Small Wars Journal

What is Security Force Assistance & What is JCISFA

Most folks at the Small Wars Council know me, I've been around the Council for about a year and a half, and started inter-acting while deployed on a BN level Transition Team to Mosul. I am currently working at the Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance as an Army strategist (FA 59) at Fort Leavenworth where we have responsibilities that place us working to identify and integrate SFA knowledge and practices into the institution, and also to provide operational support to deployed units. We work with the greater JIIM community on SFA and related issues, but we are not necessarily where some have identified us as being e.g. we have a relationship with FT Riley, but they are FORSCOM driven, and we are a Joint Center -- like most organizations with "Center" in the title, there is plenty of responsibility not necessarily with commensurate authority. We are a Chairman's activity, and LTG Caldwell is "dual-hatted" as both the CAC CDR and the JCISFA Director. Originally JCISFA was established under then LTG Petraeus when he was the CAC CDR, along with the COIN Center that Cavguy works at. We are about a 25 person organization, with about five Marines, eight Army personnel, one Sailor, and eleven contractors.

JCISFA's current mission statement: Institutionalize lessons and best practices from security force assistance (SFA) operations to better prepare U.S. and partner nation forces to rebuild security infrastructure during stability, security, transition, and reconstruction operations. Serve as the DOD Center of Excellence and U.S. Armed Forces focal point to provide advice and assistance for international security force assistance mission.

Appropriately, much like the SFA effort it supports, JCISFA achieves much of its mission through influencing, and you influence by providing good analysis and suggestions, good products that help the operational and institutional JIIM community get its arms around things, and by being right more often then being wrong. Because of the scale of the advisory mission, there is a great deal of related activity, numbers of centers (Riley is not the only Advisory training center in the JIIM community), and as the advisory mission becomes more accepted as something which will not only endure in Iraq and Afghanistan, but may become a key tenet of a greater "Indirect" strategy which focuses on building partner capacity, there has been more senior leader interest into how SFA fits into the "Full Spectrum" construct. SWC member and blogger Dr. Jack recently mentioned the SFA symposium hosted here at Fort Leavenworth where fora week in Jan, senior uniformed and civilians associated with SFA came into discuss strategic and policy level questions -- there are still some due outs regarding the symposium that JCISFA is working on, but the important thing here is the issues were discussed if not by the decision makers themselves, then by those who directly influence how SFA will develop. I was not there -- as I'd mentioned we touch allot of things, and that week we also had to send folks to participate in the Army's TMAAG conference, and to the event I attended -- the JFCOM J9's Military Support to the Rule of Law workshop with the greater JIIM community up at Gettysburg, PA. I did review some of the video and presentations that were made at the SFA Symposium and SWC member Old Eagle was there, and I think they wrestled with the tough, high yield problems. I'd say in that regard, progress was made -- just in getting a common understanding of the problems associated with SFA.

What is SFA?

The definition of Security Force Assistance (SFA): Unified action by the joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational community to generate, employ, sustain and assist host nation or regional security forces in support of a legitimate authority. SFA is a broad framework that spans the spectrum of conflict focused on assisting foreign security forces in support of US and Coalition interests regardless of operating environment.

Within that definition the conduct of a SFA effort the functions of Generate, Organize, Train, Equip, Rebuild, and Assist could be seen a required lines of effort that might be seen from both sequential and simultaneous perspectives -- e.g. although you have to start somewhere, the effort itself might be so large that within the partner's greater security sector, various components (army, police, border, etc.) might be more or less mature then the others, its also worth considering that if conducting SFA under conditions where there is greater rather then less stability, and where there is already a mature insurgency, then the possibility exists that you might wind up with two steps forward and one step back, or worse, one step forward and two steps back for reasons that my be beyond your capability to effect.

Considering SFA from the Tactical to the Operational to the Strategic

A political objective of using military force to conduct SFA might be described as a way to build partner capacity to the point where it can gain and sustain capability and capacity in its security sector against internal and external threats for the purposes of allowing the government to establish and sustain Rule of Law (RoL). RoL as a concept provides the physical and perceptual underpinnings that citizenry can point to as ensuring their safety and protection, provide the basis for law and order and the perception of justice as administered by the state (this does not necessarily exclude competing forms of cultural justice -- each government must decide for itself how and if non-secular and secular ideas of justice can co-exist.)

Each partner we would like engage with in SFA is likely to have differing conceptual security challenges, but within their challenges will have both internal and external security threats. Even in the United States we have both internal and external threats which can both be further considered as domestic and foreign components. The connectivity between the internal and external threats has grown comparably as have the forms, functions and frequency of communications that have provided increased access between individual and groups who look for advantages and opportunities to undermine state security.

