U.S. Department of Defense Press Briefing by Colonel Scott Jackson via Teleconference from Kabul, Afghanistan

[STOCK IMAGE] Col. Scott Jackson, 1st Security Forces Assistance Brigade (SFAB) commander. (photo released by the U.S. Army)
13 Jun 2018

June 13, 2018

STAFF:  Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you for joining us today.

Today, we have Colonel Scott A. Jackson.  He is the commander of the 1st SFAB.  And the 1st SFAB provides the Resolute Support commander with approximately 800 conventional warfare experts to train, advise, assist, accompany and enable the Afghan National Security Forces from the kandak to the corps level.

Now, for today's engagement, Colonel Jackson will be giving a brief statement, and he will be prepared to take questions.  As a result of those questions, up to two follow-ups.  He has approximately 30 minutes for this time with us here.  And of course, if there's any additional questions after that time, either myself or any other member of my team will be here to prepare to follow up with that.

With that, Colonel Jackson.

COLONEL SCOTT JACKSON:  Good morning.  I'm Colonel Scott Jackson, the commander of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.  I appreciate the chance to talk with you all today about the appointment of the 1st SFAB here in Afghanistan.

We are approaching our 100 days in Afghanistan milestone, and I would like to open up with a -- a few things that I have learned in that -- in that period.

We have an audio problem.

STAFF:  All right.  Colonel Jackson, if you could get a -- a soundcheck.

COL. JACKSON:  Yeah, this is Colonel Jackson, soundcheck 1-2-3-4-5-6.

STAFF:  Colonel Jackson, could you just stand by?

COL. JACKSON:  Yup.

STAFF:  All right.  Colonel Jackson, audio check, please.

COL. JACKSON:  This is Colonel Jackson, soundcheck 1-2-3-4-5-6.

STAFF:  Read you loud and clear, sir.  Please go ahead with your statement.

COL. JACKSON:  OK.  If you don't mind, I'm going to remove my earpiece while we go through this, because I'm getting a lot of feedback.

Good morning.  I'm Colonel Scott Jackson, the commander of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, and I look -- and I really appreciate this opportunity to talk to you today about our experiences here in Afghanistan.

We are approaching our 100 days in Afghanistan milestone, and I would like to open up with some things that I have learned in that period.

First, we've learned that our partners are excited to have us here in Afghanistan again.  They appreciate our expertise, advice and resources we bring to bear.  The more senior leaders remind -- remember the benefits of U.S. advisers, but more importantly, they are very cognizant of the commitment which our -- our presence symbolizes.

To illustrate that, I would like to tell you about one of our brigade commanders, Brigadier General Raziq, the commander of the 4th Brigade of the 203rd Corps.  In one of the first meetings with his adviser battalion commander, Brigadier General Raziq told his advisers that his, quote, "advisers' safety was more important to him than his own sons'."  Now interestingly, he said this with his two sons in the same room.

That is a very powerful statement in this culture since, particularly coming from a very experienced, honor-bound leader such as General Raziq.

Secondly, we learned that we selected the right people for this mission.  From the beginning, we have sought out technical and tactical experts who possess the right personalities to work alongside our partners, allowing them to take the lead, but always prepared to support.

Shortly after our arrival here, Captain Jordan Smiley, from our 1st Battalion, was meeting with his kandak commander counterpart -- and a kandak is comparable to a U.S. infantry battalion -- when a portion of that kandak encountered the enemy.

In the minutes that followed, Jordan directed and employed U.S. Army attack helicopters to enable the Afghan infantry to maneuver, killing three insurgents in the engagement, and, later, employed U.S. Air Force fighters to suppress another group of enemy, allowing the Afghan army to close with and destroy the enemy force.

His quick application of his skill established instant credibility and cemented a professional relationship with his counterpart based on a mutual desire to see the Afghans succeed.

