U.S., Afghan Forces Hold Former Insurgent Havens

WASHINGTON, April 14, 2011 — Key areas of Afghanistan’s Kan­da­har province in recent months have become free of insur­gent con­trol for the first time, a U.S. com­man­der there said today.
“We’re hold­ing in areas that about six months ago were real­ly owned by the insur­gents,” said Army Col. Arthur Kan­dar­i­an, com­man­der of the 101st Air­borne Division’s 2nd Brigade Com­bat Team. “We’re hold­ing and secur­ing in ter­rain that the insur­gents had nev­er lost in.”

Kan­dar­i­an and Col. Ghalum Mur­taza Sar­wari, com­man­der of the Afghan army’s 3rd Brigade, 205th Corps, briefed Pen­ta­gon reporters today from Kan­da­har Air­field. Their troops are respon­si­ble for Kandahar’s May­wand, Zhari and Arghandab dis­tricts.

Kan­dar­i­an said when his troops arrived in their Region­al Com­mand South area of respon­si­bil­i­ty 10 months ago, “insur­gents could go where they want­ed, intim­i­date who and when they want­ed, and basi­cal­ly had unfet­tered con­trol of High­way 1,” the road that links pop­u­la­tion cen­ters in Afghanistan.

Since then, he said, the two part­ner brigades have fought shoul­der to shoul­der, cleared insur­gents and destroyed weapons caches. He added his troops have built numer­ous com­bat out­posts in for­mer insur­gent-held areas.

“With the increased secu­ri­ty, it’s not uncom­mon for farm­ers to come up to our part­nered patrols and thank them for remov­ing the insur­gents, so they can farm their land for the first time in many years,” he said.

Kan­dar­i­an said that at age 48, if he had been born in Zhari, he’d have fought the Rus­sians from age 15 to 25, and seen the Tal­iban, insur­gents and “a lot of evil” from age 30 to 37. Now, he said, Zhari res­i­dents see part­nered patrols, Afghan sol­diers far­ther south than they’ve ever been, more bazaars and roads, and Afghan police and sol­diers run­ning High­way 1 check­points togeth­er.

Sar­wari, speak­ing through a trans­la­tor, said that as his brigade’s sol­diers gain train­ing and expe­ri­ence, they are learn­ing to plan and exe­cute oper­a­tions inde­pen­dent­ly. Edu­ca­tion among the Afghan peo­ple in the region, the Afghan com­man­der said, is essen­tial to extend­ing government’s reach and solid­i­fy­ing secu­ri­ty gains. “Day by day, they will real­ize the sys­tem of the gov­ern­ment of Afghanistan, and they will start to rec­og­nize the Afghan Nation­al Army,” he said.

The army, drawn from all of the nation’s provinces and tribes, gives the local peo­ple an exam­ple of Afghan uni­ty, Sar­wari said. “They are ready to send their … young men to join the army and Afghan Nation­al Police, and … Afghan local police [for] their vil­lages,” he said.

Sar­wari said he is con­fi­dent that while Afghanistan has a young army, it will improve its equip­ment and tech­nol­o­gy and gain armored vehi­cle, artillery and avi­a­tion capa­bil­i­ties with the help of NATO’s Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force and U.S. forces.

“We will form a real­ly good army, which will … con­duct all the oper­a­tions against the ene­mies of Afghanistan,” he said.

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

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