FORWARD OPERATING BASE MASUM GHAR, Afghanistan - A recent partnered operation, named Kalak Hode 5, came to a close late September. The mission focused on ensuring Afghan National Security Forces in Zabul province are prepared to take over the security situation by 2014, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai stated earlier this year.
“Here we're showing them what right looks like,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael Williams, non-commissioned officer in charge, Security Force Assistance Team 40, who advise 2nd Kandak (battalion), 2nd Brigade, 205th Afghan National Army Corps. “We're showing them the importance of patrolling, the importance of getting out with their villagers … the importance of taking the fight to the enemy instead of them taking it to you. We're showing them all this stuff [so] when we leave here … they go out and continue to do this on their own.”
Other aspects of Kalak Hode 5 involved simultaneous clearance operations in and around the Deh Chopan and Mizan districts in order to deny the Taliban freedom of movement and safe havens where they bed down at night. By conducting them concurrently, the 2nd and 6th Kandaks were able to prevent Taliban fighters from migrating to neighboring districts in order to avoid detection, as the ANA were searching for them in both places at the same time. This part of the operation was largely overseen by their ISAF partners from Task Force Warhorse - Battle Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment and Crazy Horse Troop, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment - who were responsible for ascertaining the abilities of the Kandaks to conduct kinetic operations in and around their respective districts.
“Our basic mission [as an infantry company] was to partner with 2nd Kandak and to conduct clearance operations in and around Deh Chopan and FOB Baylough to further disrupt the insurgency here,” said Capt. Joe Mickley, commander, B/5-20 Inf. “Second Kandak did a really good job. They planned and took the lead in planning for all the missions and they executed the missions flawlessly.”
Coalition forces assessed their Afghan partners in other ways, as well. Williams explained that SFAT 40’s job was “to coach, mentor and in some cases teach and partner with the Afghan National Army,” specifically the 2-2-205 ANA Corps. Part of that included assessing their mission preparation and development, which is important for the ANA to become proficient at so they are able to plan and execute similar large missions in the future.
“They had to do their own sand table rehearsal; they had to do their own mission analysis; their own MDMP [military decision-making process],” said Williams. “We actually did a combined-arms rehearsal with the corps commander. That was a very well-constructed event. They did their own sand tables; they walked through the objective area and explained as to what their mission was here.”
In Mizan district, where Crazy Horse Troop operated, the 6th Kandak performed just as admirably, if not more so in part to their completely independent missions that were conducted over the course of the operation.
“There was no holding anybody’s hands,” said Capt. Brian Reiser, commander, C/1-14 Cav. “This is the first time on this deployment that I have seen it like that.”
The ANA also proved it was not only capable of working with their ISAF partners but with their Afghan National Police partners as well. This is important as these two security forces will need to work together on future operations in the months ahead as more responsibility for security is handed over to the Afghan National Security Forces. That’s because the police largely take care of the built up areas - the villages, the district center and provide all-around local security - while the army largely patrols the districts and all the land within them. That is why particular attention was paid to showing the ANA and ANP the importance of getting outside their compounds and bases and interacting with the villagers in their respective districts.
“What we saw out here is several ANA operations where they went off and did ambushes or clearance operations on their own without ISAF support,” said Parrish, “and a couple (of) times it was army and police going out together. So what they’ve established is a base line as a foundation for future operations where they can be independent and still do very well, which they’ve already proven they can.”
At the end of the operation, everybody involved was pleased with how the ANSF operated with their coalition partners.
“They do things differently than us but they’re very effective; they’re efficient,” said Johnson. The ANA demonstrated throughout the campaign that they were ready to take it to the next level, to take charge of their own security.
Said Johnson, “They took charge, they took the lead, they were more than receptive to all the advice given by their partnered units. As advisers, we couldn’t be happier with the way they performed.”