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Progress of U.S. and Coalition Efforts to Train, Advise, and Assist the Afghan Air Force

DODIG-2018-058

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Findings

TAAC‑Air’s efforts to train, advise, and assist the Afghan Air Force have resulted in notable accomplishments in three broad areas: A‑29 aircraft mission performance, night vision capability, and air-ground integration between the Afghan Air Force and Afghan National Army.

However, TAAC‑Air does not have a plan defining the terms of its mission statement to develop the Afghan Air Force into a “professional, capable, and sustainable” force. TAAC‑Air cannot track the Afghan Air Force’s progress because they have not defined the intended end state and related metrics for determining the capabilities and capacities of the Afghan Air Force.

Furthermore, TAAC‑Air did not fully integrate its planning with NAC-A’s defined end state or Resolute Support campaign plans. Continued train, advise, and assist efforts without a plan integrated with Resolute Support campaign plans could result in the inefficient and ineffective use of U.S. and Coalition advisor train, advise, and assist efforts.

The Coalition administers Contractor Logistic Support agreements for Afghan Air Force aircraft. These contracts limit the progression and transfer of maintenance responsibilities to Afghan Air Force maintainers. Although it is one of NATO’s goals for the Afghan Air Force, these contracts do not contain either a plan or a timeline to transition maintenance operations to the Afghans. Additionally, neither Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, NATO Air Command-Afghanistan, nor TAAC‑Air has identified the long-term maintenance and logistics workload distribution between the contractors and the Afghan Air Force. The design of the existing contracts reduces the maintenance training opportunities for Afghan Air Force mechanics and delays the Afghan Air Force from establishing their own maintenance capability.

In addition, Afghan Air Force mission support and aircraft maintenance personnel do not receive standardized or consistent training from the Afghan National Army schools. Furthermore, the Afghan Air Force did not leverage the training opportunities that did exist at Afghan National Army functional schools. Additionally, the Coalition has not helped the Afghan Air Force develop the institutional training capability to augment existing Afghan National Army training by incorporating Air Force-specific requirements. The lack of standardized and consistent training limits the development of the Afghan Air Force into a professional, capable, and sustainable Air Force.

Afghan National Army corps commanders exceeded programmed monthly flying hours for Mi‑17 helicopters. This happened because Afghan Ministry of Defense and General Staff policy allows Afghan National Army corps commanders to use M i‑17s indirect support of ground forces. This policy let the commanders directly task assigned helicopters without properly regarding the aircraft’s condition and available flying hours. Operating aircraft beyond scheduled flying hours, and without the required supporting maintenance and inspections, will accelerate the Mi‑17 fleet’s deterioration and reduce available aircraft for operational use. Coalition advisors identified this problem and, in coordination with their Afghan counterparts, proposed a solution.  

U.S. air advisors received training on general advising skills and cultural aspects needed for a generic train, advise, and assist mission. However, they were not fully prepared to perform their Afghan Air Force specific advising mission upon arriving in country. Air advisors did not receive training on the Afghan Air Force and its relationship to the Afghan National Army, nor did the advisors receive training about the Afghan military staffing processes and terminology peculiar to Afghanistan. As a consequence, assigned personnel are less effective and less efficient as advisors until they acquire the requisite knowledge and develop the skills necessary for their mission in Afghan.

 

Recommendations

We recommend that the Commander of Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air:

Complete and formalize (publish) its strategic plan that includes a set goals and metrics to measure the development of the Afghan Air Force’s capabilities and capacities.(Recommendation B.1)

Coordinate with the Commander of NATO Air Command-Afghanistan, to ensure that the Train, Advise, and Assist Command-Air plan, and its supporting lines of effort, meet the requirements listed in the Headquarters Resolute Support campaign plans. ( Recommendation B .2)

Coordinate with Combined Security Transition Assistance Command-Afghanistan to modify aircraft Contractor Logistics Support agreements to put more emphasis on building the Afghan aircraft maintenance capability, increasing the Afghan responsibility for daily aircraft maintenance, and identifying the transition criteria for Afghan-led maintenance within the Afghan Air Force. ( Recommendation C )

We recommend that Commander of Resolute Support:

Coordinate with the Afghan Ministry Of Defense and General Staff to identify and create the follow-on institutional aviation-specific and mission support training capability necessary to support future Afghan Air Force training requirements. (Recommendation D.1)

Closely monitor the implementation of the recently signed Afghan directive, and provide additional advice and assistance to the Afghan Ministry of Defense as required. (Recommendation E)

We recommend that the Commander of Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan compare potential in-country training costs to the current out- of-country approach to ascertain potential savings or benefits. (Recommendation D.2)

We recommend that the Commander of NATO Air Command-Afghanistan provide relevant and Afghan Air Force-specific training and information to incoming advisors. (Recommendation F.1)

We recommend that the Air Education and Training Command, Lead Major Command for General Purpose Forces Air Advisor Education and Training oversight, policy, and guidance, periodically assess the school’s training curriculum and incorporate graduate feedback into the training syllabus to support the Train, Advise, and Assist Command-Air mission. (Recommendation F.2)

 

Management Comments

The Chief of Staff, 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force- Afghanistan, responding for the Commander, NATO Air Command-Afghanistan and the Commander, TAAC‑Air, agreed with four of our findings and recommendations. Specifically:

 In response to Recommendation B.1, he stated that TAAC‑Air agrees and has plans that include lines of effort and a set of metrics that measure the development of the Afghan Air Force’s capabilities and capacities.

