ANA Climbs Out Of Twilight Zone

~~~

by Aref Musavi

TOLO news

18 September 2016

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The Afghan National Army (ANA) battling insurgency in the northern parts of the country has changed its war strategy from a defensive one to an offensive position and are systematically attacking insurgent strongholds, military officials confirmed.

“Now we are not in a defensive position, everyone knows that we attacked insurgents in Sar-e-Pul province and advanced up to Masjid-e-Sabz and Deh Mordeh villages. Also we attacked the Taliban in Baghlan and our operation is ongoing in Kunduz as well,” said General Mohmand Katawazai, a military official in the north.

Katawazai added that Afghan security forces are targeting the enemy but that they are having difficulties destroying Taliban strongholds in remote areas.

He said that the Afghan security forces are not afraid of the risks as they advance on the insurgents.

Meanwhile, military officials in the north have said the Taliban’s “Omari” operation – their summer offensive – has failed and that in the past five months a large number of insurgent have been killed in the north and south-east of the country.

“In the recent five months, 1,010 insurgents were killed and their bodies remained on the battlefields,” said General Hasibullha Quraishi, a special forces commander in northern Balkh province.

Quraishi added: “Around 405 wounded insurgents have been arrested by security forces. We can say that intelligence forces have confirmed this.”

He added that Afghan security forces also had sustained casualties, but their numbers were less.

However, the Kohistanat district in Sar-e-Pul province has been under Taliban control for the past year while a few other districts in the province are under serious threat.

Asked why an operation has not been launched to retake Kohistanat district from the Taliban, Mohammad Zahir Wahdat, governor of Sar-e-Pul, said: “The reason why a large-scale operation has not been launched in Kohistanat, I think is because security forces, the president, the chief executive, ministers and other security sectors are busy trying to solve the problems.”

However, he did not clarify what he meant by the word problems.

Officials have however urged the public to cooperate with security forces and to not listen to the propaganda of insurgents.

~~~

http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/27314-ana-changes-war-strategy-in-northern-zone

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Afghan Army Raises Recruitment Age

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by Tim Craig

The Washington Post

via Stars & Stripes

February 4, 2016

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan army, struggling to defeat a resilient Taliban, has begun enlisting men as old as 40 to replenish a force thinned by casualties, defections and attrition.

The decision to raise the age limit for recruits to 40 from 35 was quietly made last month in response to pressure from the U.S.-led coalition, said Brig. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, chief spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry.

“There was concern among our international friends, and also among Afghans, that we would not be able fulfill recruitment targets that we have for the new year,” Waziri said.

The strength of the Afghan National Army has been a long-standing concern for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, but the force’s shortcomings came into sharper focus last year.

Despite more than $35 billion in U.S. support over the past 15 years, the Afghan army struggled to repel a major Taliban offensive this past fall into Kunduz, a commercial hub in northern Afghanistan, taking days to regain control.

The Taliban also made gains in several northern and eastern provinces last year, heightening concerns that the Afghan army is stretched too thin to defend the country against the radical Islamist group’s persistent insurgency, as well as efforts by the Islamic State to gain a foothold.

In a report to Congress last week, John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said Afghan forces control only 70 percent of the country and that the Taliban now controls more territory than at any point since 2001, when it was ousted from power in Kabul after five years of brutal rule.

Many analysts believe the Afghan army suffered a record number of casualties last year, although it has not released specific figures. Col. Michael T. Lawhorn, director of public affairs for the U.S.-led coalition, said Afghan forces suffered a 28 percent increase in casualties in 2015.

Lawhorn said Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, has been urging the Afghan army change how it recruits and deploys its soldiers.

Besides simplifying the recruitment process, Campbell has advised army commanders to shift soldiers from checkpoints into more mobile infantry units. The army also has to be large enough that it can more easily cycle soldiers between combat and leave time, Lawhorn said.

“What has happened the last couple years is some of these units have been in battle the entire time,” Lawhorn said. “So this winter, what we are trying to do is rebuild, reequip and re-man.”  Waziri said Afghan military commanders hope about 5 to 10 percent of recruits will come from the 35-to-40 age bracket.
 .
The Afghan army has a targeted strength of 195,000 soldiers, but it has consistently failed to meet its recruitment goals. In his report to Congress, Sopko said the force currently claims about 170,000 soldiers. But that figure may be inflated, he cautioned.
.

