Publicly released: August 12, 2019
We determined whether U.S. and Coalition efforts to train, advise, assist, and equip Afghan tactical air coordinators (ATACs), air liaison officers, and Afghan air targeting officers met U.S. and Coalition objectives in support of developing Afghan air-to-ground integration (AGI).
In partnership with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and partners, the United States focuses on training, advising, assisting, and equipping the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) under the NATO-led Resolute Support mission. Resolute Support military and contracted advisors conduct train, advise, assist, and equip missions with the ANDSF through regional Train, Advise, Assist Commands (TAACs) and regional task forces. TAAC-Air supports the Afghan Air Force (AAF), and the NATO Special Operations Component Command–Afghanistan (NSOCC-A) supports the Afghan Special Security Forces.
We determined that the U.S. and Coalition efforts to train, advise, assist, and equip ATACs, air liaison officers, and air targeting officers did not fully meet operational objectives for the ATACs to provide independent AGI support to Afghan ground forces with minimal casualties and fratricide.
Specifically, TAAC-Air did not meet its objective to develop ATACs capable of coordinating airdrop operations with AAF pilots to resupply ANDSF ground units. This occurred because TAAC-Air ATAC advisors made a decision not to train ATACs on coordinating airdrops, although airdrop training was in the training curriculum.
Additionally, TAAC-Air did not have a detailed training curriculum for Afghan air liaison officers. This occurred because TAAC-Air did not provide adequate oversight of the contracted advisors to verify that the contracted advisors developed a detailed curriculum for training Afghan air liaison officers.
Furthermore, TAAC-Air and NSOCC-A advisors did not track the operational effectiveness of deployed ATACs, and targeting officers. This occurred because TAAC-Air operations and intelligence sections collected operational data on AAF airstrikes, but did not disseminate that data to TAAC-Air and NSOCC-A AGI advisors. Furthermore, NSOCC-A did not have a plan with objectives and milestones to develop ATACs and targeting officers within Afghan Special Security Forces units.
The inability to coordinate airdrop operations increases the risk that ANDSF units operating in areas without airfields or helicopter landing zones will not receive critical supplies. Additionally, the lack of a detailed training curriculum for air liaison officers increases the risk that the ANDSF will have unqualified air liaison officers, which could result in an increase in unsuccessful air-to-ground missions, as well as an increased risk of civilian casualties and fratricide. Further, without tracking operational effectiveness data, neither TAAC‑Air nor NSOCC-A advisors could measure progress or adjust training and advising efforts to meet operational objectives.
We recommend that the TAAC-Air Commander:
- Determine whether coordinating airdrops should remain an operational objective for ATACs in the Afghan AGI program.
- Enforce the requirement that the air liaison officer program contractor develop detailed training curriculum for air liaison officer training that includes, at a minimum, training objectives, course content, and competencies required to pass the course.
- Direct TAAC-Air personnel, in coordination with NSOCC-A personnel, to identify operational data needed to measure AGI effectiveness, collect that data, and distribute the data to AGI advisors.
- Direct TAAC-Air personnel to use the operational data to inform and adjust train, advise, assist, and equip efforts for Afghan tactical air coordinators and air liaison officers.
We recommend that the NSOCC-A Commander:
- Direct Afghan Special Security Forces AGI advisors to use the operational data to inform and adjust train, advise, assist, and equip efforts for Afghan tactical air coordinators and tactical air coordinators.
- Develop a plan with specific objectives and milestones for Afghan Special Security Forces AGI capability that includes all Afghan special operations components with ATACs and targeting officers.
Management Comments and Our Response
The NATO Air Command–Afghanistan Chief of Staff, responding for the TAAC-Air Commander, agreed with the recommendation regarding training and curriculum and stated that the TAAC-Air Commander revised the ATAC syllabus to include airdrop training and that the NATO Air Command–Afghanistan determined that the current air liaison officer curriculum met requirements for specificity, content, and competency. However, we found that the curriculum lacked minimum training objectives or specified competencies necessary for the student to pass the course. While the Chief of Staff addressed the airdrop portion of the recommendation, he only partially addressed the curriculum portion of the recommendation. Therefore, we consider this recommendation unresolved.
The NATO Air Command–Afghanistan Chief of Staff agreed with the recommendations to direct TAAC‑Air personnel to identify, collect, and distribute operational data to the AGI advisors and the recommendation to direct TAAC-Air personnel to use the TAAC-Air collected operational data to inform and adjust train, advise, assist, and equip efforts for Afghan tactical air coordinators and air liaison officers. We consider these recommendations resolved, but open.
The NATO Special Operations Component Command– Afghanistan Chief of Staff agreed with the recommendation to direct air-to-ground integration advisors to use operational data collected by TAAC-Air to inform and adjust train, advise, and assist efforts. We consider this recommendation closed.
The NATO Special Operations Component Command– Afghanistan Chief of Staff agreed with the recommendation to develop a plan with specific objectives and milestones for Afghan Special Security Forces air-to-ground capability. We consider this recommendation resolved, but open.
This report is a result of Project No. D2019-D00SPO-0017.000