Today was another first for my experience of Afghanistan. I drove my new commander, Col. Jim Lyman and two of the senior Afghan officers we mentor to a meeting at the Ministry of Defense or M.O.D. The MOD is an enormous, highly secured campus of administration buildings that houses the leadership of the first national insitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. It is a regular meeting that involves the leadership of the Army Staff and representatives from the training institutions in ensuring a system of training management across the theatre. It is an interesting endeavor. While we are there to mentor our staff counterparts, it is not our role to tell them what to do. It is a challenge sometimes not to add a comment to the discussion when you know that something needs correcting, but the preference is to prepare our counterparts for the meeting before the meeting and to get them to do the same.
In a system that has been based on a Soviet model for the past fifty years, it is hard to break out of the mold, but it is working and it is improving each and every day. Our senior commander is Maj. Gen. Robert Durbin and his deputy commander Col. (promotable) Mike Harrison make it their mantra to constantly remind every one of the same philosophy once espoused by T.E. Lawrence, "It is better to let them do it imperfectly than to do it perfectly yourself, for it is their country...and your time is short." Or, in the unsecure version of our mission, "We are here to mentor the Afghan National Army for success, not to facilitate their dependence on others."
It is a long and slow process, but it is an honorable role to share.