LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - For the past nine months soldiers assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based out of Fort Hood, Texas, have mentored the Afghan National Security Forces throughout various provinces in northeastern Afghanistan.
The mission of the “Long Knife” Brigade soldiers was to advise and assist their Afghan National Army, 201st Corps counterparts on several forward operating bases north of Kabul.
U.S. Army Col. William Benson, the brigade commander of 4-1 Cavalry Division, said his brigade deployed with soldiers, leaders and organizations that were experts at their soldier and combat skills that make them an effective military organization.
“Our leaders, our battalion commanders, were hand-selected to be battalion commanders which makes them the best people to advise an Afghan counterpart on how to be battalion or brigade commanders,” said Maj. Mark Andres, deputy commanding officer for the 4th BCT, 1st Cavalry Division.
Benson served as an adviser to Iraqi police during his previous deployments to Iraq. He said he was glad to have many senior leaders with advisory mission experience in the “Long Knife” Brigade.
“It made a huge difference, I thought it set us up very well for the mission we had to do here,” said Benson. “The conditions are different but the mission is the same.”
Benson said he was initially surprised of the ANA 201st Corps soldiers.
“They are doing more now, independently, whether it is the ability to evacuate a casualty, shooting indirect fire, route clearance, conducting missions unadvised and doing it very effectively,” said Benson. “They can resupply themselves in support of operations, they are taking the fight to the enemy.”
He said he didn’t want to minimize the significant challenges Afghanistan has but his impression of the Afghan army is that it is an effective one.
“The ANA are the most capable organization in the country,” said Benson. “The [ANA 201st Corps] is better than the enemy it faces right now.”
Andres said the ANA could conduct combined-arms operations for an extended period of time in extremely rugged conditions.
“That is what their country needs of them right now,” said Andres. “What is even more encouraging during this last nine months is to see the police ‘step up,’ and have actually developed to a point where they can secure the district center and secure the population.”
Andres said he feels hopeful to think that so long as the ANA, the police and other agencies work together, the enemies of Afghanistan can’t defeat them.
“I don’t see, in this part of Afghanistan, any way that the Taliban will threaten the [Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan],” said Andres. “That leaves me knowing that we actually did our job, because our job was to get them to be more integrated.”
The native of Chicago, Ill., said some people might say the ANSF aren’t capable of protecting their country. Andres said the ANSF are planning and executing autonomous operations throughout Afghanistan.
“They can do it; we just need to let them do it. It is not going to be to the standard that we do things but they can defend their country so it has been very satisfying to actually see them do it,” Andres said.
He said 4-1 Cavalry Division has a lot of institutional experience with soldiers having been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Andres said it doesn’t surprise him that the unit has performed as good as it did.
“What the people back home need to know is that their soldiers are trained, equipped and prepared like no other force in the world,” said Andres. “They have vast amounts of experience from both wars and they came over here and represented themselves, their families and their unit with honor.”