Finally, we confirm that we have the right training to prepare us to train, advise, assist, accompany and enable our Afghan partners.  The manner in which the SFAB operates requires a degree of specialized training, providing self-sufficiency in difficult and complex situations.

Just a short couple weeks ago, Staff Sergeant Bobby Cook, one of our combat medics in 6th Battalion, responded to a request for assistance from his partner unit, following an insurgent attack.

Staff Sergeant Cook arrived at the Afghan aid station and assisted the Afghan medics with treatments -- treatment of the gravely injured soldier.  But, after exhausting all their capabilities, they could do no more.

Staff Sergeant Cook then stepped in, performed advanced life-saving measures typically only seen in our doctors and our physician assistants.  He stabilized the patient and enabled his evacuation to a hospital.  Staff Sergeant Cook saved that soldier and, in doing so, established a personal relationship that cannot be broken.

To put these lessons and vignettes in context, I would like to briefly describe the road the 1st SFAB has followed to get to this point.  The U.S. military have been doing combat advising in Iraq and Afghanistan for nearly two decades, using traditional military formations as the core of an ad hoc adviser effort at the expense of traditional combat readiness.

Acknowledging that advising conventional foreign security force partners throughout the world, not just here in Afghanistan, is an enduring task and to develop and preserve readiness in our brigade combat teams, Army leadership directed the formation of six SFABs, the first of which was formed at Fort Benning, Georgia, last summer.

As we began our training last summer, the United States announced the South Asia strategy, a critical component of which was increased tactical-level advising.

The Army directed our units to prepare for an early 2018 deployment to support that strategy, and we modified our recruiting and training programs to ensure we would be ready.

In the nine months that followed, we recruited, trained and assimilated more than 800 soldiers, received over 22,000 pieces of equipment, conducted two combat training center rotations, developed doctrine for this new capability and formed original equipping strategies to meet our unique requirements.

In March, we deployed to Afghanistan, intent to show our partners that we were not business as usual.  We represented change and commitment in the form of the people that have volunteered for this mission.

From the very beginning, our focus has been, and continues to be, identifying the right people whose conduct, appearance, actions and values represent the best of America and its Army, providing a positive example of the military profession to our Afghan partners, helping them establish trust with the Afghan people.

Since our arrival, we have deployed adviser teams to every Resolute Support regional command, and partnered them with Afghan army, police and border force elements, ranging from kandak to Afghan brigades and police districts, and all the way up to Afghan corps, division and police zones.

We have provided not only ground-maneuver-focused teams, but also specialty teams focused on engineering, field artillery, military intelligence, logistics and communications.  Through echelons and functionality, the 1st SFAB has added extensive tactical depth to the overall Resolute Support advising mission.

In the coming months, we will define success for the SFAB in terms of our partners.  When we leave, our partners will be more technically and tactically capable, more offensive-minded, more self-sustaining and deserving of the trust of the Afghan people.

I'd like to close the way I always do, with a proclamation of pride in what your soldiers have accomplished in getting here, but, more importantly, what I know they will accomplish in the months ahead.

These combat advisers were specially selected, specially trained and specially equipped for this mission, and they are fully prepared, and I'm very proud to serve with them.

And in the spirit of Ramadan here in Afghanistan, I'd like to wish all of you Eid Mubarak.  And I'd be happy to take your questions.

(Inaudible) -- just one personal thing, my son's birthday is in two days and I know he's watching, so I just wanted to tell him thank you and happy birthday.

STAFF:  As we move forward with the questions, being the new member of the team, I'd ask you all when called upon if you all could simply full name and agency so that both myself and as well the outlying station can have all of your information.

Yes, ma'am?

Q:  Hi.  Hi, Scott.  It's Lita Baldor with AP.  Good to see you again.  A couple of questions for you.

When we saw you a few months back, we asked you how you'd be able to judge some success, and I just want to maybe toss some of your words back at you and see what you've seen so far.