Last month, an Associated Press investigation found that official Afghan army enlistment numbers probably include thousands of “ghost soldiers” who do not regularly report for duty or who have retired, defected to the Taliban or been killed.

With the move to accept recruits up to age 40, it appears as if the Afghan military will have one of the world’s least restrictive age requirements for military service.

Neighboring Pakistan, for example, generally does not accept infantry recruits older than 23, according to military officials in that country. India generally does not accept infantry recruits older than 24.

But in recent years, the U.S. military has also loosened some of its own age requirements for enlistment.

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http://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/stretched-by-fight-against-taliban-afghan-army-raises-recruitment-age-1.392246

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Col. Sheena Johnson & The Ants

   by Rawclyde!

Thousands of ants

Tumble across the raggedy ground

At the feet of Col. Sheena Johnson

& her faithful hubby Habibullah

~

The couple sit cross-legged honing arrowheads of Sufi bliss

In front of the commander’s imported Native American teepee

“I’ve never seen a horde of ants like this,” says ex-Talib Habibullah

“I wonder where they are going?”

~

Elder Haji Mujadooti having trudged up the mountain-ridge trail

Stands out of breath amidst the horde of ants, tries to say something

He slaps his pants frantically, falls down, rolls around spastically

Thus disrupting the peaceful scene with idiotic old-man antics

~

Covered head to toe with angry biting ants

He heroically stands up & despite the pain he is suffering

Says to Habibulla’s infidel wife,  “Do something, Sheena!

Our courageous Afghan soldiers are dying below!”

~

~

Ahhh!

The commander knows Afghanistan

She knows Taliban & she knows ants too

She arises

~

The empress of the Afghaneeland village of Pluckame

Pulls Haji Mujadooti out of the jam in which he stands

“Darling husband, please tend to this poor wise man”

Habibullah smiles, arises & does as bidden

~

Barefoot, Sheena steps into the rapidly moving horde of angry ants

Not one lousy insect crawls onto one toe of the formidable goddess

She stands erect as the Rock of Gibraltar & prays to St. Joan of Arizona

Who in a distant land relays the message to heaven

~

And by God, Sheena’s Sufi bow materializes in her held out hand

Sufi armor crackles sparsely here & there on her outrageously perfect body

She picks up a freshly cut & carved & honed world-peace arrow

Fits it to the bow string, aims, shuts her eyes, let’s it go

~

The cosmic forces of the universe gather upon the arrowhead point

Thrust forward into the oblivion of every Taliban brain below

Capt’n Chuck Fiddler’s Afghaneeland Sufi Bubble

& divine revelations explode!!! 

~

Suddenly beyond anybody’s wildest expectation

There are no more Taliban in the tumultuous nation of Afghanistan

The insurgents have transformed into the silliest looking little ants ever seen

All carrying rifles tinier than toothpicks

~

Pvt. Ghani Gandhara gut-shot and breathing his last breath

Picks up one of these purple insects on the end of his thumb & smiles

The Afghan National Army defending the nation’s new democracy shall prevail

Pvt. Gandhara leaps beyond the veil… 

~

Text / Copyright Clyde Collins 2014

~

Col. Sheena Johnson at the helm of

Capt’n Chuck Fiddler’s Afghaneeland Sufi Bubble

~

Afghaneeland Adventure Series | Old Timer Chronicle II

~

4,100 Afghan Soldiers Long Gone

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by Mirwais Adeel

Khaama Press (KP)

Jul 22 2015

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At least 4,100 service members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP) forces have lost their lives during the first six months of the year 2015.

The latest statistic regarding the Afghan National Security Forces casualties was disclosed in a report by the New York Times which shows a 50% increase as compared to the first six months of the year 2014.

According to the Times, the data regarding the Afghan forces casualties was provided by an official with the American-led coalition.

The data also revealed at least 7,800 service members of the Afghan National Security Forces were wounded during the same period.

