Fingers on the financial pulse in Afghanistan

Published on LSIS Jayson Tufrey (author), LSIS Jayson Tufrey (photographer)

From left: Italian Army Lieutenant Colonel Walter Greco, US Defense Civilian Ary Maat, Royal Australian Navy Commanders Rod Griffiths and Michael Oborn, and US Army Lieutenant Colonel Ed Ravenstein, hold a meeting at the NATO Afghan National Army Trust Fund Office in Kabul. (photo: LSIS Jayson Tufrey)
From left: Italian Army Lieutenant Colonel Walter Greco, US Defense Civilian Ary Maat, Royal Australian Navy Commanders Rod Griffiths and Michael Oborn, and US Army Lieutenant Colonel Ed Ravenstein, hold a meeting at the NATO Afghan National Army Trust Fund Office in Kabul.

Two Royal Australian Navy commanders have their fingers on the pulse of finances which are being used to get Afghanistan back on its feet.

Working out of the NATO Afghan Army Trust Fund Office, Commanders Rod Griffiths and Michael Oborn oversee the distribution of funds from the 28 different nations who contribute to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund as part of ongoing capacity development.

International Engagements Officer, Commander Oborn, said that at the moment Australia was the second largest contributor to the trust fund.

“We’ve contributed in areas such as logistic sustainment and the provision of uniform and kit items,” he said.

“We have even provided counter improvised explosives device force protection devices under Project REDWING.

“When we’re deciding what projects are reasonable for countries to fund, it’s important to talk to a representative from that nation’s defence force and ask them what they think before I come up with a recommendation.”

Funds Manager, Commander Griffiths, said the Afghans submitted a list of their military requirements each year and this is the basis for starting the funding process.

“The requirements are discussed in an open forum between the Afghans and the Coalition and a final list is then compiled,” he said.

 “From that list we then find a country which is prepared to fund each particular project, noting each country’s individual caveats and financial restrictions – for example a certain country might want to only fund training. 

“For Australia, some of the big projects we like to fund are sustainment, training and the role of women in the Afghan military.”

When it comes to how Australian funds are used, Policy Advisor Mr Farooq Mohammad said he was the conduit between the office and the decision makers back in Australia.

“We try to align our funding towards projects that we see will best complement our mission,” he said.

“For example, upon withdrawal from Uruzgan Province, in the south of Afghanistan, we used part of our funding to build barracks that remained in Uruzgan.

“We support Project REDWING, an Australian-developed force protection electronic countermeasures device, jointly because our embeds working within the Resolute Support Mission identified the need, and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation and the Counter-IED Task Force back home developed the devices in Australia.

“So we know the capability and it means we can put some money back into Australian industry.

“Also, the devices remain a significant threat to the Afghan National Army, so at the end of the day we know we are saving lives.

“Therefore we deliberately try to target programs that will be critical to Afghan sustainment in the long term.”

About half a billion dollars per year is allocated for essential projects for the Afghan National Army, of which Australia’s contribution is around 80 million dollars per year.

More images available at the Navy Image Gallery http://images.navy.gov.au/S20150302