You said if you do your job right, in four to five months, the Afghans will be able to get into an unequal fight and that they would be able to apply pressure against the enemy, have victory and be able to effectively use resources.

So the first part of my question is:  Can you tell me where -- where that stands, how you measure the Afghan forces now?  And then I have a second follow-up.

COL. JACKSON:  OK.  So, Lita, I appreciate you, kind of, coming back to my own words.

My three measures that I talked to you several months ago, you know, unequal fights, maintain pressure against the enemy, and effectively use the resources, I think we're making great progress along all those lines, and I -- I'll highlight a couple of ideas.

So, we talk about an unequal fight.  You know, back in my office we said, you know, "What is an unequal fight?  Well, it's not person-on-person.  You know, it's systems against people."

And I'll tell you in the less than a hundred days we've been here, across our SFAB formation, across the country, we see the examples where the Afghans are taking the fight to the enemy.  They're using their own organic resources to fight against the enemy, their own attack aviation, their own air force, their own artillery and utilizing their own ground maneuver to put the enemy in a bad spot.

You know, one of the things that we've -- we've said in my own area of operations is the enemy can't hold terrain.  They may attack a location, they may temporarily seize it, raid it, in fact.  But they never stay, because they know if they stay, then they're asking for a fight they can't handle.

And as far as pressure goes, I'll, kind of, go back to my first comment, yes, the enemy is applying -- I'm sorry, the ANA and the ANP are applying pressure to the enemy.

They're present.  They're present where the people live, they're maintaining their ground and they're -- and they're keeping the enemy on their toes.

As far as effective use of resources, you know, that's a -- we were just talking about that with some folks today.  And, you know, the Army's been doing this -- as of tomorrow, for 243 years -- the U.S. Army.  And so, we've learned a lot in those 243 years.  The Afghan army is much newer than that, so they're learning every single day.

And so the things that we're teaching them now honestly are things that U.S. Army has learned in the last couple decades:  effective use of resources, effective implementation of systems, computerized tracking tools, whether they be core IMS or their new personnel system.  All goes to the more efficient use of their personal capital and their material capital within the army, and they're making great strides at doing that.

Q:  The second part is, your successor, as you know, is getting teed up, getting ready to start preparing to come in and replace you.  What recommendations are you going to make for any changes either in the training or the size or the makeup of the brigade when it goes in?

And does this reflect any potential changes on the new fight, which is now apparently focused against ISIS?

COL. JACKSON:  So first, Lita, I think the -- a foregone -- you know, what you consider a foregone conclusion of, you know, my predecessor is still TBD.  So I'll -- I'll defer that to -- to Forces Command and -- and back in the Department of the Army.

But -- but what I could share with you, though, is that, you know, the -- we view, in 1st SFAB, one of our primary missions is to set the conditions for whoever follows behind us.

So we have a very robust and systematic means of capturing lessons learned, transmitting that back to the United States and back to Forces Command and -- and the other appropriate agencies to -- to assess, you know, what are the right adjustments for Afghanistan and what may be the right adjustments for more of a worldwide deployment.

So we are capturing a lot of lessons.  I think, to summarize what we've learned so far is that I think the Army got it right with 1st SFAB.  The organization of our -- our small unit teams and our battalions and our brigade is a good fit, and I think it's a very flexible fit.

I think our -- you know, the -- the operations that we talk through -- as a matter of fact, the last time you and I spoke, when you were here in Afghanistan, we talked about some of the changes in -- in how we've moved around the battlefield.

Just -- it just goes to the -- the adaptability and the flexibility of our formations, when you can take a -- a battalion that's in one area with one mission, and then, because the priorities on the ground change, move it to another area with a different kind of mission, and it -- it fires on all cylinders.

So I am very confident that we -- that we are at the 90-plus percent solution, to use an anecdotal number.  But, again, all that's being (inaudible,) it's being assessed, and we'll -- and we'll see how it goes.