SFA then should be considered from a holistic view point if the threats are to be identified and defeated, because to focus solely on one aspect can create an advantage for the enemy; e.g. in a modern city with an airport that sits astride some line of communication, be it for commercial, government or religious travelers who pass through its gates for purposes in addition to, or outside of the business to be conducted within that city, the potential exists that illicit activity which undermines that city's authority, the authority of the larger province or state and potentially the region might be conducted. If the conditions support that activity, meaning there is not a strong "anti" or "counter" capability to deter it, then that city is likely to provide some incentives to conducting business there. If that city is a target, because conditions there offer a tactical, operational or strategic advantage to one or more individuals or groups (to include foreign states) e.g. the police or the intelligence there are weak, and the population offers some degree of support, or is not in active support of the government, then that city may become more then just a safe haven, or place to plan operations, conduct meetings and conduct training.

This is where we must scope out and consider not only the activities which go on inside the city or destination, but the connected activities which deter and make more difficult for individuals and groups to enter, conduct and support those activities which threaten the state. This is a significant challenge inside Iraq and Afghanistan where even within a single city there are multiple efforts and units tasked to conduct SFA, given the size of the effort and the multiple LOEs (Lines of Effort) such as the police, the army, the local governments, the correctional system, etc., building a common operation picture that ensures unity of effort is daunting, particularly when an active and adaptive enemy is looking for ways in which to retard, or delay the effort so that it can establish itself as the political authority and wear out U.S. public will over time -- its view is it does not necessarily have to win decisively right now, just prevent the Iraqi government from becoming strong enough to win. In Iraq and Afghanistan we are engaged with SFA tasks at the tactical, operational and strategic levels.

To understand the threat to a city, the best place to start may be looking at what makes a city a city. Such an investigation might include asking the questions of: why did people decide to establish a city here?; who lives here?; why do they stay? What does this city produce?; who else comes here besides the residents and why? From there, you can start to consider what opportunities present themselves to both the enemy(s) and to the security forces who must operate there. While not exactly the same in terms of form, or in terms of authority, our own model of layered security can provide a functional model of reverse engineering to consider how the threat goes about gaining entry to, and establishing operations with a given location. From there, you should be able to go back and look at the security sector gaps which have allowed the enemy to conduct operations. This is not limited to the physical barriers, agencies, units and personnel which form part of the security sector, but also the types of law governing and regulating all other types of intercourse. I am "not" advocating "mirror imaging" of our security sector -- what I am advocating is that SFA practitioners need to see the threat in the context of the greater security sector and that a holistic effort is required or the threat will retain freedom of movement within a system he understands better then you -- the parts of the security sector (police, military, paramilitary, border guards, coast guard, intelligence, EPS, etc.) must be seen as somewhat inter-dependent (based on the threat), and as such our efforts to help them build capacity need to recognize and support that. This can quickly raise SFA from the tactical to operational level.

This leads you from the tactical SFA to the Operational SFA to the Strategic SFA. One of the presentations I wrote an EXSUM for based of the slides and the video was LTG Dubik's, the MNSTC-I CDR. Without going into too great a detail, LTG Dubik has taken an Enterprise approach to his efforts. He has recognized that in order to eventually sustain itself independent of external assistance, the Iraqi security sector is going to have to have sufficient bureaucratic institutional depth to perpetuate itself, and to resist the whim of domestic policy. This is not only important when considering reliance on U.S. support, but in order to stand independently from having to enter into collective security arrangements because it was unable to sustain itself -- it provides the state with a security sector capable of supporting its own domestic and foreign policy objectives.

SWC member Cavguy, aka MAJ Niel Smith, had asked me to consider writing about what JCISFA is, what its role is, and the broader topic of SFA. This last bit is probably as important as the discussions on the many discussions as to how best we should organize to conduct SFA. If you don't have an idea of what you might be trying to do, or why you are doing it, then trying to describe how best to organize for it is probably short sighted. There are multiple ways to go after an objective, once you have identified what the objective is, and why you want to do it. There are some great JCISFA contributions already out there (the SFA Planner's Handbook -- already out to the JIIM community, the SFA CDR's HB -- soon to be released) and several other good pieces of work to help SFA practitioners be they advisors, BCTs, CDRs, uniformed or civilian leadership, etc. JCISFA as a center is working to improve our capability and capacity to conduct SFA.