For the Canadian Forces, the 3D concept has been evolutionary, not revolutionary. In Cyprus, little thought was given to Canadian objectives other than what the company, platoon or battalion was expected to do. Though we understood and collaborated to a certain degree with other agencies, in actuality it was the military operating by itself.

In that permissive environment,we were not forced to operate together. That began to change in the early 1990s in Bosnia. Unlike Cyprus,we were engaged as participants in a civil war where the United Nations was trying to interpose itself. The environment was less permissive, resulting in greater cooperation, but there was still distance between government partners, non-government organizations (NGOs) and international organizations (IOs).

The military focused on security operations. The UN aid agencies and the Red Cross operated under their own auspices. We talked a lot but resisted operating as a holistic team. There wasn’t much of a compelling argument for us to work closely together, so we operated along parallel lines. I believe it did work, but the environment allowed us to do that.

In Afghanistan, we are faced with a non-permissive environment and an insurgency that is intent on destroying the newly formed government. We must also contend with non-traditional targets – those same NGOs and IOs that in the past exercised significant freedom of activity and operations.While those organizations may have faced extreme difficulties in the Balkans and Africa, it is nothing like what they are experiencing today in Afghanistan.

Traditionally, NGOs and IOs were not targets.When the Serbs took captive doctors with Medicin Sans Frontiers and UN soldiers, there was an unwritten rule that nothing would happen to them. Soldiers were fair game, but doctors and other UN officials were left alone – they might have been harassed, but they were never targeted to be killed. In today’s environment, they are more of a target than us.

Things are more dangerous and I don’t see it changing in the foreseeable future. However, this sinister environment is bringing the international community and our team much closer together. It is forcing the Afghan government to work more closely with us. We are finding that there are new opportunities. By coming together – the UN, coalition forces, NGOs, USAID, CIDA, Foreign Affairs, RCMP – we have found that we bring different strengths and capabilities to the table. We have found new partnerships, new relationships that are growing stronger each day.

In some respects, this should come as no surprise.We have been doing this for many years. For the last two and a half years, I worked with US Northern Command. We had something called the Joint Interagency Group, which was really nothing more than what I’m operating over here. The State Department, FBI, CIA, USAID and other federal, state and local officials worked together for a common goal – defence and security of the average American. That same team as what we see in Afghanistan. What we do at home is directly applicable to what we do overseas.

Our provincial reconstruction team (PRT) includes Foreign Affairs, CIDA and the RCMP, and we need Correctional Services Canada. We need everything that we take for granted back home because those skill sets – federal and municipal – are the very things that are required here to make the mission successful. Every day, I work with the governors of five different provinces. For Assadullah Khalid, the governor of Kandahar, we provide Foreign Affairs experts; I provide him with security assistance; and he is further reinforced by the RCMP. We have created for him a council where the intelligence services, the police force, the army and the international community come together to share intelligence and figure out plans and procedures to combat the insurgency.

We also have a provincial development committee, led by CIDA and Foreign Affairs, which offers expertise on a provincial development plan. My role more resembles a joint interagency collective than a military operation. There are as many suits and ties as uniforms, and we spend more time talking about non-kinetic objectives than we do about kinetic ones.

Our focus is far more sophisticated than ever before. Our soldiers are taking the Afghan government into areas where it never previously existed or had been too weak to exercise authority. And although those soldiers are armed, I want them to sit down and talk to the people, to have a ‘shura’, a consultation with the village elders, and find out what their priorities are. Soldiers must be ready to pull the trigger but, more importantly, they must be able to sit down, pull out the pencil and engage, and act on those projects the village elders want us to do. Our people must be able do project management. We need more CIDA and Foreign Affairs officers who can accompany the soldiers on these expeditions, and we need money available to quickly activate projects.

This is the new age of peacekeeping – diplomacy and development within a security framework. We’ve seen a paradigm shift. Soldiers must deal with tactical issues, and they now must be cognizant of operational and strategic issues. In part, space has driven us into this new paradigm. Our area of operations is 220,000 square kilometres. That is a challenging battle space to manage. You can no longer lead by example, at the front of your troops. Every soldier in that battle space has to understand your intent, and everyone else operating in the team has to understand the intent.

We have to be adaptable. The enemy has a vote here. The enemy is using every tool in his arsenal – political, economic, social.We have to constantly adjust and review our operation. Every time we change tactics or procedures, he will adjust to try to beat us. Flexibility and the application of every resource in the battle space to overwhelm the enemy is key to success.

I underestimated the complexity of the environment. This is the most complex battle space I have ever encountered. There is not a staff college exercise we can give students today that is complex enough. Throw everything at them that is completely absurd, that makes no sense from a command and control point of view. That’s the reality. But in the end, it is men and women in small rural places trying to figure out how to deliver an effect that will help someone who is less fortunate than them.

Last August, I developed a campaign plan with three lines of operation: governance and justice, security and stability, and development. This is more than a military plan; it includes NGOs, IOs, Foreign Affairs, CIDA, the RCMP, and also the eight other nations that are a part of this mission.

The plan is about effects, not tasks. Under each line of operation, we have developed a series of effects that we want to achieve. Each is then broken into sub-effects and given to each of the task force commanders and provincial reconstruction teams – it is up to them to figure out how to achieve those effects based on the needs and requirements of their specific region. In an area this large, the cookie cutter model does not apply. Every province, every governor is different. You have to listen and adjust.

How do we assess how well we are doing? We measure political, military, economic, social, information and infrastructure factors as they relate to the Afghan population. We have a very complex model under which we gather information on those factors to assess how effective we are. We have people working with the Afghan National Army (ANA) to assess how effective they are. I am paired with the commander. I am his mentor; I meet with him every day.We do the same with the police, with the electrical infrastructure and civil administration.

We have people who measure each of these factors. Are we achieving success or are we falling back? What do we have to adjust to achieve success? We also have people to deal with other factors such as the tribal system, industry, telecommunications, a hostile press, health clinics, freedom of movement, freedom of action – these are other factors that we take into consideration in our monthly assessment of how well we’re doing with our campaign. I have a cell dedicated to nothing more than gathering data from the PRTs, the battle group, the public affairs people and making analyses. This is the ‘effects’ cell within the brigade that makes a holistic assessment each month of how well we are doing, to draw us back to the campaign plan that is linked back to our national objective. This truly is an effects-based operation.

What have we learned? We need to build a new team of teams. It’s no longer just the military; it’s the Canadian government working together. I do not lead this operation – I facilitate it and co-lead with Foreign Affairs and CIDA. Depending on the part of model, Foreign Affairs, CIDA or the RCMP will take the lead.

This has been an evolutionary process that we have been working on for many years. Canadians are well suited to do this and we are having a positive effect. The governor is more confident, the police are more capable, the ANA is more capable.

When you put 2,300 Canadians in a hornets’ nest like Kandahar, the hornets will come out. But the difference between now and two years ago is that a lot of this activity is generated because Afghans are doing the work.

Brigadier-General David Fraser is Task Force Commander of the Multinational Brigade (Regional Command South) in Afghanistan. This article was adapted from a presentation to a conference in June hosted by Queen’s Centre for International Relations and Defence Management Studies, The US Army War College and Canadian Forces Land Force Doctrine and Training Systems.