Now, I would -- I would comment on your last assertion there that -- you know, as it changed the ever nation -- the evolution of ISIS -- that is not a conclusion.  That is not something I can speak to, so I would not want to, you know, permanently affix it to an SFAB mission at this point.

STAFF:  Voice of America.

COL. JACKSON:  OK.

Q:  Colonel, Carla Babb with Voice of America.  I just wanted to follow up, up because you said you were learning on -- learning the right adjustments.  So I was wondering if you could give an example of an adjustment that was made while on the ground.  And then, also, I have a follow, but I'll let you answer that -- that first.

COL. JACKSON:  OK.  Well, ma'am, I'll tell you, the biggest adjustment kind of goes to the overall, you know, modus operandi, if you will, of the SFAB. Now (– inaudible --), if you followed our train-up back home, and particularly at JRTC, you know, we kind of viewed the potential mission set across a spectrum of advising.

You know, on one side is -- on -- on the one side of the spectrum, you could have a very distant advising -- you know, a -- a FOB-based, more advisory kind of thing.  But then, on the other, faraway or right-hand side of the spectrum could be a much more integrated mission set that focuses on a company and an enabling.  In some ways you could say, "Hey, look, you know, we're going on joint patrols with them and going on the objective."

We -- (inaudible) -- to train to the -- (inaudible) -- standard.  And so, if you saw our JRTC rotation before we deployed at Fort Polk, it was very much on that far right end of the spectrum.  We train to the harder standard of being side-by-side with the Afghans and -- and moving out on operations with them.

And now, to go to your question about adjustments, what we found here in Afghanistan was that, you know, that's not necessarily -- that is not always necessary.  The 1st SFAB and all my teams -- we'd go where we have to go in order to achieve the effects with our partners.

Sometimes, that's on our FOB, dependent upon what we're trying to advise.  Sometimes it's at the unit headquarters.  Sometimes that may be at a forward secured location with our partner headquarters.  And, in very limited situations currently, you know, it could be with the partner force.

So what we've learned and the adjustment we've made is it's kind of a -- a mental shift of, you know, "Hey, we're not getting stuck on, you know, being outside the wire."  We go where we can best do our job, and that really equates to where the decision-makers are at.  So that's what drives how -- what our -- our scheme of maneuver is on the ground.

So it's a very flexible organization, mentally as well as physically and -- and capabilities-wise, and so that gives us the degree to -- to move across the battlefield, if you will, and change our advisory concepts.

Q:  Thank you, Colonel.

And then my follow is, because you mentioned that you're preparing the situation for the people to follow you, you wouldn't quite get into whether or not the goal was going to be shifting to fight more towards ISIS.

So what is the goal for the SFABs?  Essentially, as you do this turnover for this fighting season, what do you have to accomplish?

COL. JACKSON:  Yeah.  So, simply put, the goal is to make our partners better in every measurable way.  And so every unit is different, so the -- so the metrics, if you will, for every organization we partner with is going to be different, and the objectives are going to be different.

But our guys have a -- have a very simple view on their mission:  it's doing assessment as an organization, their partnered organization, establish a solid relationship with that organization, represent the United States well, and then make your partner better and make them self-sustainable.

We're not in to creating more artificial dependencies, OK?  We're into making them more self-sufficient, so that is our objective.  And, as we roll through this fighting season, you know, to echo the -- our commander over here in Afghanistan, our -- our goal is to set conditions for reconciliation, from the fighting season perspective.

Q:  OK.  Then I guess making them better would make them have the ability to accomplish their own goals.  What are -- the people who you were working with -- what are their goals for this fighting season?

COL. JACKSON:  Well, obviously, you know, on a tactical level, you know, our partner forces are obviously focused, in the near term, on the elections in October.

So they want to establish local security for the population, make sure they feel secure, make sure that they feel that they can vote, from a security perspective.  And that is their -- you know, their -- I'll say their midterm tactical objective that they're focused on right now for this fighting season.