In response to Recommendation B.2, he stated TAAC‑Air agrees and ensures its lines of effort support Headquarters Resolute Support campaign plans. He added that this coordination occurs on a weekly, and often daily basis, when needed.

In response to Recommendation C, he stated that TAAC‑Air agrees to identify requirements and modify aircraft Contractor Logistics Support contracts as appropriate to increase emphasis on building the Afghan Air Force maintenance capability. Furthermore, he stated that TAAC‑Air is working with Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan to identify transition criteria for Afghan-led maintenance and necessary contract modifications.

In response to Recommendation F.1, he stated NATO Air Command-Afghanistan already provides the recommended relevant Afghan-specific information to incoming advisors during pre-deployment training and during the newly established ‘in-country Key Leader Training.’

Recommendations B.1, B.2, C, and F.1 are resolved, but will remain open. We will close these recommendations when the following actions are completed:

Recommendation B.1 - when we receive an approved copy of TAAC‑Air’s plan and its associated lines of effort.

Recommendation B.2 – when we receive evidence showing that TAAC‑Air’s lines of effort support Resolute Support plans.

Recommendation C – when we receive documentation of the approved transition criteria for Afghan-led maintenance and a list of the identified contract modifications to be implemented.

Recommendation F.1 – when we receive evidence showing that all incoming air advisors are receiving the Afghan specific information necessary to accomplish their mission. Particularly, we request evidence showing air advisors are receiving information on the structure of the Afghan Air Force, staffing processes within the Afghan Air Force, and the administrative processes associated with the Afghan Ministry of Defense Form 14. This evidence can be in the form of email distribution lists, attendance rosters, or advisor acknowledgement of training.

Because the Chief of Staff, 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan, stated that they have already completed actions for Recommendations B.1, B.2, and F.1, we request receipt of the identified documentation or evidence by February 4, 2018.

The Audits Director, United States Forces-Afghanistan, answering on behalf of the Commander of Resolute Support, agreed with two of our recommendations. Specifically:

In response to Recommendation D.1, she stated that Headquarters Resolute Support agrees with the recommendation to coordinate with the Afghan Ministry of Defense and General Staff to identify and create the follow-on institutional, aviation-specific, and mission-support training capability necessary to support future requirements of the Afghan Air Force. 

In response to Recommendation E, she stated that Headquarters, Resolute Support agreed to monitor the implementation of the Afghan directive, and provide additional advice and assistance to the Afghan Minister of Defense as required.

Comments from the Audit Director, responding for Resolute Support, address all specifics of these recommendations; therefore, these recommendations are resolved, but will remain open. We will close Recommendations D.1 and E once we verify Resolute Support has implemented the planned corrective actions.

The Deputy Chief of Staff for Security Assistance, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan agreed with our finding, but proposed a revised recommendation. Specifically:

In response to Recommendation D.2, he stated that Combined Security Transition Command- Afghanistan does possess the capability to compare training costs as recommended. However, in order for Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan to conduct this comparative analysis, TAAC‑Air, as the requirements owner, must provide the appropriate level of detail necessary to support the cost analysis. He proposed reassigning Recommendation D.2 to TAAC‑Air instead of to Combined Security Transition Command- Afghanistan.

We concur with his proposal and, as a result, are introducing a revised recommendation D.2 directed to the Commander, TAAC‑Air and renumbering the draft Recommendation D.2 to Recommendation D.3.

The revised Recommendation D.2 is:

We recommend that the Commander, Train, Advise, Assist Command- Air provide Combined Security Transition Command- Afghanistan detailed training requirements to support a comparison of in-country to out-of-country costs and benefits.

Recommendation D.2 is unresolved and will remain open. We request that the Chief of Staff, 9th Air Expeditionary Task Force-Afghanistan, address this revised Recommendation D.2 and provide details about the actions planned or actions taken to resolve this recommendation by February 4, 2018.

Recommendation D.3 is unresolved and will remain open. We request that the Deputy Chief of Staff for Security Assistance, Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, provide details about actions planned or actions taken to resolve Recommendation D.3 by February 4, 2018.

The Chief, Special Missions Division, U.S. Air Force Air Education and Training Command agreed with Recommendation F.2. Specifically, he stated the U.S. Air Force Air Expeditionary Operations School will:

update the Air Education and Training Command curriculum taught at the Air Advisor course;

update Air Force Tactics, Technique, and Procedures publication AFTTP 3-4.5, “Air Advising”; and collect air advisor observations, best practices, and lessons learned from air advisors operating in Afghanistan.

Comments from Air Education and Training Command addressed all specifics of the recommendation. The recommendation is resolved, but will remain open. We will close Recommendation F.2 once we verify the actions described in the response are completed.

This report is a result of Project No. D2017-D00SPO-0081.000.