In the meantime, the Afghan officers identified desertion as a serious problem saying that many soldiers were simply being barred from going home and required to fight on the frontlines for months straight.

The considerable growth in Afghan forces casualties comes as the Taliban-led insurgency has also been rampant with Afghan commanders and officials in key battleground areas saying that while Afghan forces nominally hold key areas, they are often penned in by Taliban forces.

Abdul Hadi Khalid a retired Afghan Lieutenant General told the Times “We are in a passive defense mode — we are not chasing the enemy,” and called the mounting casualties “grave.”

Mirdad Khan Nejrabi a member of Afghanistan’s parliament said that while the casualties were “very concerning” there would be no large-scale collapse of Afghan forces.

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The Afghan National Army (ANA)

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written by Sayed Sharif Amiry

TOLO news

25 September 2014

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Formation of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and development of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) were among President Hamid Karzai’s top priorities during his 13 year presidency.

Now as his term comes to an end, Karzai leaves behind his presidential legacy with security forces able to protect the nation despite all challenges.

According to the Ministry of Defense (MoD), if the ANA is provided with necessary arms and weaponries, the forces could be regionally unique.

“We can count on the ANA on a regional level,” MoD spokesman Zahir Azimi said. “With more investments, the ANA could be unique in the region.”

Meanwhile, critics have stated that the ANSF’s ability to maintain security in many parts of the country is questionable, adding that the forces have missed massive opportunities for growth.

After the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 through 2005, security was not a major issue for the Karzai and his administration. However, the Taliban were able to regain their capabilities and disrupt the security once again starting with rising insecurities in 2007.

“Helmand, for instance, didn’t face any major threats until 2007,” MP Shukria Barakzai said. “Regrettably, lack of good governance, lack of coordination among politicians and the U.S. war in Iraq contributed to the rising insecurities in Afghanistan.”

The ANA has conducted at least 6,000 nighttime military operations and has accomplished major military tasks despite the lack of sufficient artillery.

“We still have no defending army, it is only an anti-rebel army, it still has long ways to go,” military commentator Jawed Kohistani said.

The total number of soldiers serving in the ANA ranks is about 150,000, with an additional 195,000 in the Afghan National Police (ANP) branch.

With the new president being inaugurated on Monday, the new government’s approach to the ANA’s future and development is a major topic of discussion.

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http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/16517-ana-one-of-karzais-top-legacies

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The Elder Inside The Sufi Bubble

 by Rawclyde!

~

Tiny bubbles & colossal bubbles

All kinds of bubbles blowing in the wind

Full of Sufi miracles

Impossible to comprehend

~

Capt’n Chuck Fiddler’s Afghaneeland Bubble

Inside which resides the mountain ridge

On which is perched the village of Pluckame

Now hovers above a borderland of Afghanistan

~

~

Afghan National Army soldiers fire their guns

The Taliban keep a comin’ outta Pakistan

Faraway Iraq sucks up American air support

But for one strange bubble in the sky

~

Capt’n Chuck Fiddler’s Afghaneeland Bubble

The most viable support Afghan soldiers have got now

From the United States or from their own nation

Has them buffaloed & worried

~

~

No Afghan president yet to replace the old one

American firepower as good as gone

Pakistan nextdoor going nuts, refugees everywhere

And Taliban!

~

40 soldiers surrounded by 1,000 screaming enemy

And 10,000 ricocheting singing bullets

 Repeatedly look up & pray for a stray Warthog aeroplane

But all they see up there is a bubble!

~

~

Capt’n Chuck Fiddler’s Afghaneeland Bubble

Offers them as much soothing consolation as an unarmed goat

With a bell around his neck warning every Talib in the vicinity

That he is lamb-chops sneeking around

~

One Afghan patriot, Pvt. Ghani Gandhara, gets a bullet in the belly

Moans, gazes futiley at the sky & spies the damn bubble

 That pretends to be a Sufi miracle floating amidst the tumultuous clouds

 The wounded private cries out, “Ah shit!  Allah loves the Taliban!!!”

