Kandahar Provides Model for Afghan-led Partnership

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2010 — With Afghan forces lead­ing oper­a­tions in and around the spir­i­tu­al home of the Tal­iban in Afghanistan’s Kan­da­har province, a new Afghan-led mod­el is emerg­ing for the region, a senior U.S. offi­cer said today.

“Ear­li­er this year, … the insur­gents had near­ly com­plete free­dom of move­ment in this area,” said Army Col. Jef­frey Mar­tin­dale, com­man­der of the 4th Infantry Division’s 1st brigade Com­bat Team. “Over the last four months, we were able to force the insur­gents out of many of the areas which they tra­di­tion­al­ly held as sanc­tu­ar­ies. This has result­ed in some pret­ty dra­mat­ic changes here.” 

Mar­tin­dale spoke about cur­rent oper­a­tions to Pen­ta­gon reporters via video uplink from his head­quar­ters at Camp Nathan Smith in Kan­da­har City. 

The 3,500 sol­diers of Martindale’s brigade deployed to Afghanistan in July and assumed oper­a­tional respon­si­bil­i­ty for Kandahar’s cap­i­tal city and the province’s Arghandab dis­trict under Region­al Com­mand South in August. His force includes two addi­tion­al bat­tal­ion task forces serv­ing in Region­al Com­mand West. 

“I have sev­en U.S. bat­tal­ions under my con­trol as we part­ner with the Kan­da­har City and Arghandab dis­trict police, two bat­tal­ions of Afghan Nation­al Army sol­diers and a brigade of Afghan Nation­al Civ­il Order Police,” Mar­tin­dale said. 

Kan­da­har City, home to an esti­mat­ed 800,000 peo­ple, is both the ances­tral home of Afghan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai and the birth­place of and for­mer cen­ter of oper­a­tions for the Tal­iban, Mar­tin­dale said. 

“For this rea­son, the gains we have made here are impor­tant to the over­all sit­u­a­tion of the coun­try,” he said. “Kan­da­har City … serves as a focal point for the entire south­ern part of the coun­try, both cul­tur­al­ly and economically.” 

Short­ly after Martindale’s arrival, Karzai grant­ed provin­cial Gov. Tooryalai Wesa author­i­ty as com­man­der in chief of all Afghan forces in the province, Mar­tin­dale said. 

“The gov­er­nor used his new-found pow­ers … and ran with it,” order­ing an oper­a­tion in Mala­jat, a noto­ri­ous area in the city’s south­west­ern sec­tor, Mar­tin­dale said. 

“It was known through­out the city as being where the Tal­iban held court, con­duct­ed tor­ture and exe­cu­tions, and pro­ject­ed … attacks into the city,” he added. Afghan forces took the lead in that oper­a­tion, while Martindale’s troops pro­vid­ed addi­tion­al com­bat pow­er, close-air sup­port, mine clear­ance and med­ical capabilities. 

That oper­a­tion led to the cap­ture or killing of sev­er­al dozen Tal­iban insur­gents, Mar­tin­dale said, and U.S. and Afghan forces have now estab­lished a “com­bined, per­ma­nent” pres­ence in the area. 

The governor’s suc­cess in Mala­jat cre­at­ed a new Afghan-led mod­el for oper­a­tions in the region, Mar­tin­dale said. Under that mod­el, Wesa gath­ers the lead­ers of Afghan forces with some of the brigade com­man­ders from the coali­tion, and directs them to con­duct an oper­a­tion, the colonel said. 

“He gives them a cer­tain amount of time to plan. The direc­tor of secu­ri­ty from the area is respon­si­ble for brief­ing intel­li­gence to the gov­er­nor a few days lat­er, and then we go into a sig­nif­i­cant plan­ning por­tion before the oper­a­tion,” Mar­tin­dale explained. “The Afghans select a leader from [their own forces] to run the oper­a­tion. Based on which ele­ment is in the lead, his plan­ner leads the plan­ning effort. We then go and brief the gov­er­nor on the oper­a­tion, and then soon there­after we execute.” 

