Security Improves in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2011 — Sev­en months after his sol­diers became the last com­bat brigade to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the troop surge, Army Col. Sean M. Jenk­ins report­ed promis­ing signs of progress in remote but strate­gi­cal­ly impor­tant Pak­ti­ka province.
Vio­lence has increased as expect­ed dur­ing the spring thaw, Jenk­ins, com­man­der of the 101st Air­borne Division’s 4th Brigade Com­bat Team, acknowl­edged dur­ing an inter­view yes­ter­day with Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice. Many ene­my lead­ers who left the region or went under­ground dur­ing the win­ter appear to have returned.

The num­ber of “sig­nif­i­cant activ­i­ties” tripled in the past week alone, from the high teens to more than 50, Jenk­ins report­ed.

Despite this increase, Jenk­ins said he has grow­ing con­fi­dence in the capa­bil­i­ty of Afghan secu­ri­ty forces in his area of respon­si­bil­i­ty, and in the work his own troops have done to estab­lish con­di­tions for their long-term suc­cess.

Of 3,200 oper­a­tions con­duct­ed since his “Cur­ra­hee Brigade” arrived in their sec­tor of Region­al Com­mand East last sum­mer, about 2,000 have been com­bined U.S.-Afghan oper­a­tions, Jenk­ins said. The Afghan mil­i­tary and police forces have con­duct­ed rough­ly 1,200 oper­a­tions uni­lat­er­al­ly, he said, demon­strat­ing not only the capa­bil­i­ty, but also the will to suc­ceed.

“You see the patri­ots in their ranks,” Jenk­ins said. “You real­ly see the ones that go out and get after it .…They want a bet­ter Afghanistan.”

Jenk­ins esti­mat­ed that at least 80 per­cent of the move­ment across Pak­ti­ka province’s 200-kilo­me­ter bor­der with Pak­istan is legit­i­mate — trib­al peo­ple trav­el­ing between the two coun­tries to vis­it their fam­i­lies, trade or seek med­ical care.

The chal­lenge is iden­ti­fy­ing illic­it trans-bor­der move­ment. To get at this prob­lem, the U.S. sol­diers and their Afghan part­ners have estab­lished check­points along the main traf­fic routes. In many cas­es, Afghan secu­ri­ty forces man them inde­pen­dent­ly.

“What this is doing is show­ing the peo­ple, ‘Look, the Afghan gov­ern­ment is here,’ ” Jenk­ins said. “And they can see that it pro­vides secu­ri­ty for the area and the region.”

In addi­tion, sen­sors like those post­ed along the south­ern U.S. bor­der are being installed along the Afghanistan-Pak­istan bor­der. “We have some and are get­ting more and more each day, where you can get move­ment tar­get indi­ca­tors,” Jenk­ins said. “It does­n’t mean it’s friend or foe; it just tells you some­thing is mov­ing at this point and place.”

These indi­ca­tors, along with intel­li­gence pro­vid­ed by Per­sis­tent Threat Detec­tion Sys­tem aerostats, help pro­vide a more com­plete “pat­tern analy­sis” about ene­my activ­i­ty that shapes coun­terin­sur­gent oper­a­tions, he said.

As his troops work with their Afghan part­ners to con­front ene­my forces in Pak­ti­ka province, Jenk­ins empha­sized the lengths they go to pre­vent civil­ian casu­al­ties and oth­er col­lat­er­al dam­age.

It’s an issue Army Maj. Gen. John F. Camp­bell, the 101st Air­borne Divi­sion com­man­der, rein­forces reg­u­lar­ly as he empha­sizes the impor­tance of get­ting pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tions before using force. “If you injure or harm the peo­ple you are try­ing to pro­tect, it is awful­ly hard to con­vince them … that we are here for good,” Jenk­ins said.

Since deploy­ing to Afghanistan, Jenk­ins has sent 69 4th BCT sol­diers for joint for­ward observ­er train­ing in Ger­many so they’re bet­ter able to iden­ti­fy and artic­u­late exact require­ments when they call in air sup­port.

It “makes a dif­fer­ence,” he said of the train­ing that’s devel­oped by non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers and junior artillery offi­cers. “Because if we have to be kinet­ic, we try to put the right amount of force against the tar­get and noth­ing more. And doing that can be tough in our [area of oper­a­tions].”

Jenk­ins said his troops have learned over time how to go through the com­plex deci­sion-mak­ing required make a pos­i­tive iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. “You go through this process: ‘Is it friend­ly or is it ene­my? Is it an imme­di­ate threat or immi­nent threat or is it some­thing we can live to fight anoth­er day?’ ” he said.

“We don’t want to make a mis­take,” Jenk­ins said. “We want to pro­tect our sol­diers’ lives always. They always have a right to self-defense. But you also want to look at it from as many dif­fer­ent angles as we can.”

As his troops take every pre­cau­tion pos­si­ble to pro­tect civil­ian lives, Jenk­ins said he’s reas­sured see­ing the local pop­u­la­tion get­ting more direct­ly involved in secu­ri­ty with­in the province.

“The peo­ple are stand­ing up,” he said, not­ing that a cou­ple hun­dred local res­i­dents recent­ly joined the com­mu­ni­ty-based secu­ri­ty plan ini­tia­tive, the equiv­a­lent of a state­side “com­mu­ni­ty watch.”

In one of the more-remote areas of the province where U.S. forces haven’t dri­ven for more than two years, locals have stepped for­ward to part­ner in secu­ri­ty so they can reopen the area to human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance, med­ical sup­port and edu­ca­tion.

“They have come in and said, ‘We want to do this com­mu­ni­ty-based secu­ri­ty. We will keep the paths open and there will be no [impro­vised explo­sive devices],’ ” Jenk­ins said. “This is what they want.”

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

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →