Australians helping shape Afghanistan’s future

This article has photo gallery Published on CAPT Megan McDermott (author), SGT Ricky Fuller (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation HIGHROAD

Royal Australian Navy officer Lieutenant Commander Warren Bowring from Task Group Afghanistan at Headquarters Resolute Support in Kabul, Afghanistan. (photo: SGT Ricky Fuller)
Royal Australian Navy officer Lieutenant Commander Warren Bowring from Task Group Afghanistan at Headquarters Resolute Support in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Thirty-nine Australian Defence Force embeds are based at the Resolute Support Mission headquarters in Kabul, providing strategic guidance at both the institutional and ministerial levels on policy, governance and procedures as part of the NATO team in Afghanistan.

Their efforts are part of the broader engagement of the international community to ensure Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for terrorism.

One of the team is Royal Australian Navy Lieutenant Commander Warren Bowring, embedded as the Senior Project and Finance Officer for the NATO-run Afghan National Army Trust Fund.

The fund is one of three streams used by the international community to channel financial support to Afghanistan’s security forces and institutions.

As of June 2017, the fund which was established in 2007, had committed over $US1.9 billion from 33 donor nations.

With Australia being the second-largest donor, contributing more than $360 million since 2010, it is safe to say the Australian Defence Force has a vested interest in where the money is spent.

Working alongside nine coalition project officers, Lieutenant Commander Bowring and his team are responsible for identifying projects that fit the fund’s charter and donor nation caveats.

He said all projects were focused on building a resilient and capable Afghanistan.

“All projects support capability building for Afghanistan, this may include new buildings for the Afghan National Army Officer Academy, gender facilities, road works or rifle ranges,” he said.

“Australia is currently supporting a number of projects including the Wounded Warrior Centre in Kandahar.”

A typical day for Lieutenant Commander Bowring involves reviewing and coordinating projects briefs ensuring they meet the criteria of the Trust Fund before handing over to the Chief International Engagement Officer, Australian Army officer Lieutenant Colonel Iain Watt.

“Once in receipt of the project briefs, Lieutenant Colonel Watt engages suitable donor nations to secure funding,” Lieutenant Commander Bowring said. 

Designed to be flexible, transparent, accountable and cost effective, the fund includes measures against corruption.  

“The Afghanistan Government doesn’t yet have the mature systems in place to receive monies directly from donor nations,” Lieutenant Commander Bowring said.

“The Trust Fund ensures full accountability as we manage funds down to the cent, eliminating risk of corruption,” he said.   

In addition to accountability, Lieutenant Colonel Watt said the fund allows the government to develop at a faster rate.

“It provides oversight to an international standard, allowing the development of Afghanistan’s security institutions at a rate that potentially couldn’t happen without it,” he said.

Over the past nine months the project officers have secured $US380 million to align with projects scoped for 2017.

The lead for security across Afghanistan was handed over from NATO to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces in 2014.  

For Australia, the transition marked the start of Operation HIGHROAD - Australia’s contribution to the NATO-led Resolute Support train, advise, assist mission.  

Under Resolute Support, Australia together with the international community have been assisting the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan develop its security forces to defeat the insurgency gripping the country.