OEF Update, May 8, 2009: Afghan Commandos Maintain Vigilant Presence
Dispatches from the Front:
WASHINGTON, May 8, 2009 -- Elite soldiers of the Afghan National Army’s 1st Commando Kandak, 201st Corps, recently spent 48 hours conducting operations alongside their Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan brothers-in-arms in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.
The combined elements often spend days at a time patrolling villages and bazaars and disrupting insurgent hideouts throughout Nangarhar, a volatile province running along the Pakistan border.
“The objective of these operations is to prove that the ANA commandos will not be denied access to any area in which insurgents may live, hide or facilitate. … They have access to all areas in Afghanistan,” a Special Forces team leader said.
The truth behind the team leader’s words was evident as the ANA commandos kicked off their operations with an early morning visit to the residence of an improvised explosive device facilitator in the Shinwar district April 29. The house was believed to be an IED staging area, and the ANA commandos intended to throw a wrench into the insurgents’ ability to wreak havoc upon friendly forces and the Afghan people.
“There ended up not being any males at the house, let alone fighting-age males, but we did discover limited bomb-making materials, including wires and four of the five ingredients needed to make explosives,” the team leader said.
Although no insurgents were detained, the ANA commandos stopped and questioned a handful of men near the house. A commando company commander took the opportunity to conduct a key leader engagement with a village elder, explaining the purpose behind the ANA commandos’ presence in the community that morning. Other ANA commandos also spoke with young men who emerged from nearby houses to see what was going on, providing them with information about the elite Afghan soldiers and handing out posters.
“It’s important for us to talk to the people, to keep them informed of our operations and help them understand who the ANA commandos are and what they stand for,” the ANA commando company commander said.
After wrapping things up in the village, the ANA commandos swiftly moved on to the next item on the day’s agenda: establishing a series of vehicle checkpoints on the Jalalabad highway near the Torkham border crossing.
“Our checkpoints are normally held in high-visibility areas, one of these in particular on the outskirts of a bazaar known for heavy insurgent activity,” the team leader said. “We first brought the convoy all the way down through the bazaar and back to let the people know the ANA commandos were in town.”
The ANA commandos spent the evening stopping motorists along the highway, looking for anything suspicious in nature, such as improper vehicle registrations. Several people were detained for further questioning.
After a long day protecting the security and stability of Nangarhar, the ANA commandos and their Special Forces partners bedded down for the night at a nearby firebase. Before dawn the next morning, the troops were at it again, this time heading to the Achin district to conduct a security patrol with other Afghan National Security Forces elements. The ANA commandos’ reputation preceded them to Achin.
“This patrol was held in the lower part of the province, which has a history of being denied to ANSF,” the team leader said. “The Afghan police felt more confident about the mission having the ANA commandos in the area. … They figured they must be all right if the commandos were there.”
Working with the ANA commandos also gave the police officers the opportunity to check out the weaponry and techniques of their brothers-in-arms.
“This was the first time many of the Afghan police had worked with the ANA commandos,” the team leader noted. “They were openly impressed with what they saw, and repeatedly approached the commandos to ask questions.”
Keeping up the momentum of the past day and a half, the combined elements finished up the security patrol by stopping by the Achin district center in search of a wanted insurgent thought to be in the bazaar area. The man was not found, but the soldiers took the opportunity to search the bazaar and meet with the villagers and shopkeepers.
One villager came up to a commando soldier and, crying openly, thanked him for the presence of the combined elements.
“This was significant, particularly because it was in Achin, which is a hot area known for rampant insurgent activity,” the team leader said. "It just goes to show that there are always good people out there. Not everybody in this country is an insurgent. … These are the people we are here for.”
After 48 hours of seeking out insurgent sanctuaries and spreading the ANA commando message to the Afghan people, the combined elements returned to their base to momentarily refit before heading out to do it all over again.
“We’ll keep going until we’ve gotten rid of every insurgent in this country. … Our dedication to Afghanistan is endless,” the ANA company commander declared.
(Report from a U.S. Forces Afghanistan news release.)
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