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COMISAF Advisory and
Assistance Team (CAAT)

Afghan War News > General Info > COMISAF Advisory and Assistance Team (CAAT)

Description of the CAAT

UPDATE: Along with many other elements, organizations, units and entities, the CAAT was disestablished in September 2014. A few of the headquarters functions (Kabul) of the CAAT were assumed by ISAF CJ7 - later renamed to RS HQs CJ7 Training and Exercises (TREX).

The Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team (CAAT) was formed to assist in the overall counterinsurgency (COIN) effort in Afghanistan.  The CAAT provides observation, assessment and reporting to COMISAF on the overall counterinsurgency effort.  The CAAT identifies best and worst COIN practices and advises and assists commanders at all levels to enable effective, integrated COIN operations in Afghanistan.

COMISAF Advisory and Assistance Team (CAAT)

History of CAAT.  The CAAT was established in 2009 in response to a request for a counterinsurgency team to help the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operationalize intent in the ongoing counterinsurgency campaign.  The CAAT has a central office at ISAF Hqs in Kabul as well as small teams working at the different regional commands. A briefing posted 1. on provides more information.

COMISAF Advisory and Assistance Team (CAAT) Directed Telescope. The function of the CAAT is not a new one. Militaries have used CAAT-like organizations throughout the ages. Alexander the Great, Napoleon, General Grant, Field Marshal Montgomery, and others have used personnel or small groups of advisers as a 'directed telescope'. See endnote below. 2.

New Name.  The CAAT has since been renamed to COMISAF Advisory and Assistance Team.  It's current mission is to provide directed observations and reporting to COMISAF (Commander International Security Assistance Force) on strategic priority areas; identify opportunities to enhance and exploit ISAF initiatives; and advise and assist across the theater to maximize ISAF campaign effects.

COMISAF Advisory and Assistance Team Public Website.  The CAAT public website is available at the link below.  On the website you will find the CAAT mission, its history, and links to counterinsurgency articles and publications. The website is hosted by Ronna on the APAN portal.

CAAT Webpage on ISAF NATO Portal.  In addition to the CAAT website listed above there is also a page on the ISAF NATO Portal as well.  On this page you will find links to some CAAT publiscations such as COIN Common Sense.

COIN Common Sense.  The CAAT produces a bi-monthly magazine about counterinsurgency entitled "COIN Common Sense".  Each issue concentrates on a specific theme.  Past issues have covered topics such as "Civil Society and Counterinsurgency", "Partnering: A Counterinsurgency Imperative", "Information Operations", "Reintegration & Reconciliation", "Socioeconomic Development", "Developing Governance", "Neutralizing Malign Influences", "Enable the ANSF", "Insider Threat", "Security Force Assistance", and "COIN is a Mindset".  Past issues of COIN Common Sense can be accessed here on the Ronna website. View a video on YouTube that explains the magazine.

COIN Advisory.  The CAAT will issue COIN Advisories from time to time.  The CAAT COIN Advisory is a means of rapidly distributing observations across the Afghan area of operations. Past topics include "Partnering", "Entering Homes", "Insider Threat", "ANP Development", and "Religious Importance of the Quran".

Shift in Focus for CAAT. As the size of ISAF decreases and the mission changes from combat operations to "Train, Advise, and Assist" the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) the CAAT has also changed its focus. The CAAT has been a leading contributor to many aspects of Security Force Assistance in Afghanistan such as manning and training of the Security Force Assistance Advisor Teams or SFAATs.  In addition, the COIN Advisors are taking a big role in the ANSF development and transition of Afghans in the lead for security. The COIN Advisors have also made an impact on other significant issues such as how to mitigate the "Insider Threat".

SFA Principals. The CAAT assisted ISAF in developing the "15 Principals of Security Force Assistance. These principles can be seen in video or published form.

