By Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Cohen
Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan Public Affairs
TAGAB, Afghanistan – Elements from the Afghan national army, Afghan national police and U.S. forces swept into a Taliban stronghold located in Kapisa province in eastern Afghanistan, Aug. 1.
Operation Nowruz Jhala is an ANA led mission designed to hunt down Taliban, al-Qaida, and other criminal elements in an area long touted for its lawlessness.
"The Afghans and coalition have steered clear of Kapisa for the most part since the initial invasion back in 2001," said Lt. Col. Shawn Harris, senior police mentor for Kapisa. "This is the first time Afghans and coalition forces are going into the valley in any sizable force with the plans of staying until the Taliban is removed."
The ANA is the tip of the spear during this operation, leading the charge into the valleys surrounding TagAb. Right behind them are the ANP and coalition forces from the 82nd Airborne Division.
"The police are used to search homes in the villages, question individuals and then provide a permanent presence for security," Harris said.
Coalition forces provide additional fire power, command and control and mentor-ship while in the field, said 1st Lt. Dennis L. Chamberlain, detachment commander, 82nd Division Special Troops Battalion.
"We are basically the Afghan's maneuver element, making sure they don't get in over their heads," Chamberlain said. "We have a much better ability to have overall situational awareness of the entire battlefield."
So far the mission has been successful, netting many high valued Taliban targets and killing many more during fierce fights in some of the more remote areas of the province.
During a recent mission into Ala Sai Valley, U.S. and Taliban fighters ambushed Afghan forces three separate times as they exited the valley.
"The fighting was intense," said Maj. Bill Myer, police mentor from the Michigan National Guard and part of the U.S. Task Force Phoenix and the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. "One firefight lasted close to 40 minutes, we [ANP] were engaging the insurgents with rocket propelled grenades, small arms and our crew serve weapons. Finally, we had to call in artillery and close air support."
During these series of ambushes no U.S., ANA or ANP forces were killed or injured. After the close air support ended, the Taliban's guns fell silent and Afghan and U.S. forces were able to leave Ala Sai Valley without further incident.
Two days later, the Afghan security forces and U.S. forces rode back into Ala Sai Valley with reinforcements to track down insurgents and eliminate the threat they pose to the civilian populace. This time the Afghan national security forces and coalition forces did not encounter heavy resistance, there was only sporadic small arms fire and RPGs aimed at their forces.
"We were able to accomplish the mission traveling to the end of the dirt road in the valley," Myer said. "This time the police searched every home in the villages we came upon, finding some contraband and gathering important intelligence for future missions."
The final village at the end of the Ala Sai Valley brought about a significant challenge for the Americans. The road crumbled under the weight of a Humvee and almost caused it to roll over. The local Afghans came to the aid of the U.S. forces, shoring up the road preventing the Humvee from rolling over.
"After extracting the Humvee and talking to the villagers we found out we were the first Americans they had ever encountered." Myer said. "In fact the last foreigners they had seen were Russians. We talked with the village elders and they were a little apprehensive. Apparently, the Taliban had told the villagers Americans would not let any of the Afghans who worked for them to pray. The police commander and my interpreter quickly dispelled this. It really is about gaining the trust of the Afghans and I think we accomplished this."