig. Gen. Mir Jalaludin Jamshed, deputy director, OCC-R Central located at Forward Operating Base Gamberi. “Right now the OCCs are a place to coordinate and cooperate with each other and to solve the problems in our country.”
The OCC-R at FOB Gamberi is collocated with the ANA’s 201st Corps headquarters and has jurisdiction over seven provinces in eastern Afghanistan, including three that share the historically volatile border with Pakistan; Nangarhar, Kunar, and Nuristan.
That volatility doesn’t faze Jamshed, who says he’s confident in the ability of his people and how far they’ve come.
“We’ve come many steps, and now we’re at the final step,” said Jamshed about making his operation center fully self sustaining, independent from coalition forces support. “We’ll still need coalition forces until we get there, but I can see the day soon when we will get there.”
Coalition forces have slowly continued to lessen their presence at the OCCs as they feel the ANSF are becoming more and more capable to handle things on their own.
“We feel that they have a pretty good grip on their own operations and could sustain themselves,” said U.S. Army Capt. Michael Escuriex, intelligence advisor to OCC-R Central with 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. “Their day-to-day operations — they don’t need help from us. It’s only the more difficult things to coordinate, like resupply and personnel exchanges to very remote outposts, that they still ask for any help.”
To serve at one the OCCs, Afghan soldiers and policemen must go through a four-week foundations course in operations, intelligence, computer skills, and others necessities. The course used to be completely coalition taught, but now the Afghans have taken the lead in that aspect of the operation as well. Afghan instructors now run the classes and certify all of the new recruits themselves.
The OCC system still offers a unique challenge to American military advisers though, since the paradigm is unique to the ANSF, nothing like it exists in the U.S. military. Many coalition and ANSF personnel compare it to the American government’s Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“I was invited to come speak in America about the OCC-R in 2012, and I spoke many places and in all those places I found that FEMA most resembles what we do,” said Jamshed. (I’m not telling you how to write his quote, but consider using proper grammar)
The military aspect does bring an interesting dynamic into the system especially for a collection of fighting forces who have taken a hard road in learning to work together over the past decade to get the mission done. Many credit the OCC system with helping to build those relationships between the pillars of the ANSF.
“We wear many uniforms in here, but we have one war,” said ANA Maj. Gen. Abdul Nasir Ziyai, director of OCC-R Central. “I am army, but I am also police, and my deputy, he is police but he is also army.”
Ziyai’s OCC-R has been the center for many of the operations conducted in eastern Afghanistan over the last few years, both in the fight to protect their country and in the development of it. Soon the ANSF and the OCC-R will undertake their biggest challenge yet as a cohesive fighting force: the 2014 Presidential Elections.
Between its seven provinces, the OCC-R oversees almost 1,100 polling stations for the election that could wind up being the targets of attacks.
“In the last six months, the insurgents have been increasing their activity against us, but they have not been having good achievements, but we have been having good achievements,” said Jamshed.
It’s not just the polling stations the ANSF need to worry about during the election season. The OCC-R knows that the presidential candidates who will be traveling across Afghanistan campaigning could also be targeted by those who wish to undermine the government.
Jamshed believes his people are up to the task, both for the election season and well beyond.
“We will do our best. We will do what we can, and I know it will be enough,” he said.