STAFF:  OK.  Sir?

Q:  Tom Squitieri with Talk Media News, good morning.  I wanted to expand on Carla's first question.

Sir, in your opening remarks you mentioned about how the SFABs are brand new, they're stood up, you got to get -- you picked the equipment, et cetera, et cetera.

What -- what adjustments -- what changes have you made from that initial moment -- let's say, "We want this piece of equipment, this type of soldier, this type of participant" -- to now?

In other words, as they stand up the next SFABs, what is -- what changes and adjustments and improvements have you been able to make now that the 1st SFAB is out and running?

COL. JACKSON:  Besides the conceptual change we talked about as far as, you know, the flexibility to advise across the spectrum, you know, we have identified that our initial thoughts about distributed communications is essential.

So we've gone back to the Army and reinforced the need to -- that, as an -- as an organization, the SFAB needs to have the ability to execute mission command across a very large, distributed footprint.

I've also addressed the fact that, you know, as a -- as a brigade, we're not -- as employed in Afghanistan, we're not employed and we don't operate as a brigade.  We operate as a -- as a collection of teams supporting each one of the NATO regional commands.

And so that changes the way in which we do business.  That changes some of the systems that operate inside our mission command centers in order to facilitate that -- you know, that disaggregated mission command approach -- are the two biggest ones I'd highlight.

Q:  When you -- when you thought about the soldiers who would participate in SFAB, they're all volunteers.  We've been told that.  You've reiterated that this morning.

When you thought about "This is the ideal soldier who we need to have in an SFAB," before the 1st SFAB was stood up, now -- what did you see then as the ideal soldier, and what do you see now as the ideal soldier?

COL. JACKSON:  Well, I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but I think I got it right before we left.

(Laughter.)

(Inaudible) -- 1st SFAB, we were looking for soldiers that were technically competent, tactically competent, had the right personality set.  And it was really based around two things, with patience and empathy, you know, as -- as kind of the core model.

We were looking for soldiers that were physically fit, capable of some hardship and -- and longer mission sets.  And I think our -- our -- you know our operations in Afghanistan right now have -- have borne out that assessment and those requirements.

What you see are guys like Specialist Promotable Wallen, you know.  I'll highlight him.  So he's in our 2nd Battalion.  He's a medic, so he's a junior enlisted medic that we brought into the organization.  He's now -- as of yesterday, he was promoted to Sergeant.

On his own initiative, he identified a need for additional medical training within his -- his kandak that he was advising.  He developed his own POI, he resourced it appropriately, developed his own training plan, brought in the Afghans to train them, and has now, you know, promulgated his knowledge across his kandak.  That's the kind of self-starting, you know, junior-level leaders that we wanted in this organization, and that's the ones we recruited.

I talked about Jordan Smiley, I talked about Staff Sergeant Cook.  You know, that's the kind of kids we recruited and that's the kind of kids that our missions have shown that we need.  And I think we got that right.  So, again, I'm not bragging, but I think we did get it right.

STAFF:  OK.

Q:  Hey, there sir. It's Corey Dickstein with Stars & Stripes.  Good to see you, appreciate you doing this.

I wanted to ask you -- last time you and I talked, you and some of your other soldiers had mentioned how it would probably take some time to reach out to, you know, some of the kandaks, some of the large organizations in Afghan -- in the ANA and the ANP.

Wanted to see what -- how -- how far into that process -- have you guys reached out to, you know, most everybody that you want to reach out to at this point?  And what are you finding?  What -- what shape are the Afghan fighting units in when you found them, I guess, would be my question?

COL. JACKSON:  OK.  Well, Corey, before I get to the answer to your question, I -- I will first wish you congratulations on your recent nuptials.  Matt and I were talking earlier today.  It was amazing.  It seems like you just got married, and you're already back at work, so I won't counsel you on that one yet, but, sometime, you deserve a honeymoon.

