Interview – Major General Antonio Satta, Deputy Commander of the International Joint Command, ISAF
Joint endeavour towards security and peace in Afghanistan
The 23rd HRVCON to ISAF comprises some twenty soldiers assigned to a number of posts in Kabul, among whom the Croatian representatives to the International Joint Command (IJC), located at the KAIA. The IJC monitors all activities in ISAF and controls all troops movements and activities in the field. During our visit to the Croatian soldiers in the IJC, we took the opportunity to talk to Major General Antonio Satta, Deputy IJC Commander, an officer from the Italian Armed Forces, with an extensive experience from the international missions and operations (served in Lebanon, Somalia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan).
General, could You present the functions and the tasks of the International Joint Command for our readers?
The International Joint Command is responsible for the operations in general, and in particular for the transition towards the Resolute Support, which is mainly a training, advising and assist mission to the ANSF, so at the moment we are primarily focused on that transition. We have withdrawn most of our forces from the field into the bases, from where we continue providing assistance and training to all ANSF.
Will the structure of the International Joint Command change once the Resolute Support begins?
You are probably referring to the end of 2014; we shall continue working on the ANSF acquire the independence and full responsibility to carry out the operations, which is the case already. You are probably familiar with the ANSF has already taken control over the counter-insurgency operations in the field. We still have to refine some areas which we are working on, such as logistic supply flaws and procedures, but the majority of the operations has already been taken over by the ANSF, and by the end of the current year they will also take full responsibility for all security in Afghanistan.
All ISAF nations have their representatives in the International Joint Command. What are Your experiences working with the Croatian soldiers here?
I find it one of the major strengths of ISAF is being a part of the Coalition and the fact that so many countries are represented here in the common effort of supporting Afghanistan, primarily in security for the population but also the building of the government institutions and of the ANSF. Every nation gives its contribution – some of them are major and some minor in terms of numbers, but all of them have brought professionalism to the Coalition, the increased awareness of the benefit for the population and the upgrading of the capabilities of the ANSF. So there are a number of areas – e.g. force protection, the intelligence sector or training, mentoring and advising, and if you put them all together, you prove the support of the international community and the asset of the professional contribution of all Coalition members
How do you evaluate the security situation in Afghanistan?
The security situation in Afghanistan, particularly to the south and east, is still challenging, in view of the continued threats, however the successful organization of the elections and the large number of voters are a result of the preparations conducted capillary throughout the country. On the day of the elections the ANSF, supported by the Coalition, but only supported, organized the security system based on the individual polling sites, including the participation of the Afghanistan national police and the ANA. The ANSF continue operating and introducing improvements wherever possible and where shortfalls have been identified, and their organisational capability is improving constantly.
You have a rich international experience serving in the missions and operation. Can You compare them to ISAF?
Every mission and every country has different individual features. It is not to say that we started from scratch every time, but if we want to carry out the proper mission in a crisis situation we have to adapt to the given country where we are operating in– its culture, mentality and habits. Imposing our culture to that country would mean a huge mistake. Therefore, ISAF has been conducted balancing the determination and the will to support the country on one side with the respect for the culture and our adapting to it, making sure that they are the «owner of the country» and we are in support of them. In this regard ISAF at least so far, has been a big success.
However, we should really not leave the job half way – there is still some work that needs to be done that will probably go beyond 2014 and that depends mainly on the will of the Afghan government; what also remains our task is to make sure that the efforts invested in training and support will not be wasted and will have the time to be consolidated and mature, and probably this success will be consolidated and last in years and at last give peace and stability to Afghanistan.
You have been in Afghanistan since 2007, and do you see progress, and at what scale?
Yes, I spent a year here commanding the RC North, and coming back I was impressed by huge improvement that I could record going everywhere around. Back in 2007, one would have never expected such an improvement in so short span. The period of six to seven years may be a long time in a human life, but is just a snapshot for a country. The ANSF have achieved a huge improvement and acquired the capability to reach solutions autonomously. Obviously, they can still benefit from the assistance in resources, capabilities and expertise - we need to refine the consolidation - but again we can be impressed with the great successes achieved over a very short period of time.