FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan – Continuing to strengthen their abilities, the Afghan National Army Soldiers led a joint presence patrol with coalition forces through several villages in the Shamulzai district of southern Afghanistan, this past month.
While the ANA from 1st Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 205th Corps have partnered with soldiers from Battle Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment before, this was the first time that Battle Company had been on any sort of patrol with 2nd Company's Shamulzai detachment in the southern Afghan district of the same name. The mission was planned and directed by 1/2/205th ANA soldiers who took charge and led the way as they and B/5-20 Inf. visited six villages over the course of two days.
Throughout the patrols the soldiers of Battle Company took a back-seat and followed the ANA's lead. They watched and evaluated the ANA as they handled their duties with little-to-no U.S. influence.
"They did a good job and, in my opinion, they pushed out to the local populace," said Capt. Joe Mickley, commander, B Company, 5th Battalion 20th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment. "We did several patrols where - we wanted to create an ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] presence within the villages [the ANA] doesn't normally go to. They did a good job of planning which villages they wanted to go to and then requesting certain kinds of enablers and support from us but obviously taking the lead in those missions."
From the beginning, Battle Company's command group enabled the ANA to take the lead, said 2nd Lt. Matthew Domenech. The ANA's officers-in-charge, notably Capt. Sayed Baba Mansory and Capt. JonBaz, both of 1/2/205 ANA, planned the routes, briefed the plan and then accompanied their soldiers throughout the two day patrol. Domenech and his soldiers were always nearby should the ANA have needed help, but they proved themselves capable of executing their plan with little assistance.
Given the language barrier, one would have suspected problems might occur. However, once the two partners were together on the scene they knew exactly what to do, whether it involved dividing their respective teams up to search the villages - or to come up with one single plan, said Domenech.
"I mainly worked with Lt. [Muhammed] Nabi, the platoon leader from Heavy Weapons Company, and I think he and I had a good working relationship in the past," said Domenech. "We understand each other almost to the point that [we don't need] an interpreter."
Over the course of the two days, ANA and U.S. forces navigated their way across the southern Afghanistan landscape visiting villages that had little to no GIRoA or ANSF influence. At the end of the first day, in the village of Samogay, the ANA came across several acres of poppy fields which they got rid of in accordance with Sharia law. It was an important decision made by Mansory, the Shamulazi detachment OIC, because it sent a strong message to the insurgents.
"It sends a message that ANSF and GIRoA [Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan] are going to target the Taliban's financing of their insurgency," said Mickley. "So when they see drugs they're probably going to go after them because - they're illegal in Afghanistan and they're actively going to target that."
The partnered missions were not limited to ANA-U.S. forces either. On the second day of patrols, the Afghan National Police linked up with the 1/2/205th ANA and B/5-20 Inf. Together, the ANA and ANP worked in tandem as they visited four more villages in Shamulzai district; the ANA maintaining security outside the settlements, while the ANP visited with village elders, assessing if they had any needs that required assistance.
At the end of the two days, it was said by everybody involved that the partnerships were a success; notably the coalition between the ANA and the ANP - two groups who have overcome problems in the past to come together for the security of Afghanistan.
"The past three days the missions we had were very successful and people do recognize the police here and that they are doing a good job and that they are responsible," said Mansory. "This is my hope that the ANP will go on more patrols [with us] and visit more villages."
Battle Company's commander agreed that their own partnership with the ANA was good.
"All in all, our partnership with both 2nd company and 1st Kandak is good," said Mickley. "When they ran into trouble they asked for support and we helped them and it was a very good mission."
Good partnerships are important to the welfare of Afghanistan at every level. On the ground, it is very important for the ANA to do as many Afghan-led patrols as possible and improve on minor issues they encounter so that someday soon they can provide their own security without any support from International Security Assistance Forces.
"We have a return trip scheduled [already]," said Mickley. "Our focus of getting the ANSF to conduct targeted operations out there, it's something that's kind of a priority for us, so we will be going back out there to follow up with them and hopefully extend the security bubble between Shinkai and Shamulzai so we reduce the seam that insurgents are allowed to operate in."