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    Operational Coordination Centers bring security to Afghanistan

    Operational Coordination Center

    Photo By Maj. Steven Miller | An Afghan National Army soldier and an Afghan police officer work side-by-side in the...... read more read more

    LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – On Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, Tropical Depression 18 became Tropical Storm Sandy in the Caribbean Sea. Over the next several days, federal, state and local agencies activated response centers and teams of people were deployed along the entire eastern seaboard of the United States in preparation for what would soon become one of the most devastating natural disasters in the history of the United States.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency activated the National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C., Oct. 27 to synchronize the efforts of the many government and private agencies involved in the preparation for and response to the storm. FEMA immediately sent liaisons to Regional Response Coordination Centers along the coast.

    On Oct. 29, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta directed the Department of Defense to provide any available resources request by FEMA.

    FEMA is charged with coordinating efforts during disasters in the United States. The agency maintains a cadre of trained professionals able to respond to any kind of disaster anywhere at any time. They are able to activate emergency response and coordination centers anywhere in the country on remarkably short notice.

    Afghanistan is developing Operational Coordination Centers throughout the country as it continues to develop its own system of layered security forces. Similar to U.S. emergency response and coordination centers, these OCC are designed to synchronize the efforts of all Afghan National Security Forces. These agencies of the ANSF all have different jurisdictions, tactics, and roles, but all come together with one mission: bring security to the population of Afghanistan.

    There are now several regional OCC in Afghanistan. They are manned by members of the Afghan National Army, Afghan Local Police, Afghan Uniformed Police, Afghan Border Police, Afghan National Civil Order Police, and the National Directorate of Security. Though each of these forces works in different ways and have different roles, the OCC-R coordinates the activities allowing the groups to work in concert.

    The stated mission of the OCC is to “plan, integrate, synchronize, and coordinate the efforts of the Afghan National Security Forces in order to facilitate a common operational picture....”

    The system was established in 2008 by Afghanistan Presidential Decree 3501. The Afghan National Security Coordination System is made up of the regional and provincial OCCs throughout the country. Its management is dictated by the Afghan Joint Directives for OCCs as well as standard operating procedure documents that apply to all the OCCs.

    OCC-R Central is co-located with the ANA’s 201st Corps headquarters at Forward Operating Base Gamberi in eastern Afghanistan. This OCC-R tracks and coordinates actives for seven provinces north and east of Kabul: Parwan, Panjshir, Nuristan, Kapisa, Laghman, Kunar, and Nangarhar. The area spans from Kabul to the border with Pakistan. It is responsible for an area that includes Highway 7, the route from the Torkham Gate border crossing with Pakistan to Kabul; the Tora Bora Mountains which are best known for Operation Anaconda in 2002; the city of Jalalabad, which has several universities where young people regularly demonstrate against the Taliban; and the volatile border with Pakistan.

    Visitors to the OCC-R at Gamberi are immediately struck by the efficiency and sense of mission. Desks are strategically placed on the tiers of the theater-style room all oriented towards the large map on the wall at the front. There is an equally large screen that comes down in front of the map for briefings and situation updates. Each desk has a telephone and a computer that is networked to each other and to various databases within the Ministry of Interior. Tactical radios occasionally break the otherwise quiet environment allowing the staff to get real-time updates from the field.

    ANA Maj. Gen. Abdul Nasir Ziyai is the director of this OCC-R. A large man with a commanding, yet approachable presence, Ziyai knows and fully understands the importance of the OCC-R. He has been the director of this OCC since its inception in 2008. Without the coordination that his center brings, there will be no way to defeat the enemies of Afghanistan in these provinces of more than 3,000,000 people (more than the city of Chicago) spread across 37,163 square kilometers or 14,349 square miles (equivalent to Delaware, Connecticut, and New Jersey combined).

    Ziyai also knows that he cannot do it alone and works closely with Maj. Gen. Mohammad Zaman Wazeri, the commanding general of the ANA 201st Corps. Though they are the same rank, Ziyai is the corps’ deputy commander and is, therefore, subordinate to Wazeri. That being said, they have a strong relationship both professionally and personally. Ziyai speaks of Wazeri with great respect.

    Critical to the mission of the OCC-R is the provincial OCCs.

    Each of the seven provinces in the region has an OCC that brings to bear all of the security forces within the province.

    Afghanistan is a province-centered society so most of the direct coordination for operations and missions happens in the OCC-P. Regular security meetings happen at the provincial level to identify security concerns and discuss specific threats. The planners in the OCC-P then launch into a planning cycle that works to neutralize the threat.

    “We are able to help the people because the people believe in the OCC system,” said Ziyai.

    This belief and trust in the system comes from the results the OCC brings to the people.

    Ziyai carries out his mission by pushing strategic-level goals down to the OCC-P and allowing the OCC-P to push ideas on how to achieve those goals up to the OCC-R. This exchange is what allows coordinated security efforts and humanitarian assistance to reach the Afghan people.

