News: Afghan National Security Forces, American soldiers, help flush out Taliban
Story by Sgt. Marc Loi
COMBAT OUTPOST KOLK, Afghanistan – Locals from a small village in southern Afghanistan will see more opportunities and Afghan National Security Forces and less improvised explosive devices and Taliban thanks to a joint operation recently conducted by members of the Afghan National Civil Order Police and soldiers of 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment from Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
The two-day mission began in the early morning hours with more than 60 ANCOP officers and American soldiers conducting foot patrols in the village of Didar and ended two days later. In those two days, the soldiers flushed the area of Taliban as well as cleared the mostly-rural village of improvised explosive devices. The operation ended with a shura, an Afghan-led and inspired meeting with village elders, and the delivery of humanitarian aid.
Dubbed Operation Eagle Mountain V, the operation’s purpose was to clear the area of Taliban members and bring stability to the town that the commander of Bronco Troop, the unit largely responsible for Didar, said had gone too long without the presence of ANSF and coalition forces.
“Didar is an area that has been mostly untouched by International Security Assistance Force and the ANSF for the last two years,” said B Troop’s commander Capt. Michael Figer. “It’s a seam between two of our battalion’s areas of operation, and the Taliban had gradually flowed into that area. It’s important to not allow [them] to have these security pockets.”
In doing so, the soldiers not only cleared the area of IEDs, but also established a relationship with villagers that will prove beneficial in the long run, Figer said.
Such establishments of a presence and taking the fight to Taliban fighters are important not only from a tactical perspective because it renders the town safer to navigate, but also from an operational perspective in that safer roads means ANSF personnel will be better able to connect with village locals to establish the policies the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan sets forth, Figer added.
One of the ways to establish such a relationship, Figer said, is through the Afghan-led efforts of listening to the needs and concerns of villagers through shuras. Traditionally held by Afghan leaders to gauge the needs and concerns of locals, the shura held was comprised of more than 100 villagers, including prominent elders who advertised the event in advance.
“It’s a model we’ve been striving for,” Figer said. “The local mullah announced the shura from his mosque's loud speaker while [ANSF personnel] conducted local patrols to invite people to it.
“This was a situation of Afghans leading Afghans,” he added.
Such Afghan-led efforts are particularly salient in the building of a stronger Afghanistan because the voices and concerns of villages often went unheard under the Taliban, one villager said.
A self-proclaimed community organizer 23-year-old Gulah Ahmad Allah came to the shura to deliver messages for elders who were too ill to attend and those who couldn’t make it because of other commitments. Although he was only 13 when the Taliban fell, Ahmad Allah said he remembers a time when the concerns of Afghans went unnoticed. In fact, speaking up might have rendered one a target for punishment, he said.
The new Afghan government, with a concerted effort to listen to Afghans’ concerns, is taking a step in the right direction, Ahmad Allah added.
“The government is now listening to the people,” he said. “These [shuras] are good for my country and my people, because it helps them understand what we need and what we want.”
By listening to villagers’ concerns, ANSF and coalition forces not only gain trust, but also forge an alliance that will, in the end, ensure they win over Afghans – something Figer said was evident in that the operation took place without major incidences, other than a few gunshots heard and IEDs found.
“It shows that the people who actually live in Didar are not truly Taliban. They may be threatened or influenced by Taliban, but they are not Taliban themselves,” Figer said. “This is a promising sign for future projects within Didar.
“It gives ANSF the breathing room they need so they can bring services and security to Didar,” he continued.” It allows us to focus on projects like schools, clinics, water ways and roads, as opposed to fighting.”
The operation was the fifth for the battalion since its arrival in Afghanistan late December.