CAAT Personnel. The CAAT is comprised of professionals from the military and civilian sectors. The military component members are comprised of individuals from all U.S. services (Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force) and from coalition partner nations. The U.S. military members are usually Afghan Hands while coalition force members have previous Afghan deployment experience. The civilian component is comprised of COIN Advisors and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). The civilian COIN Advisors are usually retired Special Forces or other SOF personnel with extensive COIN, FID or advisor experience and many war-time deployments. The  civilian SMEs are specialists in the fields of governance, development, law enforcement, intelligence, and information operations. The civilian personnel usually deploy on contract to Afghanistan for two to five year periods.

Publications by CAAT

CAAT Security Force Assistance Bibliography. Info and links to websites relating to SFA mission and SFAATs in Afghanistan. Access at CAAT SFA Bibliography.

Guidelines in Partnering for Tranistion.  CAAT Special Report, December 2011.  Accessed here on on March 9, 2012 on

The COIN Warrior Waging Influence: Hints for the Counterinsurgency (COIN) Strategy in Afghanistan.  By Sean McKenna and Russell Hampsey, CAAT, 25 May 2010.  Accessed on Small Wars Journal here on January 16, 2012. (Adobe PDF).

Partnering: A Counterinsurgency Imperative.  CAAT Special Report.  20 September 2010.  Accessed here on Small Wars Journal on January 10, 2012.   (Adobe PDF).

Counterinsurgency from Below: The Afghan Local Police in Theoretical and Comparative Perspective, CAAT Special Report, Joe Quinn and Mario A. Fumerton, November 2010. Accessed here on CAAT portal.

A Time for Sergeants: COIN Success at the Company and Platoon Level in Afghanistan.  CAAT, July 2010.  Accessed on Small Wars Journal here on January 10, 2012.  (Adobe PDF).

Less Boom for the Buck: Projects for COIN Effects and Transition.  CAAT Special Report, April 2011.  Accessed on ISAF portal here on January 13, 2012.

Afghanistan's Unique Surge: The fight can only be won by listening to Afghan voices.  By CAAT, Armed Forces Journal, June 2010.  Accessed here on January 16, 2012.

Rediscovering the Art of Psychological Operations in the Afghan Counterinsurgency.  CAAT Team Member, June, 2010.  Accessed on Small Wars Journal here January 2012.

Suggested Reading List for Afghanistan

For a listing of documents and publications to read prior to deploying to Afghanistan see a suggested Afghanistan reading list recommended by the CAAT, the US Army Combined Arms Center, and other organizations.

News Articles about the CAAT

November 10, 2020. "Special Forces veteran and Stanford scholar applies data and scholarship to conflict", Standord News. Joseph Felter underscores the importance of rigorous data and scholarship in understanding violent conflict and reducing casualties. Felter was the first commander of the CAAT in Afghanistan.

July 12, 2014. "Advising in Regional Command South: CAAT-South seeks to advise and assist 'the other way'". DVIDS.

July 18, 2013. "About That Counter-Insurgency Contract". The author, Douglas A. Ollivant, questions the relevancy of the CAAT with 2014 on the horizon and the down-sizing of ISAF.

July 17, 2013. "Privatizing War (cont.). Specifics of CAAT contract awarded to Jorge Scientific International.

May 27, 2013. "What We Learned from the Afghans". USACAC Blog. MAJ Fernando Lujan, a Special Forces officer and Afghan Hand who worked for the CAAT, talks about his tour in Afghanistan.

October 28, 2012. "COMISAF advisory team brings Eid celebration to Kabul orphans". ISAF News Service.

August 20, 2012. "Better Late Than Never". Battleland, Columnist offers comment on award of CAAT contract to Jorge.


1. For information on the organization and manning of the COMISAF Advisory and Assistance Team (CAAT) see ISAF COIN Advisory & Assistance Team (CAAT), 29 October 2009.

2. For more on the military history of the 'directed telescope' see The Directed Telescope: A Traditional Element of Effective Command, by LTC Gary B. Griffin, Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1985.



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