News: ANA, AAF coordinate clearing operation in dangerous Wardak Valley
Story by Sgt. Bob Yarbrough
WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces conducted Operation Shaheen II in Tangi Wardak, Afghanistan, and completed clearance operations Oct. 13, 2013, just in time to celebrate their religious holiday of Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the Hajj for Muslims.
The Tangi Wardak, often referred to simply as “the Tangi”, the Dari word for valley, is one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous areas and is known to be the home of many of the enemies of Afghanistan. Soldiers from the Afghan National Army’s 4th Brigade, 203rd Corps, cleared the area in two groups. Two kandaks, or battalions, cleared from the north and two additional kandaks cleared from the south, meeting in the heart of the valley.
U.S. Army Soldiers with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, were on hand for Shaheen II to advise and assist the ANA-led operation. The goal for this operation was to end the fighting season on a high note. Fighting in Afghanistan usually slows considerably when winter sets in and the ANA wanted to finish this season strong and demoralize the various groups operating in the area.
“It wasn’t about us,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Gregory Bell, commander or 3rd Bn., 7th Inf. Reg., and a native of Valdosta, Ga. “Our role was just to provide overwatch.” Bell compared the U.S. presence to sitting on the sidelines and supporting the ANA. “They (the ANA) were there in the beginning of the fighting season and (the Tangi) is a place where bad guys hang out. There’s always a fight and they’ve done well every time they’ve gone in there.”
One of the biggest tactical achievements during this operation was the use of newly- trained Afghan Tactical Air Coordinators. These Afghan soldiers work with air and ground assets to de-conflict issues with airspace by ensuring that operators of artillery, mortars, and other ground-based weapons are aware that aircraft will be in the area, and that the aircraft know the location of the ground forces. Shaheen II marked the first time in the 13-year conflict where the Afghan Air Force supported the ANA with air support in this manner, with an ATAC on the ground, coordinating AAF air traffic.
“Operation Shaheen was a great validation of the ATAC program that we’re trying to set up,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Sean Papworth, out of Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and an adviser to the Afghan Air force with the NATO Air Training Command – Afghanistan. “It’s actually the AAF helping the ANA, and this is going to lead them in the right direction.”
The operational success of Shaheen II is proof that Afghan National Security Forces are quickly becoming fully capable of securing their own country using their own assets. The ANSF planned and executed this mission almost completely on their own and have reduced the amount of enemy activity in one of Afghanistan’s most active fighting grounds.