With respect to your questions, so where are we at?  So I'll start with this right off the top.  We are 100 percent obligated as far as the force structure.  I have no idle force structure in this brigade.  Every team that is designed to work at the kandak or brigade level is functioning at the kandak or brigade level.

Every -- you know, all of our battalions are engaged at the brigade level, per design.  And I would also offer, most of our battalions are actually partnered with multiple brigades.  In the -- in the brigade headquarters itself, we're partnered with our core headquarters, as designed, and we're also executing a lot of other supplementary mission command duties.

So I would say, you know, to go to your question about where are we at on this thing, 100 percent fully engaged across the formation.  And, I'm sorry, I got distracted by your nuptials thought, so what was the second half of your question?

Q:  Well, thank you, sir.  I really appreciate it.  I -- I guess I just wanted to see -- when you guys first got there, what did you find?  Were these -- were the kandaks in good fighting shape?  Or did they need a lot of work?  Or is it still a big work in progress?

COL. JACKSON:  Yeah, thank you Cory.  Thank you for clarifying that one.  So what did we find?  So, as we got out to kandak formations within the first, you know, few weeks of being here, we found that the junior leadership at the kandak level was hungry.  They were excited to have us back and they were ready to go.

What they lacked, and I kind of referred to this in a previous response, was -- what they lacked was some of the support of the higher, systemic, institutional development inside the house.  We found some challenges in logistics.  We found some challenges in maintenance and supply.

But the -- the good news is that those are things that the SFAB are really optimized to fix, because, as you and I discussed previously, you know, the -- the beauty of the SFAB is the depth that the -- that the SFAB advisory network brings.

And so, while we've got guys like Jordan Smiley and Dave Zac and those kind of guys working at the kandak level, identifying these problems, then you have officers above and you have teams above them, working at the brigade level, that are -- that support that kandak, that can then take that problem and work it with their counterparts.  And, when the solution exists above them, we have advisers up there that can help fix it.

So I'll just give you a brief example.  One of our CAT team leaders, a guy named Oleg Greene, flew out to one of our kandaks, and I'll -- I won't tell you where, for the sake of operational security.

But he recently flew out, spent about 10 hours on the ground with his kandak commander and his kandak at their own little kandak FOB.  They did their own little assessment of the environment, started working with the kandak commander, figuring out what his requirements were.

And he identified that, although he had two functioning mortar tubes, he had no mortar ammo.  He had -- he had shot the last of it and it had not been replaced.  He also found that he had six Humvees that were -- were non-mission-capable at the time and needed repair.  Now, repair parts were supposedly available, but they had not been pushed up to him.

And then -- so, when he came back, he reported that up through the advisory network, and the brigade team got involved, and the brigade reached across the Afghan brigades and said, "Hey, here's the problems:  You need mortar ammo.  You need trucks fixed."

And they reached up to the corps, where the resources exist, and my corps advising team then got involved and started pushing that stuff down.  Within 24 hours, the corps -- not us, but the corps -- had pushed out mortar ammunition to that kandak.  And, within 48 hours, we had six Humvees repaired and back in the fight, all because of the power of the advisory network.

So again, the leadership that -- the lowest level knew what they needed to do.  They had a plan.  They're ready to fight.  And I'll tell you, that same kandak has got plans for the future.  And now, with the assistance of the advisory network, they're properly supported from above.

STAFF:  So -- go ahead.

Q:  Hi, Colonel, thank you for doing this.  Ryan Browne with CNN.  Two questions, one on kind of the role or the security of the advisers -- have the advisers at the kandak level or the brigade level from the SFABs -- have any of them come under direct fire or engaged in any firefights, kind of in self-defense, as part of their advisory duties?

And, also part of that, there was a lot of reports that vetting some of the partner forces had kind of held up the deployment of some of the SFAB advisers -- fears of green-on-blue.