~

~

One of the oldest living faces on planet Earth shows up

Magnified magnificently on the soapy orb above the profusely bleeding soldier

And, thusly, an elder of the village inside it speaks forth to Pvt. Gandhara

“Have faith.  It’s all you’ve got right now.”

~

~

Tiny bubbles & colossal bubbles

All kinds of bubbles blowing in the wind

Full of Sufi miracles

Too wondrous to comprehend

~

Afghaneeland Adventure Series | Old Timer Chronicle II

~

Text / Copyright Clyde Collins 2014

~~~

ANA soldier photos by Victor Blue

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asia/photographer-embeds-five-day-clearing-mission-afghan-troops-n177381

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Incidentally

books by independent author Jnana Hodson: 

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/401122

via Smashwords ebooks

~~~

Afghan Troops Nail Taliban in Ghazni

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Xinhua News

04-24-2014

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KABUL, April 24 — Units of Afghan national army raided Taliban hideouts and killed eight insurgents, including two commanders in the southern Ghazni province on Thursday, an army spokesman Nazif Sultani said.

“Units of the national army launched cleanup operations in Andar district of Ghazni province early today morning and so far eight rebels, including two Taliban commanders, Mullah Mansoor and Azizullah, have been killed and five others injured,” Sultani told Xinhua, adding the elimination of the two commanders is a major setback to the Taliban militants in the southern region.

Andar has been regarded as the stronghold of Taliban militants in Ghazni province. Taliban militants have yet to make comment.

Meanwhile, Sultani said that the operations will continue till the district is cleaned up from the insurgents.

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Duty World By Rawclyde!

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I am an American who backs whatever choice the Afghan people make in regards to the government we’ve been nurturing in their country.  I believe in free will.  I do not believe in tyranny.  Taliban believe in tyranny.

Most Americans with whom I am acquainted know next to nothing about Afghanistan ~ the country in which the United States has been waging war for around 12 years.  The two countries have a relationship ~ but it could be better ~ much better.  As far as I am concerned, that better relationship begins right here with me.  At times it may not seem so, but I’m quite serious about this.  Just because we’re getting a divorce certainly doesn’t mean we have to be enemies.  However, that might occur if the Taliban end-up ruling in Afghanistan.  But that’s up to the citizens of Afghanistan.

April 5, 2014, about a week from now, an election is on that nation’s schedule to happen, more intense & important than any to which I’ve ever been privy.  Lot’s of people are dying.  I’m sorry about that.  The fighting, as observed from my perch on the other side of our planet, is fierce.  And it’s between the Afghans, nobody else, although each side has its own back-up & loyal & un-loyal tribes.  Somehow, the Afghan government & my government have made it this way.  And it’s about as fair as it can get.  It’s just too bad there’s so much bloodshed.  I blame that on the Taliban.

They are the sons of Afghanistan ~ but not the only sons of that country.  I back the Afghan National Army.  They are also sons (and daughters) of Afghanistan ~ and are democratic rather than tyrannical like their fierce but not fiercer opponents, the Taliban, who governed for a while but not right now.  Presently, if the Taliban want to govern they must run for election, campaign & be elected ~ or blow the whole thing to pieces if the rest of Afghanistan and its brand new army let’s them.  Also, I must add, if the Taliban do get elected sometime in the misty future, they’ve got to uphold a democratic rather than instigate a tyrannical rule, or, like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, they quite possibly won’t be ruling for but a few months.

The Taliban have nobody to blame but themselves for the presence of my countrymen & others in Afghanistan.  You don’t coddle the murderer of 3,000 American citizens on American soil (September 11, 2001) and likely get away with it.  The staunch and fierce Taliban are doomed as long as they are unwilling to compromise ~ and that’s how they appear to be ~ uncompromising.  I’ve read that at one time they were kind of like folk heroes.  But it looks to me now that nobody likes them, not even their own people.  If they think their own people are only Pashtun, I beg to defer.  Their people now include all the other Afghans too.  Sorry.

One last thing ~ the Taliban or any other extremist-group highjacking of the Islamic faith is not appreciated by the truly religious anywhere on Earth.  Go ahead & ask Benazir Bhutto, the Islamic prime minister twice of Pakistan who was assassinated, as she rolls in her grave with each murder that the misled Talibanee commit in her neighboring country as well as in her own.

