Afghan Ministry of Defense
The MoD oversees the ANA which includes the AAF and the MoDís pillars within the ASSF: the ANA Special Operations Command (ANASOC), Special Mission Wing (SMW), and Ktah Khas. President Ghani nominated Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai as Minister of Defense in May 2015. Despite multiple failed votes in the Wolesi Jirga, Minister Stanekzai remained in an acting capacity but with full authority through Presidential decree. Afghanistanís Parliament includes the Wolesi Jirga (lower house) and Meshrano Jirga (upper house). Although several major MoD decisions were delayed early in Minister Stanekzaiís tenure due to initial uncertainty regarding his status, during this reporting period he provided leadership on transparency and accountability initiatives and continued MoDís progress on institutional capacity building.
Because of the consensus required between President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah for all senior government appointments, naming leaders to unfilled senior positions was a slow process. However, by teh end of 2015, 61 senior MoD officials were nominated and confirmed, a positive step towards addressing this issue.
The overall MoD authorized end strength includes positions for MoD headquarters, various command staffs, the ANA, the AAF, and elements of the ASSF. These numbers also include an additional 8,004 authorized civilian positions which were chosen to augment the military force for certain duties, freeing up soldiers to perform inherently military functions and build institutional knowledge and experience.
The Ministry of Defense continues to develop basic service provision and oversight functions, but considerable gaps remain in the MoDís ability to develop requirements for the force, procure goods and services, and plan and execute a budget within resource constraints. A reluctance to embrace technology, reliance on inefficient processes and paper systems, and centralized decision-making authority hinder effective MoD bureaucratic processes. Developing sustainable planning, programming, budgeting, and execution processes is a long-term effort and will require a cultural shift at all levels of the MoD.
Nonetheless, the MoD accomplished some significant new milestones this reporting period, especially on the Solar Year (SY) 1395 budget build process. This year marked the first time that the Afghan government, the coalition, and the international donor community participated in an integrated program and budget development process resulting in an Afghan and coalition agreed-upon program for SY 1395-1397. Throughout the process, MoD finance personnel applied CSTC-A and Afghan government funding constraints, forcing them to make tough, informed tradeoffs Ė a critical step to increasing donor confidence and a marked improvement in budget development compared to SY 1394.
Beyond the progress made in improving their programing and budget development process, the MoD also furthered its procurement processes in 2015. Following a major fuel contract scandal in January 2015, President Ghani dissolved the government-wide procurement system and instituted a Presidentially chaired National Procurement Commission to oversee all government contracts above the Afghani equivalent of $300,000.
President Ghaniís increased oversight initially slowed the procurement process almost to a complete halt. The Commission has since found a better balance, leading to increased MoD procurement and contracting actions while maintaining its efforts to fight corruption. During this reporting period, the MoD effectively prioritized ďat-risk" and expiring contracts, but overall MoD budget execution remains a work in progress Ė nearly half of the 465 contracts expected for the current solar year are still in the development and award phases. Coalition advisors also assisted the MoD and their MoI counterparts as they developed a Draft Prioritized Procurement Plan (DPPP). This included advising efforts at the ANA corps level to draft requirements for the most frequently pilfered items such as fuel and ammunition. As government-wide procurement reform efforts and the DPPP process matures, the MoD will increase flexibility and cost-savings.
The MoDís planning capability is progressing, but there is room for further improvement. At both the strategic and operational level, MoD planning processes require increased institutional capacity. Senior leaders often become personally engaged in operations at the corps level to synchronize cross-pillar and multi-corps operations more effectively, such as the Vice Chief of the General Staff overseeing the counter-offensive in Kunduz in October 2015. While this level of engagement is beneficial in the near-term, it highlights a gap associated with unity of command and the need for more effective leadership at the brigade and corps levels over the long-term.