Small Wars Journal

1st SFAB in Afghanistan – A Successful Deployment?

1st SFAB in Afghanistan – A Successful Deployment? By John Friberg - SOF News

The 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade or 1st SFAB has completed its Afghanistan tour. It was in Afghanistan for much of 2018 with the mission to train, advise, and assist (TAA) the Afghan National Defense and Security  Forces (ANDSF). The deployment began in March 2018. The brigade and its many advisor teams redeployed back to their home base at Fort Benning, Georgia during the month of November 2018. The SFAB is a specialized conventional unit built to train, advise, assist, accompany, and enable (TA3E) partner nation forces.


Thus far, the brigade’s deployment has been judged as a success. While there are a lot of news reports about the 1st SFAB there is a distinct lack of details in regards to disposition and employment of the SFAB in Afghanistan. There is very little open source information available (for someone on the outside looking in) to make a realistic assessment. Certainly, the Army has captured a lot of lessons learned over the past year; and in time these will surface and become available to those without access to NIPR and SIPR. There were some bumps along the way.


This article takes a close look at the establishment, pre-deployment training, and employment in Afghanistan of the 1st Security Force Assistance Battalion…

Read on.


I'm curious to know what criteria the Army is using to determine "success" or "failure" for this BDE (and all other SFABs).  A compressed training-to-deployment timeline doesn't like success.  "Fly-to-Advise" where advisors execute what we would call "drive-by" advising doesn't sound very successful either.  Redeploying the 1st SFAB before the 2d SFAB could get on-ground, leaving a gap of several months, definitely doesn't like success.

I'd think success might include something like: (1) advisor teams of 12 embedded with their kandaks all day, everyday (perhaps even breaking down into two teams of 6 per kandak if needed); (2) advisor teams & their BN staffs getting the full complement of pre-deployment advisor training, especially language & culture; (3) a proper left-seat/ right-seat hand-off between SFABs.  But that's just me.

From the beginning of a somewhat recent (May 2018?) Small War Journal article entitled: "A Brief History of the Military Advising Mission:"

"The military advisor is a brief footnote in military history. The advisor represents the tip of the spear for a state’s foreign policy, often allowing entry for business and other economic interests. In a strict military sense, advisors train, offer advice and bring norms to developing militaries, often in small developing states. Don Stocker identifies six categories for advising missions. The first is a tool of modernization. The second is a tool of nation building. Third is taking the lead for further economic penetration. Fourthly is as an ideological tool. The fifth is for counterinsurgency use and training. Finally, is category of mercenaries and later, corporations who contract out for profit.

So:  Let us both understand -- and indeed evaluate -- the success of our military advisors of late; this, from the perspective outlined above, to wit: 

a.  As a tool of a state's (for example, the U.S./the West's state and societal "transformation" ) foreign policy.

b.  As a tool of modernization.   

c.  As a tool of nation-building.  (For example, more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines.)  

d.  As a tool for facilitating further economic penetration (by the U.S./the West). 

e.  As a tool for spreading one's (for example, in our case, modern Western) ideology. 

f.  As a tool for counterinsurgency use and training.  (This being necessary due to the native populations often being appalled by, and thus largely rejecting, one's "a" - "e" initiatives above?)  And

g.  As a tool for creating mercenaries and corporations who contract out for profit.  (Needed to help us with these such "a" - "f" projects above.)   

Thus, if one accepts, as the author of the above-referenced article does, that "the advisor represents the tip of the spear for a state's foreign policy,"

And if one accepts that the overall goal of U.S./Western foreign policy, for example, has been and is to (a) transform the outlying states and societies of the world more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines and to (b) incorporate same more into the sphere of U.S./Western power, influence and control (and to, accordingly, profit from this both politically and financially), 

Then should we not both understand the military advisor role -- and indeed evaluate same -- this, exactly from this such "facilitating a state's foreign policy" perspective? (With regard to the U.S./the West's such foreign policy today, see my paragraph immediately above)?

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above

In general then, and accordingly,

a.  Should we not see our need for and development of our an entire professional advising Army; this,

b.  From the perspective of just how large, and just how all-encompassing, our such -- worldwide -- "transform and incorporate" foreign policy mission actually is? 

(This, given that it does, indeed, seem to require its own, somewhat separate, "Army"?)