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new heros in town

Afghan National Army ~ new heroes in town

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http://dutypoeticslab.yolasite.com/dreaming-about-the-infantry.php

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Martial Integrity

A-10

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by Rawclyde!

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With the Republicans led by the nose by the Taliban Tea Party & the Democrats on a homosexual promotion binge, the United States has one last hope of assembling a little martial integrity.  This hope lay in Afghanistan.  Sell the A-10 Warthog Fleet to the Afghan National Army (ANA).

My hunch is that’s what the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has in mind.  I hope he’s not too timid to pull it off.  Lately Hagel has been talking about downsizing the military and in doing so, eliminating the Warthog aeroplane fleet.  If this comes to be, we can sell the fleet for one dollar or so to the Afghan National Army who, with us leaving the premises, is in dire need of air support against the Taliban enemy out of Pakistan.  It could make the difference in the war.

Instead, it looks like Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, and Barack Obama, the U.S. president, are abandoning the ANA, which is a pity, a shame, and very possibly a mortal sin.  It looks like this is why MSNBC, the Democrat channel on American TV, has only been blathering about queers & a tub of lard in New Jersey & ignoring the Afghanistan War.

Maybe its too late for martial integrity.  Maybe it’s all in Pakistan.  Sometimes my personal paranoia taints my perspective.  Sometimes I don’t see too straight.  But, also, I am occasionally right on target.

imagesCAD4GVGE

Afghans Clear Sangin Valley

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Story by Cpl. Joshua Young

1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade

Regional Command Southwest

February 8, 2014

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CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers with 2nd and 3rd Brigades, 215th Corps, teamed with the Afghan Uniform Police and other Afghan National Security Forces to conduct a completely Afghan-led operation called Oqab 144, with only advisor-related help from coalition forces.

The operation, which took place Jan. 27 – Feb. 4, means “Eagle 144,” in English. It is a process to eliminate hostile threats from the Sangin Valley, Helmand province, Afghanistan, prior to the upcoming national election in order to offer a better environment for potential voters and the local populace.

The operation was conducted weeks before the Afghan presidential elections, which are scheduled to take place April 5. The current president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is not eligible to run for re-election due to term limits, making this the first transfer of the presidency since his inauguration in 2004 and the first democratic transition of power in the history of Afghanistan.

“They’re sharing stories about the election and belief in their government,” said Col. Christopher Douglas, the team leader of Security Force Assistance Advisor Team 2-215. “I believe this gives people the opportunity to see that the future is bright because these operations are being executed for Afghans by Afghans with no coalition presence visible to them during the operation.”

The ANSF partners are working together to build trust within the local populace to achieve a more stable and secure environment for the election as well as the future of Afghanistan, Helmand province, and Sangin Valley.

“This shows that it’s an Afghan election process,” said Douglas, whose team is stationed out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. “We’re not driving it. It shows faith in the system, now they’re gaining more of that confidence. We can’t force them to do something, so it comes down to inspiring them.”

During May 2012, the Afghan and U.S. governments agreed a contract needed to be created to establish how many, if any, American forces would remain in Afghanistan following the end of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization mission in 2014. Without such a contract, known as the Bilateral Security Agreement, the U.S. must pull all forces out of the country by the end of the year.

The two governments began working on the agreement Nov. 15, 2012, which would allow a contingent of U.S. troops to stay in the country in an advisory role.

Despite the approval of the Loya Jirga, or “grand council” on Nov. 24, 2013, and increasing support from Afghanistan and the international community, President Karzai has yet to sign the agreement.

Due to the hesitation from President Karzai, the next president of Afghanistan may be responsible for signing the agreement. This places the fate of the BSA in the hands of the voters —the people of Afghanistan — as they choose their next leader.

“It’s a very exciting time,” said Maj. Paul D. Tremblay, deputy team leader, SFAAT 2-215. “It’s an election where the people can choose a leader who’s going to take them the rest of the way.”

The operation to clear the Sangin Valley of hostile threats was met with resistance and casualties, but also several milestones of success.