Martindale’s forces, some of whom are embed­ded in each Afghan army and police unit, serve as a sup­port­ing and coor­di­nat­ing ele­ment in these oper­a­tions, he said. 

“I can tie all of this togeth­er and syn­chro­nize it through the net­work I have embed­ded with all of these forces, and I can use that to bring in fires and air sup­port and recon­nais­sance assets and oth­er things that sup­port them on the ground,” he said. 

Such oper­a­tions have built Afghans’ con­fi­dence in their nation’s forces, Mar­tin­dale said. 

“The gov­er­nor knows he can direct his forces to exe­cute an oper­a­tion. He knows they can come through,” he said. “The Afghans see that it’s main­ly an Afghan-led oper­a­tion, in par­tic­u­lar on the ground, and the locals see this, and I think it gives them hope that when we do depart the coun­try, there’s a force that’s here that can exe­cute with­out our help.” 

Kan­da­har City and Arghandab dis­trict now have the ide­al mix of matur­ing Afghan army and police units sup­port­ed by coali­tion capa­bil­i­ties, Mar­tin­dale said. 

“When I first arrived here my ral­ly­ing cry was that I need­ed more forces,” he added. “It took some time, and it took some fight­ing togeth­er, for us to now build a team with­in the city and Argandab that I think is unbeat­able by the Tal­iban – and I would not have said that even a few months ago. We have been resourced for suc­cess, and I think we’re defeat­ing the Tal­iban here now.” 

Afghan and coali­tion forces also have cleared Tal­iban enclaves from the large­ly agri­cul­tur­al Arghandab val­ley, Mar­tin­dale said, clear­ing mine fields, destroy­ing bomb-mak­ing facil­i­ties and inter­rupt­ing weapon trans­port routes. 

“[We] are in the process of build­ing roads and infra­struc­ture into the area … to pre­vent it from becom­ing sanc­tu­ary ever again,” he said. 

Mar­tin­dale said the area has seen sig­nif­i­cant infra­struc­ture devel­op­ment on his watch, with two new pow­er-gen­er­a­tion plants near­ing com­ple­tion that will triple Kan­da­har City’s avail­able elec­tric­i­ty. Sev­en exten­sive road projects and 92 oth­er devel­op­ment efforts also are under way. 

“We are work­ing close­ly with our inter­a­gency part­ners and Afghan gov­ern­men­tal lead­ers to bring basic ser­vices to their cit­i­zens and con­nect them with the peo­ple of these com­mu­ni­ties,” he said. 

Mar­tin­dale said while these efforts have been cost­ly and effort-inten­sive, they can serve as a mod­el for oth­er areas in Afghanistan. 

“Once we can set con­di­tions here to thin out coali­tion forces, we can do this same thing in oth­er por­tions of the coun­try,” he said. “But I think in any war, in any fight, you’re going to have to decide where you want to assume risk, and where you want to weight your main effort. And right now, we have ben­e­fit­ted sig­nif­i­cant­ly from being the main effort.” Mar­tin­dale said he’s con­fi­dent the 4th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Com­bat Team, the sis­ter brigade set to replace his, also will see success. 

“If the cur­rent gov­er­nor stays in posi­tion, which I expect, and the cur­rent [Afghan secu­ri­ty forces] lead­er­ship stays in posi­tion, which I have no rea­son to believe they won’t, then I think things will con­tin­ue to progress upward,” he said. 

A key fac­tor to ongo­ing progress in Kan­da­har after this win­ter, he said, is what the ene­my will do in the spring. 

“I would pre­fer that they try to come back here in the spring and try to estab­lish the strong­hold they used to have here,” he said, “so we can use the team I have built now to real­ly defeat them. I think that would … set con­di­tions for the next year, [by which time] I think the Tal­iban would have pret­ty much lost this area.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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