Joint Operations Centre: Coalition’s eyes and ears
By Olivier Mirguet | Thursday 19 July 2012
“The operations centre is the interface between the six military regions in the theatre of operations and the Military Staff of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which manages strategic and political operations in Afghanistan,” explains, his eyes riveted to three giant screens, Lieutenant-Colonel Pascal (France) of Eurocorps. In this former gymnasium, transformed into a Joint Operations Centre (JOC) by the ISAF, 250 soldiers from around 20 countries handle an average of 150 events every day, 24 hours a day. In early July, incidents declined during weekends but remained at a consistently and alarmingly high level the other days of the week.
“The insurrection has suffered setbacks,” explains General Thierry Corbet (France), one of the senior officers of Eurocorps, who has to spend 12 months on location in Afghanistan. As head of the JOC, he commands the planning of short-term operations and intelligence. “There are zones like Helmand, a province in the South-Western part of the country, where skirmishes are still very frequent,” observes General Corbet. “We are seeing irrational and spectacular attacks that are not necessarily effective. The coalition uses a wide range of technology to counter the improvised explosive devices (IED), the ‘poor man’s weapon’ used by the insurgents.” To monitor events, the operations centre commands the use of drones, 98% of which are supplied by the US Army. Interactive communication platforms (blogs) have been set up, with input provided by all the coalition forces. All units engaged in the coalition’s military operations can publish information or ask questions on this ‘J-Chat’ (joint chat), the daily common thread of events. In recent months, the Afghan National Army has become a partner of choice for this human intelligence.
Deep within the operations centre, a situation map displayed on a cinema screen shows, on a live basis, the terrorist attacks, attacks by insurgents and operations (home-made bombs, enemy commandos) that have been thwarted. Every day, General Corbet transmits the key indicators to the ISAF hierarchy at a morning briefing.
“At operational level, the JOC gathers intelligence and summarises all the events of the day, coordinates and assigns air operations and distributes the coalition’s military means,” explain Lieutenant-Colonel Pascal. Military legal advisers are present on a permanent basis, based near the medical advisers, who calculate on an ongoing basis the theoretical evacuation time for the wounded. “We also keep track of civilian victims and produce the coalition’s statistics,” explains Major Vanderheyden (Belgium), in charge of the civilian casualties cell. During the first half of 2012, their number (1,400 civilians) decreased by 50%. The coalition expects an increase in civilian victims caused by the insurgents toward the end of the year.