News: Leading organizations meet to generate plan for Wardak, Logar
Story by Sgt. Amber Robinson
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Leading organizations from Afghan provinces Wardak and Logar met for a Commander's Conference on Forward Operating Base Shank Feb. 9-11 to shape a 90-day joint plan for the provinces.
The conference was hosted by Army commanders of Task Force Spartan and included members of the Afghan national army, Afghan national police, Logar Czech Republic Provincial Reconstruction Team, Wardak Turkish PRT, United States Agency for International Development and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, with the governors of Logar and Wardak joining the group on the last day.
The conference lasted three days during which time these organizations broached current issues and discussed joint resolutions. Afghan officials brought concerns of the people to the table as military and non-governmental agencies alike talked through future efforts for the next three months.
"We discussed lack of logistics and communication equipment for the police," said Army Col. David B. Haight, commander of TF Spartan, 10th Mountain Division. "There is also a lack of sufficient ANA to partner one for one with our large brigade. We also discussed specific checkpoints that need to be manned in Logar."
The lack of security and security-based issues are prominent in Regional Command-East, but they are paralleled by the region's deteriorated economy. Afghans and U.S. military officials feel the economic strife of the nation feeds insurgent activity. Afghans desperate to feed their families will turn to crime, helping the Taliban for much needed money.
"We discussed the circular debate of security versus economy," said Haight. "We determined that they feed off each other. Without security, the economy suffers. A suffering economy facilitates bad security."
All organizations voiced their role in helping to improve and secure Wardak and Logar. Provincial Governors Attiqullah Ludin of Logar and Mohammed Halim Fidai of Wardak arrived on the last day of the conference. Participants briefed each governor on the joint plan.
The plan centered around joint operations with the ANA and ANP forces.
"Our plan is to do no missions without the ANA and the ANP," said Haight, during a press conference directly following the Commander's Conference. "This will help us to be more precise when we are conducting our operations, not only precise toward the Afghan culture, but precise against those who are the enemy and those who are not."
Progress toward positive change in Logar and Wardak seems imminent, especially with the influx of Spartan Soldiers working side by side with Afghans to affect change. However, Americans and Afghan officials understand that the change will not be instantaneous.
"I think if a country takes 30 years to be destroyed, it will take longer to rebuild, because construction takes longer than destruction," said Fidai. "But hope is here, resources are here. With all these resources and readiness, we can overcome the situation and improve it further."
Both Fidai and Ludin agree the situation in Wardak and Logar is not ideal. In the last two years, Taliban activity has escalated in the provinces and seems to have taken a firm hold on the populace. Afghans are afraid to support U.S. troops for fear of the Taliban's repercussions.
Most Afghans are unsure of how dedicated U.S. forces are to backing them in their struggle against insurgent forces. Up until recently, roughly 300 U.S. troops were spread throughout Wardak and Logar. The influx of troops in the area is a signification to Afghans they can trust that American Soldiers are serious about influencing the enemy situation in Wardak and Logar.
Currently, TF Spartan has experienced little aggressive enemy contact. Haight lends this to the bitterly cold weather, but feels once winter begins to subside, enemy activity will increase.
"I expect enemy contact to increase in the next three months," said Haight. "Not only will we receive more attacks because of the warmer weather, but there are more troops in the area now and the enemy will react to more Soldiers with more attacks."
In all, the Commander's Conference focused on the basics of security and economic evolution. Once the region begins to experience more stability, commanders and joint organizations will begin to focus along other lines of effort, such as governance and infrastructure.
The conference allowed TF Spartan leaders to take time to evaluate the Afghan individuals they would closely partner with for the next year.
"Governor Fedai [Wardak] is very educated, speaks English well and has a very long-term strategic vision," commented Haight. "Governor Ludin [Logar] is very experienced in leading large organizations, he is a former Corps commander, and understands the security challenges and is not afraid of them."
Ludin and Fidai were both pleased with the conference's outcome, which they each voiced at a joint press conference following the commander's conference.
"We are here to sanction the joint plans that our Afghan, American and other coalition partners have generated," said Ludin. "We must have a united front and bring these new ideas to the people. We must stand beside our plans and show the people that we mean to do what we say."
Haight was equally pleased with the outcome of the meeting, but wants to make sure all participants are aware of how much more actions mean than words.
"I thought [the mood] of the meeting was good," said Haight. "There was a lot of hope from the Afghans. I heard a lot of good intention coming from the other organizations, which I like, but I want to see follow through. It's time to get things done."
The brigade plans to continue to host a commander's conference every 90 days to remain synced in their efforts for a more secure and economically developed area of operations.