And that -- so you've been there -- you said you've been there 100 days.  I guess, how long did that process delay advisers actually reaching their units?  I know you said you're 100 percent obligated now, but was there a bit of a delay?

COL. JACKSON:  OK.  So, Ryan, thank you for that.  The -- your first -- your first question, regarding direct fire -- so, thankfully, no.  No advisers have come under direct fire in any way, shape or form.

With regard to C.I. vetting, I know there was some recent attention to that.  The short answer is that C.I. vetting is never an obstacle to advising, OK?  Upon our arrival, conditions were set for advising, you know.

And I think, if you'll bear with me, militarily, it makes sense to kind of start at the top and work your way down -- establish those relations at the top, establish ground rules, develop an overall assessment of an organization, and we start working down.  And so, when we arrived, those conditions were set.  We were able to start moving.

And, as we worked our way down the, you know, the echelon inside that Afghan formation, and we expanded out the C.I. vetting piece, there was no, really, effective delay.

I'll tell you, as the commander of the SFAB, I would not have wanted to put advisers in a kandak on day one, OK, because I don't think the conditions would have been set from the larger adviser network.

So, again, short answer is there was no delay in my mind.  It was a natural progression.  And, as -- as I'm sure you could guess, C.I. vetting, first off, is a thing that's going to be continually - it's going to go on continually.

People are going to rotate in and out of formations.  People are going to get, you know, brought into formations as a replacement.  They're going to be vetted.  So we're going to continually be doing this.

But we have procedures and we have policies to mitigate that turbulence.  So it is not a problem, and nor is it an obstacle to -- to -- to operations.

And with respect to green on blue, you know, as with any threat in the environment, whether it be direct fire threat, indirect fire, VBIED, suicide, whatever the case might be, it is a threat of the environment, and as the commander of this organization, I take all threats seriously, and I assess all threats.

And right now, you know, yes, green on blue could be a threat, but we have not had -- not -- we have not had a single incident.  And I will tell you honestly, we have had our Afghan partners come to us with intelligence that preempted potential attacks, and they have been proactively taking care of their own problems.

Q:  All right, thank you.

And -- and just to follow up on that, so I know you said you didn't want to start at the kandak level right away.  I guess, how many days -- how long have you been advising at the kandak level?  And roughly, if you could answer this:  How many kandaks have received SFAB advisory support?

And how do you determine locations?  I mean, there was (sic) reports that Farah -- after the Farah city was almost overrun, that SFAB was quickly deployed there in response, but there hadn't been none (sic) there before.  We also were told recently that SFAB team was sent to the capital in Kabul because of all these VBIED attacks, suicide attacks, not necessarily something that was part of the original concept.

So how is that determined, and -- and I guess, how many kandak -- how long have you been advised at the kandak level, and how many kandaks?

Sorry, I know that's a multi-parter.

(Laughter.)

COL. JACKSON:  No worries.  I got it.  Another three-part question.  I understand.

So long has it taken us to get to kandak level.  We were there within a matter of, you know, a -- a small number of weeks.  And to be honest with you, I had areas where I had kandak advisers working within the first two weeks of deployment.

Again, I go back to my initial -- initial comment:  This was not an obstacle.  This was part of the deliberate plan to, you know, establish our -- our adviser network.

With respect to locations, you know, so where do we put advisers?  Well, the simple answer there is it's driven by military priorities.  Military priorities are established by the commander of Resolute Support in conjunction with the DCOS Ops, Major General Poppas.  And so, they identify where, you know, the -- the -- the advisory efforts need to go to support Afghan operations, OK?  So where the Afghans go, we go, and where their priority of effort is, is where our priority of effort is.

You referenced the relocation to Kabul.  That was based upon a reassessment of priorities, based upon the environment.  And I -- and I'm very proud of how our organization reacted.  They -- you know, within a matter of hours, we had things in motion to begin the planning process, to get forces up into Kabul, and within a matter of days we had forces in Kabul, and we were operating shortly thereafter.