Seeing only Afghan uniforms during the operation helped build the locals’ confidence in the ANSF. In turn, some locals provided the forces with information on insurgent movements and known locations, as well as locations of improvised explosive devices and explosives labs.

“As (the operation) went on through the Sangin area with 2nd and 3rd Brigades, they were approached by some locals who advised them they missed some IEDs during the clear,” Douglas said. “That was a great surprise. It showed confidence in the ANA’s ability to work with the locals and them feeling comfortable enough to come up to members of the ANA or the police and work with them to create a more secure environment in their community.”

When they first entered the Sangin Valley in 2006 after the resurgence of the Taliban, the coalition forces had the lead role in all combat operations. During the course of the campaign, the lead has steadily been turned over to Afghan forces as the coalition took on an advisory role.

Oqab 144 marks one of the first operations in the region during which the populace hasn’t seen a coalition force presence. Security Force Assistance Advisor Team 2-215 played a silent role in the operation, offering only advisory assistance and minimal relief in casualty evacuations.

“They’re in the lead,” Douglas said. “We’re here and able to watch through some of our assets, but the big thing is seeing their excitement for how well things are going for them and hearing their stories of sharing a big success together. Now they’re out there doing it.”

“We’re kind of like father figures, and we’re watching our children grow and flourish,” Tremblay said. “They have it, you can see it in their eyes. They just need to continue to grow and mature. Once they get in the highest leadership positions, they’ll be unstoppable.”

“They have an incredibly capable staff,” Tremblay said. “They have all the enablers and they’re learning each and every day. This operation is certainly demonstrating their capacity to take independent action and learn and grow as they progress.”

“It’s one of the most complex problems I’ve ever seen in my 18 years in the Marine Corps,” Tremblay said. “It’s fascinating to study and the more you do, the more you learn about the intricacies at play here and what can potentially be done in the future.”

The SFAAT considered the operation to be a success and is dedicated to helping the ANA in the region become completely sustainable and self-sufficient.

One of the obstacles the SFAAT and the ANA face in the region is the annual fighting season, tied to the weather and poppy harvest.

The Sangin Valley is known by many as a hotbed for nefarious and illegal activities. It’s strategic in its relevance to major corridors such as Route 1 and Route 611.

Drug runners and insurgents often use Route 1, which runs all the way through Afghanistan from Pakistan to Iran. The two routes are a crossroads for both trade and drug trafficking. Much of the Taliban’s funding comes from the profits of the poppy harvests. Black-tar heroine is extracted from the poppy plants and the drugs are shipped all over the world.

The Taliban control much of the heroine trade and are dependent on the industry. When the weather cools off, the insurgency turns toward facilitating the poppy planting. When planting begins, fighting almost instantly ceases.

“It’s a constant disruption mentality,” Tremblay said. “Whether it’s Marines, British or Afghans, their ability to consistently disrupt the activity of the insurgents by projecting combat power prevents the insurgent from feeling comfortable enough to go in and interact with the populace, plant an IED or set up a firing position.”

The progress that has been made since the coalition first entered the Sangin Valley can be measured by the success of Oqab 144 and the relationship building between the ANSF and the local populace.

“Without this group we would not have reached this stage,” said Col. Abdul Hai Neshat, executive officer, ANA 2nd Brigade. “Due to the Marines’ hard work along side us, we can lead our units. They’re very helpful and useful.”

Success in the region did not come easily. Many service members from coalition forces and the ANSF have paid the ultimate price to bring stability to the war-torn area.

“I don’t think we could ever put a number on the blood, treasure and heartache that has been poured into this area,” Tremblay said. “The blood, sweat and tears, the brothers we’ve lost, the horrific injuries sustained and the invisible ones that keep you up at night are beyond description. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to capture what has been sacrificed to get us to this point. Especially when you read in the media what’s going on in certain areas in Iraq, it’s hard not to question: ‘Has it been worth it?’ In my opinion, the answer is absolutely, ‘Yes.’ All of that sacrifice has led to an opportunity we’re seeing start to grow and gain momentum today.”

With all the progress that has been made in the past eight years, there is still more to be done.

