War in Afghanistan has improved NATO forces, official says
ARLINGTON, Va. — The war in Afghanistan has had one positive effect for NATO, according to the alliance’s deputy chief of transformation, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James Soligan: It has given members “a sense of urgency” and fostered changes in equipment and interoperability that otherwise might have taken years to institute.
“I think there is a sense of urgency. I think there is a sense of commitment to provide the operational commanders [in Afghanistan] with the capabilities they need that help streamline both decision processes, funding and implementation,” he said.
That urgency “is good for NATO,” Soligan said. “It’s accelerating the deliveries of some [new] capabilities, based on operational needs.”
One example of an accelerated program is Friendly Force Tracker Afghanistan, a tactical command and control system that allows NATO forces to talk to each other, Soligan said.
“A capability that was not part of the dialogue two years ago” has now been funded by NATO and will be in theater by November or December, Soligan said.
The alliance is also funding counter-improvised explosive device improvements, as well as “hoping to guide national investments in those areas,” Soligan said, “again, driven by the operation requirement on a much shorter time line than the normal process that would likely have taken place if, in fact, Afghanistan was not happening.”
Another example is NATO’s discussions about unmanned aerial vehicle capabilities, he said.
“I believe, ultimately, the [UAV] implementation capability will be much quicker,” because it is being “forced by the operational requirements” of NATO’s Afghanistan mission, instead of being “just a theory or a discussion going through a normal process,” Soligan said.
Soligan was among the participants in the first annual NATO chiefs of transformation conference, which was held in Norfolk, Va., from Sept. 11-13 at the headquarters of the alliance’s Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, U.S. Air Force Gen. Lance Smith.
For troops who are in Iraq or Afghanistan today, NATO transformation meetings like the one that Soligan and other participants just attended are more than just a lot of people sitting around and showing each other PowerPoint slides, he said.
“For folks are deployed, [looking at all the coalition] capabilities that are brought into theater [that are not as] effective at working together as we would like, the real goal is to talk about how we can make those capabilities more effective in supporting their operations today, and establishing those standards they need to be effective for the future,” Soligan said.