FORWARD OPERATING BASE RAMROD, Afghanistan — Recent efforts to team U.S. forces with the Afghan national army in the Southern Afghanistan District of Maywand had many benefits to everyone involved — U.S. Soldiers, ANA soldiers and the local population alike. For the local population the cordon-and-search missions Oct. 24 and Nov. 2 resulted in the discovery of a weapons cache, the gathering of intelligence and engagement with the local populace.
But perhaps greater than this for the Afghan and American soldiers, these first major operations the 6th Kandak has done with Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, were also aimed at a long-term effort — the development of the ANA by their coalition counterparts, and a greater understanding of the geographic and cultural landscape of the area provided by the ANA to the U.S. Soldiers.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey French, the 2/1 battalion commander, said these combined efforts were essential to establishing a working relationship with the ANA. These missions provide the opportunity for hands-on development of Afghan soldiers, with coalition forces mentoring the ANA.
"Our attitude is once you get a relationship established through combined operations, you can start taking [the ANA] through a developmental process that's very deliberate and parallels our 'Crawl, Walk, Run' methodology that any U.S. Soldier is familiar with," said French.
One ANA soldier, Yaqub Khlbaroi, said he is eager to learn anything about security from the American forces.
"[The American Soldiers] teach us and help us. I learned how to search rooms. In my opinion it's good to work with the U.S. forces for the future of Afghanistan," said Khlbaroi.
Capt. Muhammad Zahir, a company commander with more than 17 years of military experience in Afghanistan, said he welcomed the opportunity to work with the Americans and appreciated their efforts in his country.
"The U.S. forces work very hard and tolerate hardships for us — this is the lesson we learn from them," he said.
As important as this is for Afghan soldiers, they aren't the only ones learning.
French said working with experienced soldiers like Zahir is an invaluable asset to the 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division's mission in the Kandahar province that goes beyond cultural knowledge.
"A lot of [ANA officers] have more combat experience than we do because they've been fighting for decades in this country. We can oftentimes, at the tactical level, take advantage of that expertise, that skill set that they've got, and tap into it as a source of pride — the Afghan Warrior Spirit," he said.