“I’d like to say, on behalf of my personnel and soldiers, thank you to the Marines and the U.S. in a common (effort) for helping Afghanistan,” Neshat said. “Without U.S. support, we would not be able to stand as a country. Hopefully in the future the U.S. will continue the support and help Afghanistan and not leave. All people in Afghanistan want peace in this country and to live a normal life. It’s very important to help us. These are the wishes of all of Afghanistan.”

Following the operation, Maj. Gen. Sayed Malook, commanding general, 215th Corps, traveled to Camp Leatherneck via Route 611 to show his confidence that the Sangin Valley had been cleared, said Maj. Gen. W. Lee Miller, commanding general, RC(SW). “Every day is a step in the right direction.”

~~~

Afghan Forces In “The Valley Of Death”

IED hunt

The Afghan National Army (ANA) regards Taliban improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried in Afghan highways as unacceptable…

~~~

BBC News

9 November 2013

~~~

If the Afghan National Army (ANA) is to prevent the Taliban from taking control of the country after Nato withdraws in 2014, its success in capturing and securing the strategically important and mountainous district of Chapa Dara in the eastern province of Kunar may provide a template, the BBC’s Bilal Sarwary reports:

~~~

There is no decent road to Chapa Dara – only a bumpy dirt track takes you to this mountainous district. The area is known for its dense forests and vast maize fields that offer a perfect hideout to Taliban insurgents.

Lack of development and a near total absence of government helped the Taliban take control of the only road access to Chapa Dara two-and-a-half years ago, paralysing an already weak administration.

“The Taliban did not allow food, fuel, even medicine to pass through this road,” General Hayatullah Aqtash, commander of the Afghan National Army in Kunar, tells me.

“Prices of essential items sky rocketed, the government was paralysed and locals were terrorised.”

Kunar Province has always been a crucible of conflict. Tucked away in the north-eastern corner of Afghanistan, it borders Pakistan’s tribal badlands. It is one of the first ports of call for war-minded militants crossing the mountain passes.

In recent months US drones – and the aerial intelligence they provided – are estimated to have killed more than 100 Taliban fighters, breaking the backbone of the Taliban and enabling the ANA to assume control of Chapa Dara, Gen Aqtash said.

Last year a US drone attack in the Shegal district of Kunar killed Mullah Dadullah, a high-ranking Pakistani Taliban commander.

Top Taliban commander Maulawi Nur Mohammad and his deputy Atiqullah were also killed in Kunar during 2012.

One of the main aims of the recent military operation was to reopen the Kunar-Nuristan road, which was eventually achieved earlier this year…

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As the army convoy in which I travelled drove on the dirt track alongside the Pech river, we could see white flags – similar to the ones the Taliban flew during their five-year rule in Afghanistan – fluttering on the other side.

The flags symbolise that the Taliban are in control.

But they have been ejected from Chapa Dara by the ANA.

“We have secured the road, because you have to start from the road,” Gen Aqtash said.

“We have come under attack and we suffered casualties in road-side bomb blasts. But we want the Taliban to know that we are not going anywhere.”

After two hours driving, the convoy reached Chapa Dara…

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Most local people seem to welcome the removal of the Taliban, some even providing ANA troops with food, milk and tea.

“Until recently, the Taliban controlled our lives,” says Mohammad Bashir, a shopkeeper in the district market.

“Men were beaten up for not having a beard. Music was banned. People were shot dead on the slightest suspicion of spying for the government.”

Locals said continuous clashes between the security forces and insurgents over the past two-and-a-half years forced closure of the market and the district’s only school.

“Life here came to a standstill,” one village elder said. “We were stuck between the government forces and the insurgents.”

Ihsanullah Gojar, the police chief of Chapa Dara, said his men suffered most during the siege.

“Dozens of policemen have been injured fighting the Taliban over the past two years,” he said.

“Many of them had injuries that were treatable but they died of their wounds because of the shortage of medical supplies and doctors.

“We were promised helicopter pick-ups for the injured, but they never came. It was painful to see my men die before my eyes and I could do nothing about it,” the police chief said.

As he spoke, several villagers gather around the military convoy, greeting the soldiers with flowers.