    A recent example of this coordination in action occurred in Panjshir province.

    Seven enemies of Afghanistan attacked the governor’s office complex, May 27. The Afghan Uniformed Police repelled the attack and coordinated through their OCC-P to have the fire department from neighboring Parwan province respond to the resulting fire. In the end, the fire was extinguished, one AUP was killed, three were wounded, and the seven attackers lay dead. There were no Coalition Forces involved in the operation.

    The OCC-R is already coordinating security efforts for the coming presidential election.

    The security requirements for the future election and the current voter registration process are massive and essential to ensure that the elections are fair. Ziyai fully knows what is at stake as he works to coordinate the security effort across the ANSF.

    “It [this election] shows the people of Afghanistan that they can chose for themselves,” Ziyai said.

    Security will be the single most important element in voter turnout; a fact that Ziyai knows and understands well.

    “People won’t vote if there is no security. That is not only in Afghanistan. It is true in all countries,” he said.

    Ziyai works tirelessly to bring the security forces and the government to the people. He understands that security is not just the responsibility of the security forces, but that government officials also play a role in bringing peace and stability to this area.

    One of his responsibilities as the head of the OCC-R is to plan and conduct a quarterly PGOV meeting of the provincial governors. A recent meeting in Parwan province brought together seven governors, security force officials from each province, and nine cabinet level ministers from Kabul. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the state of security and governance as well as ways to improve those domains.

    At this meeting, the governor of Laghman province, Dr. Fazlullah Mujaddedi, was able to tell all the attendees about the strength of the OCC system.

    “Recent accomplishments have presented a positive impact in the area,” said Mujaddedi.

    He went on to describe an operation planned by the Laghman OCC-P that resulted in the ANSF clearing a shopping district of enemy influence. These coordinated clearing operations in areas like shopping centers are highly visible to the people and show the strength of the security system in local areas.

    Not only is such a meeting essential to bringing security and stability to Afghanistan, but ensuring that the population knows about such a meeting is equally important.

    To accomplish this, Ziyai ensured that a press conference was a prominent feature of the meeting. Dozens of media representatives from all across seven provinces, to include the large markets of Kabul and Jalalabad, where present to report what their government and security officials were doing on their behalf. This emphasis on telling the story of Afghan coordination and success to the Afghan people has resulted in a dramatic increase in good-will and favor towards the government and security forces in several of the provinces in the region.

    “Security is about personal relationships. The OCC shows the relationship between the military and the civilians,” Ziyai said.

    To underscore the importance of the OCC-R in Afghanistan, there is a steady stream of high profile individuals from Coalition Force nations who have visited the OCC-R, Central.

    U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James McConville, the Regional Command-East commander, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command commander, and Gen. Sir Richard Sherrif, the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Europe have all visited the center in recent weeks to see the coordination of the myriad activities.

    Speaking to Ziyai and the others in the OCC-R during a recent visit, McConville said “It’s good to come back and see all the progress that’s been made.” McConville himself served in Afghanistan in 2008-2009.

    In addition to coordinating combat operations, the OCC-R orchestrates disaster relief missions.

    Col. Shah-Jee is the OCC-R air operations officer and Maj. Jamal Udien is the ANA air operations officer. The two men work closely together to bring military aircraft loaded with supplies to the points of need throughout the region. Udien is passionate as he describes what he and his friend do.

    “We work as a team prioritizing missions as we bring humanitarian assistance to the people,” said Udien.

    U.S. Army Col. Earl Hairston, of Round Rock, Texas, is the senior adviser for the OCC-R with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division based out of Fort Hood, Texas. He has been advising the staff since Nov., 2012 and has seen a transformation in those few months. The Afghan team in the OCC-R has become quite proficient.

    “This staff knows what it’s doing. Coordination is automatic,” said Hairston.

    Hairston calls the OCC-R, “a collective interagency organization” that everyone trusts because it is neutral ground for coordination.

    This level of proficiency has come as the result of a robust training program for the team members who work in the OCC-R.

    The OCC Foundations Course is a four week program that teaches staff personnel basic tactical operations center procedures and battle staff functions. Not only are the graduates of the course then proficient in their staff functions, the top three graduates are selected to attend the training course that certifies them to teach their peers in future iterations of the course.

    This perpetual cycle of training ensures that the OCC-R always has a professional cadre capable of coordinating combat and relief operations on a moment’s notice.

    In a recent visit to the OCC-R at Gamberi, McConville made clear the strength of the ANSF and the difference it is making in Afghanistan. Having been in Afghanistan as the Regional Command-East commander for two months, he gave the assembled team his assessment:

    “You are defeating the enemy. You truly are defeating the enemy.” McConville said.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 06.04.2013
    Date Posted: 06.10.2013 12:36
    Story ID: 108399
    Location: LAGHMAN PROVINCE, AF 

    Web Views: 558
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