Op ATTENTION: CAF partnership achieving results

Article / February 11, 2013

As CF members on Operation ATTENTION Roto 2 settle into life in Kabul, thousands of kilometres away on the other side of the world, the weather isn’t much different than in parts of Canada. But with light snow and -10°C temperatures, Colonel Roch Pelletier, Deputy Commander of the Canadian Contribution to the Training Mission in Afghanistan (CCTM-A), says with a chuckle, it doesn’t compare to a Canadian winter.

Op ATTENTION, Canada’s participation in the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A), provides training and professional development support to the Afghan National Army (ANA), the Afghan Air Force (AAF), and the Afghan National Police (ANP).

A Typical Day

More than 900 CF members currently serve on Op ATTENTION. Most work as training advisors assigned to the ANA, AAF and ANP. Some Canadians are integrated in the NTM-A headquarters, and others provide logistical and miscellaneous support to the mission. Col Pelletier says the training advisors start their days very early in the morning, usually after Afghan morning prayers, and end them at noon, respecting Afghan culture.  “It’s very important that we respect their culture and work at their pace,” he says.

The shorter mentoring workday allows Canadians to do their own administration and fitness training. As well, Canadians do not work with their Afghan counterparts on Fridays, a normal Afghan weekend. CF members receive cultural training on how Afghans live, think and behave, as part of their deployment training.

We also learn a bit of Dari,” says Col Pelletier, “which shows them we are making an effort to communicate with them in their own language.

This is important because CF advisors have very close contact with the Afghan soldiers and instructors every day.

We treat our Afghan counterparts as equals, and support them when they have questions and need our help,” he says. “It’s very impressive to see how the Canadians have built such a great relationship with Afghans. You see them joking and having discussions together. They [Afghans] have a lot of respect for Canadians; they really appreciate our approach and are always happy to see us and shake our hands, which helps create a very good learning environment.

CF Rotations

ANA instructors do rotate out of Kabul, though not at the normal rate of CF members, but this transition is worked into the Canadian training program.

The way we put our relief in place is very deliberate, and we really take into consideration the requirement for building relationships,” Col Pelletier says. “We pay very close attention to this, so before the outgoing mentors leave, they make sure a good relationship and understanding has been built with the incoming mentors. We managed to put relief in place and keep the same momentum, with the mentoring of the Afghans as our Roto 1 team and, after a couple of weeks, I saw my troops talking and joking with the Afghans, so everyone adapted very well to their new mission.


One of the biggest challenges for CCTM-A is the complex environment of Kabul. It takes time to figure out not only the surrounding areas, but also the complex security and political issues, all of which makes force protection very important.

We take any kind of threat very seriously,” Col Pelletier says, “and make sure that all our troops are prepared at all times.

Sustaining the good reputation of the well-respected CF in Afghanistan is another priority.

Over the years of operations in Afghanistan, Canadians have built a great reputation here, and we [Roto 2] have a very good start and it is very important for us to maintain that reputation,” he says. “We, like the other Rotos, will be able to push the Canadian flag even farther.

Work at Training Institutions

CF personnel are advising Afghan National Security Force leaders and trainers at more than a dozen training institutions in Kabul, and in Mazar-e-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan. Assistance from Canada and coalition partners has resulted in some development and movement closer to Afghans being on their own.

On the other hand, the AAF started to rebuild three or four years later than the ANA, so it is not as advanced.

CF members are located in the Air Force University,” says Col Pelletier, “helping to advise the staff and instructors on their curriculum and build programs to be adapted for the Afghans to produce airmen and airwomen with both flying and ground-support capabilities.

Canadians are also positioned at AAF Headquarters to help develop personnel management tools for their career plans to help build the Afghan Air Force.

The Air Force requires more technical skills,” Col Pelletier says, “so the mentors have more work cut out for them than [with] the Army ... we are more involved with the Air Force because they started a bit later to develop their capacity.

The ANA Signals School, also located in Kabul, is almost ready to move forward on its own.

We’re mentoring the instructors on the training courses for higher levels now, so it’s going well, and this school will pretty much be on its own starting next summer.

Coalition Partners

RCMP and police force personnel from most major cities in Canada, along with CF members, are mentoring the ANP, providing CF members with the opportunity to work with other Canadian protection agencies.

We work with them helping the ANP, and we also provide some support for their special equipment that they cannot get by their own means,” says Col Pelletier. “So, we work with the Canadian police hand-in-hand as much as possible.

The Americans give us great support,” Col Pelletier says. “We also work with British and Australian personnel. And because this Roto is 70 percent French-speaking, we work very well with the contingent from France ... this is a great team effort by all of our coalition partners to help Afghans build their own security capacity.

Col Pelletier believes Canadians should be very proud of what CF members are accomplishing in Afghanistan. “What we are doing right now is helping Afghans build their future. This is what will allow them to maintain their own security when we pull out in 2014.

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