Kabul, June 2016. A wide variety of responsibilities, accordingly specialists from very different fields, people from different cultures and backgrounds – half of them Afghan citizens. This – among others – constitutes EUPOL Afghanistan’s Mission Support Department.
To say it frankly, without Mission Support, EUPOL Afghanistan could not practically perform its’ work. The Mission Support Department provides the procurement, finance, human resources, medical and technical services as well as the communication & information systems (CIS) needed by the mission.
“Mission Support tries to fulfill all the needs expressed in the Maslow pyramid even in an environment as difficult as Afghanistan”, says Head of Mission Support Department Jean Coune. Jean, a retired staff officer from the Belgian Armed Forces and an accomplished financial and procurement specialist, compares the mission support to the all-encompassing “hierarchy of needs” which was developed by psychologist Maslow during the 20th century. The hierarchy of needs starts with basic physiological needs like hunger and thirst, continues with the need for security, esteem and ends with the self-actualisation needs of human beings.
Logistical self-sufficiency demands wide expertise
Mission Support team is engaged with almost all the tasks at the mission which implies not only the award of numerous work, services and supplies contracts but also the hiring of specialised personnel. “As we are living in a closed compound that is almost self-sufficient, the total number of professionals working for mission support represents about 50% of the total mission manning. We have for example our own technical workshop, dining facility, medical clinic, power generators and our own water well”.
Many European suppliers do not wish to deliver to Afghanistan as it is classified as a conflict zone. EUPOL thus relies heavily on local suppliers. “Acquisition processes are sometimes slower and more complicated than back home, but on the other side we get to support the local economy. And this is positive,” Jean says.
The daily cooperation between International and National Mission Members runs smoothly. “I feel privileged that in my position as Head of Mission Support, almost 50 percent of my staff is composed of Afghan citizens”, says Jean. “Language causes sometimes challenges, but Afghans are a very friendly and hospitable people, so we always find positive solutions.”
EUPOL closes – liquidation starts
“Liquidation” designates here the process by which an organisation is brought to an end and its’ assets redistributed. EUPOL Afghanistan closes on 31 December 2016 and the mission then enters into the liquidation phase. Jean has also been appointed Head of the Liquidation Team. A challenging task, as a significant amount of assets have been acquired during nine years of active work and now will need to be disposed of. These assets were acquired using European taxpayers’ money and thus the disposal of the materiel will follow the proper rules and regulations.
As a first priority, assets will be donated to other civilian Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) Missions. Before the donation, an assessment of the residual value of the assets has to be done every time in order to balance the expensive shipment costs to the actual remaining value of the goods. The harsh conditions of use in the mission area may have led to a significant value decrease of the materiel.
If none of the current other CSDP missions has interest in our assets, the broader international family gets the possibility to receive them. As an example, in January 2016, EUPOL Afghanistan supported the OSCE Monitoring Mission in Ukraine by donating armored vehicles. The mission has also supported our Afghan partner institutions like the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney-General’s office by donating well equipped office containers and vehicles.
Afghanistan is worth the effort
Jean is optimistic about the future for Afghanistan. “I envision a future day when I will return to Afghanistan with a tourist visa and visit the country’s archeological and geographical sites without having to worry about security,’ concludes Jean “Afghanistan is definitely worth the work that the international community is carrying out here”.