U.S., Afghan Forces Displace Taliban in Eastern Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5, 2011 — U.S. troops and Afghan secu­ri­ty forces serv­ing in east­ern Afghanistan are dis­plac­ing the Tal­iban, mak­ing room for eco­nom­ic growth and gov­er­nance, a task force com­man­der serv­ing in the area said today.

Task Force Bastogne / Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team
Army Col. Andrew Pop­pas, left, com­mand­ing offi­cer of Task Force Bas­togne, trans­fers the Nuris­tan Provin­cial Recon­struc­tion Team flag to the new com­mand­ing offi­cer, Navy Cmdr. Bill Mal­lo­ry, at For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Kala Gush in Afghanistan’s Nuris­tan province, Nov. 4, 2010. The team’s mis­sion is to improve gov­er­nance, secu­ri­ty and infra­struc­ture in Afghanistan.
U.S. Air Force pho­to by Air­man 1st Class Cha­nise Epps
Click to enlarge

Army Col. Andrew Pop­pas, com­man­der of Task Force Bas­togne and the 101st Air­borne Division’s 1st Brigade Com­bat Team, briefed Pen­ta­gon reporters dur­ing a video tele­con­fer­ence from his head­quar­ters at For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Fen­ty in Jalal­abad, the cap­i­tal of Afghanistan’s Nan­garhar province.

Task Force Bas­togne con­ducts com­bined aggres­sive oper­a­tions through­out its area of oper­a­tion with the Afghan army, the bor­der police and the nation­al police, Pop­pas said.

“Kinet­ic oper­a­tions tend to over­shad­ow the her­culean efforts that are being made to estab­lish long-term sta­bil­i­ty through gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment,” the colonel said.

Pop­pas’ 3,800-soldier brigade deployed to Afghanistan in May. The brigade’s mis­sion is to fight insur­gents and bol­ster gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment in Nan­garhar, Kunar and Nuris­tan provinces.

Inte­grat­ed into the task force plan are two provin­cial recon­struc­tion teams, three agribusi­ness devel­op­ment teams and 10 dis­trict sup­port teams, “all of which have been able to make demon­stra­ble progress in over 40 dis­tricts and munic­i­pal­i­ties” in the three provinces, Pop­pas said.

The colonel described pos­i­tive achieve­ments in 2010 in dis­trict and provin­cial gov­er­nance and in eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment, includ­ing suc­cess at the “Torkham Gate.”

Torkham — a bor­der town in Nan­garhar linked by a high­way with Jalal­abad to the west and Peshawar to the east — is the busiest port of entry between Afghanistan and Pak­istan, said Pop­pas, not­ing that it forms an eco­nom­ic cor­ri­dor that runs through Jalal­abad and all the way to the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul.

“Rev­enue has come through the gate,” he said. “We’ve seen an increase in eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment [in] the area that runs through Jalal­abad and then up toward Asad­abad.”

Agribusi­ness has increased expo­nen­tial­ly, he added.

Gov­er­nance has pro­gressed, Pop­pas said, with activ­i­ties such as court tri­als and con­flict res­o­lu­tion that pro­mote the rule of law and reas­sure local pop­u­la­tions about the reli­a­bil­i­ty of provin­cial and, more recent­ly, dis­trict legal author­i­ties and gov­ern­ment offi­cials.

Evi­dence of strength­ened gov­er­nance also comes from the devel­op­ment and stew­ard­ship of a cen­tral gov­ern­ment bud­get that pro­vides bud­getary guide­lines for provinces and dis­tricts, the colonel said.

“I’ve already seen [such progress] with­in six months,” Pop­pas said, “and as we con­tin­ue our oper­a­tions under this umbrel­la of secu­ri­ty that we’re pro­vid­ing, along with our [Afghan secu­ri­ty forces] broth­ers, you’ll con­tin­ue to see that devel­op­ment and gov­er­nance progress.”

But fight­ing is not over in that part of the coun­try, where the provinces for which the task force is respon­si­ble share 250 miles of bor­der with Tal­iban-infest­ed regions of Pak­istan, Pop­pas said. For years, he said, insur­gents have used the remote and treach­er­ous ter­rain of places such as Nuris­tan, on the south­ern slopes of the Hin­du Kush Moun­tains, as safe havens.

In Bar­gi Matal, a dis­trict in north­east­ern Nuris­tan province, the Tal­iban occu­pied a local vil­lage to estab­lish a base for plan­ning and stag­ing attacks.

“The [Afghan forces] led a com­bined oper­a­tion called Oper­a­tion Azmaray Fury to take back the vil­lage,” Pop­pas said, “estab­lish­ing secu­ri­ty through­out the entire dis­trict that has been in place for over five months now.” Afghan forces have main­tained that secu­ri­ty with­out the pres­ence of coali­tion forces, he added.

Anoth­er com­bined effort, Oper­a­tion Strong Eagle, took place ear­ly in the sum­mer in Kunar province’s Marawara dis­trict.

“This Afghan-led oper­a­tion suc­ceed­ed in defeat­ing the ene­my,” Pop­pas said, and the provin­cial gov­ern­ment now leads devel­op­ment projects that will lim­it the free­dom of move­ment of the insur­gents and build the population’s con­fi­dence.

In his region of respon­si­bil­i­ty, Pop­pas said, the local peo­ple are very pos­i­tive.

“The peo­ple them­selves, as you engage with them, as you talk with them, as you walk through the mar­kets and you get a sense of how they feel about it, it’s extreme­ly pos­i­tive in most areas that I deal­ing with,” he said.

“So I do think there’s a light at the end of the tun­nel,” Pop­pas said. “I think it’s sus­tain­able, because of a lot of the men­tor­ship and stew­ard­ing we have done pre­vi­ous­ly, and we’ll be able to start tran­si­tion­ing spe­cif­ic areas over to Afghan con­trol.”

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