CAMP PHOENIX, Afghanistan – South Dakota Army National Guard soldiers serving in Kabul, Afghanistan, are playing a significant role in ensuring the security and force protection of military service members stationed on 11 military bases throughout the capital region.
As the Kabul Base Cluster Installation Command, the 196th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade is responsible for providing command and control of base-defense elements and oversight of force-protection measures and procedures – to protect the KBC and the nearly 9,000 U.S. and coalition forces stationed within it.
“We are responsible for the security of bases in Kabul and our service members as they move throughout the city,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Pardy, chief of operations for the 196th. “We also have command and control of the security forces on the bases within the KBC.”
With operational responsibility, the Sioux Falls, S.D.-based 196th is able to affect many aspects of security on-and-off its bases.
“We do everything from set policy, give guidance to subordinate units, and direct response efforts from an operational or tactical level,” said Pardy, of Howard, S.D. “We work closely with all the KBC base-defense operations centers, our information operations center monitors activity throughout the bases and city, we conduct battle drills [training scenarios], and we coordinate response efforts with coalition forces.”
Pardy and his team make certain base-defense personnel are prepared to handle any threats or attacks against a KBC installation – whether it’s within the compound or just outside the perimeter. They also work closely with Afghan National Security Forces and the Turkish military to provide a multi-layered effort to secure areas throughout the city.
“Afghan forces are the lead element when it comes to responding to attacks or incidents throughout Kabul city,” said Pardy. “However, the Turkish military is the lead coalition force responsible for the city of Kabul. The 196th works closely with the Turks and should the need arise for U.S. forces to respond – we make it happen.”
The 196th supports the ANSF and Turks with security in other high-profile areas of Kabul. Known as the “Ring of Steel,” this area of Kabul houses the Afghan government, foreign embassies, NATO organizations and senior U.S. military commands.
“Everybody is pretty familiar with the ‘Green Zone’ in Baghdad, Iraq – an area with government agencies and organizations protected by multi-levels of security. The Ring of Steel is similar and creates a zone of security in downtown Kabul where most of the international events happen,” said Pardy.
Here, the 196th helps to coordinates response measures to include quick-reactionary forces in conjunction with ANSF and other security elements if needed.
“The ANSF has responsibility for security in this area – with the support of the Turks. We support the Turks with a quick reaction force, so we are an additional element of that security,” said Pardy. “When certain events happen, we have a responsibility as the KBC command to support that green zone under those contingencies.”
Pardy said it’s in this partnership that he sees signs of progress for Afghan security; demonstrating security in the capital is the starting point for the rest of the country.
“Most of Afghanistan’s major political events happen in Kabul – government meetings, elections, or any type of official gathering – we need good security here so diplomatic processes and the government can function,” said Pardy, a civilian lawyer in Howard. “The goal across the country is to get the ANFS as the lead element for security everywhere; because once they can do this, we can pull back our forces even further.”
Pardy, who is on his second tour to Afghanistan, said he sees progress since his last deployment and the Afghan government is beginning to take root throughout the country.
“Since my deployment in 2004, I can tell that the security has gotten much better. A lot of that has to do with the involvement of the Afghan government,” he said. “They have started making and enforcing policies which are making a big difference in the security mission here.”
As Afghan, U.S. and coalition forces continue to work together; the 196th is making sure security and force protection continues to get the emphasis it needs for the Kabul Base Cluster, and throughout the city.
“I wouldn’t minimize any part of our mission as the KBC command,” said Pardy. “However, you can get away without some things, but security is not one of them – our number one mission is the security we provide to the bases and our service members.”