The following virtual interview is the first in a series that I hope will appear every Monday on this blog. This interview is with COL Tom McGrath. COL McGrath’s BIO can be found by clicking here.
RANK/NAME- Colonel Thomas J. McGrath
TITLE/UNIT- Commander, ARSIC- South
Q-Were the ANCOP teams developed and put into place because of the challenges in getting the ANP and AAP to the academies to be trained?
A-Actually, the ANCOP were developed to act as a quick reaction force for each of the regions.
Q-Have you found the ANCOP team to be more or less effective while they are onsite for the 8 weeks? (This question implies that the ANCOP team is either viewed as potentially trustworthy because of being new or not trustworthy because they are from a different area).
A-The ANCOP are extremely effective due to their training which leads obviously to professionalism. The local Afghan people give them very high marks and want them to stay on longer. However, when the newly trained AUP returned to districts in Zabul province there received very favorably reviews from the local citizenry. The new training has a noticeable difference in their performance and their professionalism.
Q-From personal experience and recent reports I am wondering if the ETTs are having any challenges with the ANA that have been issued M16/M4s (maintenance, cleaning, jingling up, and marksmanship).
A-The ANA are very eager to become great marksmen with the M16A2 currently being fielded to them. They are eager and proud to use this news weapon system and therefore make very good students when learning this weapon.
Q-Since 2/7 Marines are working in the ANP mission now, have you noticed that they are more adept to the mentoring mission than the typical Army based ETTs/PMTs?
A-The 2/7 Marines are just getting started mentoring, advising, and training Afghan Uniform Police. While this is the first time the Marines have held a mentoring role here in southern Afghanistan, they are doing a fine job and arenâ€™t having any issues with their mission. They are being deployed due to inadequate amounts of trainers, not due to any quality issues with the US Army trainers.
Q-You mentioned that the 2/7 Marines are performing in-district reform as part of their ANP mentoring mission. Are all PMTs exercising the same reform strategies as the Marines or is this technique unique to just the Marines? If so, is it working better/worse/indifferent than the way the Army is doing it?
A-The 2/7 Marines will use in district reform or IDR for training local Afghan Policemen. This IDR training and mentoring will last while the 2/7 Marines are in place. Focused District Development is a longer term program that goes across 6 phases to include everything from registration to enduring mentorship. Due to the shorter period of 2/7â€™s deployment we cannot model IDR on FDD. However it is following the same intent: Rigorous, performance oriented training that produces manned, equipped professional police officers in Afghanistan.
Q-In your opinion, are the enemy fighters increasing their attacks on the ANP because the ANP are becoming a more formidable fighting force and inflicting damage on the enemy, or because the ANP are viewed as the softest and most vulnerable target on the battlefield today?
A-Actually the ANP are increasing their attacks on the Taliban. The ANP have actually killed over 70 Taliban in Zabul Province recently. This is quite a change from previous events, where the police did not respond to Taliban attacks. Now they are providing security to their districts which has totally confused the Taliban. With more ANP getting out in their districts across southern Afghanistan they are more willing to stay and fight and do their job than they were a year ago.
Q-Are the ETT teams able to effectively mentor their Kandaks and Companies yet, or are they still stretched very thin because of the ANP mission that has tapped into many of the ETT resources?
A-We definitely need many more trainers here in ARSIC-South; about 3000 are needed across Afghanistan. However, our soldiers, sailors, and airmen are performing extremely well with the resources they have. And the results are noticeable. This is a great mission where weâ€™re able to see for ourselves the hard work and effort of the PMTs and the ETTs in how far both the ANA and ANP have come. With more trainers we can train more Afghans.
Q-Is FM 3-24 required reading for all ETT/PMT members in your AO? If not, do you think it should be? If so, have you noticed youâ€™re Sr. NCOs and Officers becoming more effective after understanding COIN operations?
A-FM 3-24 is an excellent field manual. It was written by combat experienced experts who not only relied on their experience but also on historical precedence in counter-insurgency operations. COIN is not a new concept to the U.S. Army or the Marines; While COIN FM 3-24 is not a new concept to many, soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines have taken the initiative to read the manual on their own to ensure they have a full knowledge of the resources available to them in conducting COIN operations in southern Afghanistan. FM 3-24 has a plethora of good, helpful information and everyone here is putting it to very good use. There is a vast potential and use for counter-insurgency operations in this coalition and government-building environment.
ARSIC- Afghanistan Regional Security Integration Command
ANCOP-Afghan National Civil Order Police
ANP-Afghan National Police
AAP- Afghan Auxiliary Police
AUP-Afghan Uniformed Police
ETT-Embedded Training Team
PMT-Police Mentoring Team
COIN- Counter Insurgency