Friday, November 14, 2014

Army Plans 'Improvised Explosive Device Call Center' in Afghanistan

    Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have become infamous for their use by terrorists and other enemy combatants in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the United States continues the draw down of U.S. combat troops in Afghanistan, the Army is looking to establish a call center to be run by a contractor for the government of Afghanistan to both collect information when IEDs detonate and provide information when IEDs are located. Online documents describe the background for the project:
The National Counter Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) Call Center will be the coordination and information response center of action when an IED is encountered or in the aftermath of an IED detonation. As part of the Government of the Islamic republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA’s) National C-IED Strategy 2012 as defined by the Afghan Office of the National Security Council (ONSC), the Call Center will improve Reporting and Exploitation of IED threats. The call center will serve as the collection center for evidence and reporting for IED’s. 
    Initially, the project calls for  eight call center operators and four supervisors to receive about 7-10 days training in call center operations. The supervisors must be proficient in English, Dari and Pashto and have basic computer skills. The operators must also have basic computer skills and speak English and either Dari or Pashto. Once trained, the personnel will staff the center 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. The schedule may be adjusted depending on call volume, and additional personnel may be added later. The documents say that, following training, the twelve individuals will be assembled into "4 person teams; 1 supervisor and 3 operators," although these numbers do not seem to jive with the eight operators and four supervisors sought.
    In a nod to evolving cultural norms in Afghanistan, the document notes that "female candidates are acceptable to staff these positions." In addition, personnel are eligible for "Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan approved holidays. Afghan holidays are determined by the Islamic Calendar and depend on sighting of the moon." Holidays include: " Muharram (Ashura), Prophet’s Birthday, Nawrooz, Afghan Independence Day, First Day of Ramadan, Eid-e Qurban, Martyrdom of National Hero, Eid ul-Fitr and The Victory Day of Islamic Revolution."
    Although the documents say that the call center will function as an "information response center of action when an IED is encountered," there is no indication that the operators or supervisors are required to have any expertise or experience with such devices. An email to the contact listed on the notice requesting additional information was not immediately returned.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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