“People are happy that Taliban has been removed from Chapa Dara,” one elder said.

But the district is desperate for development. There is no judge or prosecutor in Chapa Dara, no clinic, no public health officials or teachers.

The absence of government services is so grave in fact that it threatens to undermine military advances on the ground.

The government is only in control of the town and district headquarters and surrounding areas. Most valleys and villages are still in the hands of the Taliban or foreign fighters…

nuristan-2

“This means that even though the army has taken control of the district and the road leading to it, the government can’t provide any services to the people,” Gen Aqtash said.

“It is obvious that there is a crisis of governance here. Militarily, we have done the job. But if the civilian side doesn’t work, this success will be for the short term.

“When the US forces were here, they used to nickname the Pech Valley as the Valley of Death, now we are calling it the Valley of Peace.

“But one has to fight and work hard for peace, it does not come cheap.”

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Bilal Sarwary

http://journalisted.com/bilal-sarwary

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BBC News

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24546628

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Afghans Expect Attacks This Winter

ANA officers ~ female

Afghan National Army (ANA) female officers take part in a training exercise at the Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC) in Kabul, October 8, 2013. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

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by Thom Shanker

New York Times

October 22, 2013

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BRUSSELS — A senior American military officer warned Tuesday that insurgent groups are expected to carry out an unusually aggressive campaign of violence in Afghanistan this winter, angling to create maximal disruption ahead of next year’s presidential elections and as Western forces continue to withdraw.

Afghanistan’s rugged terrain and heavy snowfall have historically resulted in a summer fighting season followed by a winter lull, with the Taliban using the cold-weather months to rest, retrain and try to further their agenda by quietly spreading political influence at the village level.

This winter, militant groups are expected to continue their traditional influence campaign. But in an interview on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defense ministers here, the senior American officer said that intelligence reviews and Afghan reports painted a picture of a concerted insurgent effort to disrupt the elections, planned for April 2014.

“We’re not in the ‘nonfighting season’ now,” said the official, speaking anonymously under ground rules usually in place at such NATO meetings. “We are actually transitioning to a winter campaign.”

The insurgent winter campaign is expected to include “attempts at high-profile attacks, attempts at targeted killings of political officials, election officials and candidates” rather than traditional battlefield engagements, the military official said.

A transparent and inclusive vote in April is viewed as central to the credibility of the Kabul government. American officials in particular had urged the Afghan government not to push the vote into summer, cautioning that any delay might make it easier for insurgents to disrupt the vote.

But the assessment shared Tuesday by the senior American officer was the first indication that the Taliban are also viewing the vote as a critical strategic point, to the degree that they would change their usual operations to focus on it.

At the same time, relations between the Afghan government and the United States are at a particularly delicate stage. A grand council, or loya jirga, of Afghan elders and powerful officials is expected to meet in coming weeks to recommend whether to accept a bilateral security agreement with the United States. If the agreement is then approved by Parliament, it will allow thousands of troops to remain after the NATO combat mission officially ends in December 2014.

There are around 50,000 American troops in Afghanistan, but that level will drop to 34,000 by February under orders from President Obama. As part of a commitment to helping the Afghans secure the elections, the number of American troops would then hold steady at the 34,000 level and not drop further until next July, according to the senior official.

NATO has endorsed an enduring force of 8,000 to 12,000 troops to advise, assist and train Afghan forces. It is expected that about two thirds of those troops would be American. But it is thought that no coalition nations would extend the mission without the United States remaining under a new security agreement with the Afghans.

At the crux of the debate are two American demands: to maintain legal jurisdiction over American troops, and to be able to continue direct counterterrorism missions on Afghan soil.

American officials said counterterrorism missions would be coordinated with and even carried out in partnership with Afghan forces. But there has been no wavering on American insistence on legal jurisdiction, which would shield United States troops against Afghan prosecution.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met in Brussels on Tuesday with the Afghan defense minister, Bismullah Khan Mohammadi. Mr. Mohammadi expressed confidence that the bilateral security agreement would be approved, American officials said.

But in the meeting, Mr. Hagel was firm that American jurisdiction over its forces “is a must” for the agreement, according to a senior Pentagon official.

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