Supporting Canada's Training Mission in Afghanistan: A Partnership Renewed

Representatives from the Centre for Intercultural Learning and Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces.

On June 22nd, 2011, the Centre for Intercultural Learning (CIL) and the Department of National Defence (DND) renewed their partnership agreement related to intercultural effectiveness. The focus of this partnership will to help Canadian Forces (CF) members develop intercultural competencies necessary to be effective in their roles as advisors, instructors and mentors to the Afghan National Army (ANA). CIL will also continue to provide cultural awareness training to CF personnel deploying on all international missions. This three-year agreement demonstrates DND's commitment to providing its members with the right skills and knowledge to work in a complex intercultural environment. It also recognizes intercultural effectiveness as an important contributor to the success of their overall mission in Afghanistan.

Background

In November 2010, Canada announced a new role for its continued engagement in Afghanistan to 2014. Canada's training mission in Afghanistan supports the Afghan government's and the international community's goal of transferring the responsibility for Afghan security to Afghans by 2014. Canada will deploy up to 950 CF trainers and support personnel to Afghanistan to take part in Operation ATTENTION, the Canadian component of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM- A). The Canadian training effort will be concentrated in Kabul with two satellite sites in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif.

Challenges of Mentoring in Afghanistan

"I was sent to these Arabs as a stranger, unable to think their thoughts or subscribe their beliefs, but charged by duty to lead them forward …"
T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), Seven Pillars of Wisdom

CF members understand their mission: build the capacity of the Afghan National Army (ANA). The challenges lie in the daily interactions with their Afghan counterparts. Working effectively across cultures requires a specialized skillset that is not always intuitive. "It starts with the relationship," says Fodé Beaudet, CIL Learning Advisor, "Recognizing our personal filters, the experiences that shape who we are as individuals, as a culture and sub-culture, and having empathy for what our counterparts have gone through." According to Beaudet, it is critical to design courses that help advisors deepen their understanding of their counterparts' reality in order to build positive mentee/mentor relationships. For example, Beaudet cites the fact that advisors are deployed "inside the wire", which makes their work relatively safe. However, ANA trainees may perceive this a weakness since there is little of the shared risk salient to the military context. CIL's current training relies on relevant case studies and critical incident decoding. Afghan country resource persons add more depth and in-country knowledge to the facilitated training. As CIL and DND move forward, the training design will integrate Dari-language practice, role-playing, multimedia, and video testimonials from experienced CF advisors.

Contact the Centre for Intercultural Learning to learn more: cultures@international.gc.ca