Last week the Centre for International Governance Innovation sponsored a screening of Camp Victory, Afghanistan by Carol Dysinger. The film, based on over 300 hours of footage shot between 2005 and 2008, is a remarkable look at the process of training the Afghan National Army.
As Dysinger said to the audience after the screening, she didn’t want to make a film that glamorized and romanticized war. What the film shows instead is the slow, boring, and occasionally infuriating process of training an Afghan army from recruits who are illiterate, impoverished, and unprofessional. The film centres around the unlikely friendship that develops between General Fazl Ahmad Sayar, a veteran of 30 years of Afghan conflict, and Colonel Shute, his US adviser.
A few things I took away from the screening were:
- The fact that most ANA recruits do not see a career in the army. The idea of creating professional soldiers is challenged when recruits only intend to serve their three years, save their money, and return to their homes.
- The importance of respect and willingness to listen on the part of US and coalition trainers. The situation of General Sayar and Colonel Shute—that the Afghan leader is vastly more experienced than his mentor/adviser—is not uncommon. Their relationship was successful because Shute was willing to listen, respected the General’s experience, provided advice when asked, and let the General take the lead in all matters.
- The difficulty of dealing with local power brokers: In the film, ANA leaders are often forced to meet with warlords to negotiate local realities. The film’s portrayal of these meetings is fascinating.
Before the screening, CIGI Senior Fellow Mark Sedra sat down with the filmmaker for an interview about her experiences and the state of SSR in Afghanistan. The interview will be posted shortly in the SSR Resource Centre’s multimedia section. To learn more about the film, click here.