News: Red Warriors push to secure Kandahar province
Story by Staff Sgt. Justin Weaver
FORWARD OPERATING BASE RAMROD, Afghanistan — The 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment's Red Warriors weathered temperatures above 105 as they conducted two back-to-back missions in the Zhari District, located in the Western part of the Kandahar province.
Operations First Call and Tora Arwa 4 were aimed to disrupt anti-Afghan Forces and Taliban movement in areas where insurgents have had an unopposed safe haven from which to base their operations.
During Operation First Call, Soldiers met little resistance as they cleared several compounds and met with village elders west of Kandahar.
"One of the goals of these operations is to try and win over the local populace," said Lt. Col. Reik Andersen, 1-12 Infantry commander of Plymouth, Minn. "The population is the key - when they turn their back on the insurgents is when the insurgency fails - this can only be done through meaningful engagement with the locals."
In one village, Andersen met with the village elder and his children and discussed their concerns, needs and whether or not the Taliban had been operating in the area.
"Many villagers have family or friends associated with the Taliban and are scared into being a sympathizer," said Mike Warren, Human Terrain Team leader from Alton, Ill. "They don't want to help them but they feel they have no choice."
Within several hours of the Operation First Call offensive, Soldiers had already detained several suspected Taliban and found a weapons cache, said Andersen.
During Operation Tora Arwa, Soldiers from the 1-12 Infantry were part of an air assault into the Zhari District. Here they hoped to disrupt insurgent routes and Taliban strongholds.
"We were very successful during this operation," Andersen said. "We made the insurgents pay attention to us and our intentions for three days; these are three days that they had to react to us instead of planning and preparing their own destructive operations against the people of Afghanistan and coalition forces."
Despite the intense heat, Soldiers cleared multiple compounds while taking direct fire from insurgents during the three-day operation.
"Next to my Soldiers safety, support of the local populace is the most important aspect of this current conflict," said Andersen. "The people have to be convinced that the Taliban and its influence is not good for their community. It is a difficult mission to balance the needs of an apprehensive and sometimes untrusting population with the destruction of the insurgency, but we are committed to making progress for the people of Afghanistan."
These operations are all part of President Barack Obama's surge strategy, which has sent 21,000 reinforcements to the country this year.
The 1-12 Infantry is one of six battalions of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (L), 4th Infantry Division and has been placed under Task Force Kandahar's control for their 12-month rotation in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.