So again, very proud of what they did.  I think it shows the -- the testimony of -- of the kind of people we've put into this organization, and the ability to support the commanders' priorities and objectives.

Q:  And just how many kandaks, roughly?

COL. JACKSON:  Oh, yeah, so if you're looking on the facts sheet, it says right on the -- we're in the top third.  So right now, we're at, I think the last count was 26 kandaks have crossed the -- crossed our SFAB formation.

STAFF:  And we're close to the end of the time.  We've got time for one more.

NBC, go ahead.

Q:  Hey, this is Courtney Kube of NBC.  I have a nine-part question.  I'm just kidding.

(Laughter.)

I have one quick follow-on for -- for Ryan.

You -- I'm just curious.  You said that -- when you were talking about green on blue, you mentioned that your Afghan partners had come to you with intelligence.  Does that mean that -- that people that you're training have come to you saying that they're concerned about some sort of infiltration or potential attack by Afghan military that you're training?

COL. JACKSON:  So, Courtney, I’ve ---I'll -- I'll give you this as an answer.

Every one of our commanders -- the guy I work with, every one of the Afghan commanders that my battalion commanders work with -- on day one, they as a -- as a -- uniformly said the most important thing to them is the safety of their advisers.

They understand, culturally and, honestly, militarily, the value of our safety.  As you -- I mean, a factor of Pashtunwali is hospitality, right?  So it's -- it's ingrained in their hospitality -- in their culture of protecting their guests.  And we are viewed as guests in their organization.

So I do feel very comfortable with that.  So they have a vested interest in taking care of us, again, culturally and militarily.  And so, yes, the Afghans have come to us and said, "We have a concern about this guy," but, at the same time they say they have a concern about the guy, they've already taken care of the problem.

And so they have dealt with it.  They have means to -- if -- you know, their own intelligence means to take care of these kinds of -- of insurgent threats -- (inaudible) -- they've been very good at it, very good.

Q:  I -- I know that it's very early in the process of the -- the cease-fire.  And -- but I just have to ask, in the 24 or 48 hours, however long, since it's been in -- in effect, have you -- have you seen any changes at all that you can speak to in the area?  Anything sort of tangible, security-wise, or anything?

This -- and I know it just started, but.

COL. JACKSON:  Yeah, well, Courtney, I think it's important that I defer an overall assessment of the cease-fire to the commander of RS and, more importantly, the government of Afghanistan.

But what I can tell you is, you know, inside the SFAB, you know, just as with the rest of us -- is we're fully behind the government of Afghanistan in executing this -- this cease-fire.

Our formations continue to do their primary mission, which is train, advise, assist.  And that's exactly what we're doing.  The cease-fire is a military operation, by definition.  There are military aspects that have to be thought through and planned and then executed, and that's what we're doing now.

So we're still, you know, joined at the hip, if you will, with our Afghan partners as they work through this complicated process of the cease-fire.  But, again, to -- to answer your question directly, I'd have to defer an overall assessment back to Commander R.S.

STAFF:  OK.

Q:  Thank you.

STAFF:  All right.  Well, sir, that wraps up the time.  Do you have anything you want to add for the group that's here?

COL. JACKSON:  Well, first of all, I want to say, again, thank you.  It's a great opportunity.  I mean, as a commander, any time you get a chance to talk about your organization, it's a great day.  And -- and I appreciate it, despite the nine-part question from Courtney.

But I would like to -- I'll wrap up briefly and just say, hey, look, I'm -- I'm really excited about this opportunity to be involved in what's going on over here in Afghanistan, and I say "I" as part of the 1st SFAB.

All of us are volunteers in this organization.  We wanted to do this.  We believe in this mission.  And -- and we, as a collective organization, are very proud of what we're doing, and I, as an individual, are very proud of them.

So thank you again for your time today.

STAFF:  Colonel Jackson, thank you very much, and that concludes today's press briefing.  Thank you.

 

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