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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Shrapnel From Afghanistan IX

kabul graveyard

Kabul graveyard

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quoting

The Wrong Enemy

a book by Carlotta Gall

copyright 2014

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They were poor farmers with weather-beaten faces and gnarled hands.  They slipped off their muddied galoshes and sat cross-legged on the floor of a deep verandah, sipping green tea as Wudood recounted his story of the uprising.  As I looked around at the gathering of elders, I realized what I was witnessing:  the end of the road for the Taliban in this area…

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He was proud that he had never been driven from his home ~ not by the Soviets, not by the chaos of mujahideen rule, not by the seven years of Taliban govern- ment, and not through ten years on the frontline between Taliban insurgents and American and NATO forces…

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Afghan farmer

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Resentment of the Taliban was already brewing in the village of Pishin Gan Sayedan.  When villagers had begun their yearly collective task of cleaning the irrigation canal, digging out the silt and clearing the undergrowth along the sloping banks, the Taliban commander Mullah Noor Mohammad turned up with a group of fighters and ordered them to stop.  The undergrowth provided the Taliban with good cover for ambushes, he told them.  The villagers answered back that they needed the water to flow for their crops.  They continued working.  These Taliban were outsiders, and the villagers were fed up with them.  The Taliban caused trouble by laying mines everywhere and staging ambushes in the village.  Now they were threatening the villagers’ livelihood by disrupting the irrigation supply.  “The Taliban were saying we don’t care if your fields die, or if you die, so the people said, ‘Then you can die,'” one resident told me.

The Taliban resorted to force.  They waded in with their rifle butts, cracking several people on the head and breaking the arms of two of the farmers.  They detained the village elder in charge of the canal cleaning and took him off to their base in the desert.

Just a few days later, the Taliban returned, looking for Wudood and his sons.  By now the mood in the village was boiling.  Villagers who had lost relatives to the Taliban offered their support to Wudood.  When he met with the police chief, they hatched a plan.  Sultun Mohammed immediately sent a posse of fifteen men to guard Wudood’s house in case the Taliban came back.  After three days of waiting, they decided to spring an attack on Taliban positions in the nearby village of Kakaran.  The place was an operational base where the Taliban were making bombs and explosives, and where they believed the Taliban commander stayed since the approaches were heavily mined.  The police gathered a force of local and national police and intelligence officers, and attacked from two sides.  Thirty to forty unarmed villagers accompanied the police, guiding them through the land mines and acting as lookouts.  In a short firefight, they shot three members of the Taliban and seized control of the village.  The Taliban commander, Mullah Noor Mohammad, escaped with ten others.  The police knew his radio code name, Rahmani, and were able to follow his movements on the radio.  The three wounded Talibs died as they retreated south.

Villagers from all around, delighted that the Taliban had been sent packing, now came forward to give their support to Wudood.  They thronged his courtyard and pledged to stand with him.  His group of thirty supporters grew to hundreds, from thirty different villages.  Overnight the whole of Zangabad turned against the Taliban…

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sourthern reaches of Afghanistan

Southern reaches of Afghanistan

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Having security forces strong enough to protect them had encouraged the people to turn against the Taliban, General Razziq said…

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By the end of February, fifty men from Zangabad had joined the local police program.  Villages further along the horn of Panjwayi had come over to the government and were asking for local police, Sultan Mohammed, the police chief, told me.  “It is not thirty, not fifty, it is hundreds of villages…”

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Afghan village

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An Afghan elder who lived  in Quetta (Pakistan) and knew many members of the Taliban in his neighborhood told me that the insurgent fighters were more scared of the local police than the NATO forces and all their firepower.  “Forty-two countries have come here with all their high-tech equipment, but the Taliban are not as scared of their technology as they are of the local police.”

In Zare, the local police turned the tables on the Taliban.  Drawn from the villages, trained and mentored by U.S. special forces, they were largely responsible for preventing the Taliban from regaining a foothold in the district in 2012, and the population swung behind them, residents told us…

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afghan village homes

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By September 2012, spontaneous uprisings against Taliban forces had occurred in half a dozen places around the country including Ghazni, Nuristan, Wardak, Ghor, Faryab, and Logar provinces…

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In Kamdesh in Nuristan, local tribesmen fought for months against a determined Taliban and al Qaeda force.  At one point the government and the United States flew in supplies and commandos to assist them.  A senior Afghan intelligence official warned that it was not enough and the government was going to lose the moment.  Kamdesh remained cut off by road, and the government was doing nothing to clear the route, the official told me.  Karzai was issuing orders, but the ministry responsible was not acting.  Nevertheless the tribesmen hung on…

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Looks like northeast Afghanistan...

Northeastern Afghanistan

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When I remember the beleaguered state of Afghanistan in 2001, I marvel at the changes the American intervention has wrought:  the rebuilding, the modernity, the bright graduates in every office.  Yet after thirteen years, a trillion dollars spent, 120,000 foreign troops deployed at the height, and tens of thousands of lives lost, the fundamentals of Afghanistan’s predicament remain the same:  a weak state, prey to the ambitions of its neighbors and extremist Islamists.  The United States and its NATO allies are departing with the job only half done.  Counter-insurgency is slow work.  A comprehensive effort to turn things around only began in 2010.  The fruits were only starting to show in 2013, and progress remains fragile.

Meanwhile the real enemy remains at large.  The Taliban and al Qaeda will certainly seek to regain bases and territory in Afghanistan upon the departure of Western troops.  Few Afghans believe that their government and security forces can keep the Taliban at bay.  I believe they can, but they will need long-term financial and military support…

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village boys with gifts Afghanistan

Gifts

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The Haqqania madrassa, near the famous Moghul fort of Attock in Pakistan, is a notorious establishment; it follows the fundamentalist Deobandi sect and is often described as the alma mater of the Afghan jihad since it has trained generations of students over three decades for war in Afghanistan…

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The Haqqania madrassa houses three thousand religious students from Pashtun areas, Afghans and Pakistanis, in large, white-washed residence blocks built around a series of courtyards.  Ninety-five percent of the Taliban fighting in Afghanistan have passed through its classrooms, a spokesman for the madrassa, Syed Mohammad Yousuf Shah, proudly told me…

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Jalaluddin Haqqani or son

Jalaluddin “The Ugly” Haqqani

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Their most famous graduate is Jalaluddin Haqqani, the veteran Afghan mujahideen commander, who took his name from the madrassa and won renown as a ferocious warrior against the Soviet occupation.  During that time, he forged strong ties with Arab groups, including bin Laden’s, and the ISI (Pakistan secret service).  He served as a minister in the mujahideen and Taliban governments, and remained an important ally to Pakistan, with control of a large section of eastern Afghanistan.  That did not change after 9/11.  He continued to head a network of commanders known as the Haqqani network and became the main protector of al Qaeda in North Waziristan.  His long and close ties to the ISI and to Arab groups has been the critical element in creating a safe haven in the tribal areas for the Taliban and foreign militants.  It is Haqqani who is the linchpin for the entire ISI operation in the tribal areas.  He is the most powerful commander who oversees all the other groups.  Now elderly, he has passed daily operations to his son, Sirajuddin.  Born of an Arab mother, Sirajuddin Haqqani is known as the Khalifa, or Caliph, to his followers although he does not have a high religious standng.  He derives his power from his military clout and mafia businesses.  His network has become the main instrument for ISI-directed attacks in Kabul and eastern Afghanistan…

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the_sufi_mg56

The Sufi

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Wahabi Extremism

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Afghan People Earn International Praise

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Afghans secure & deliver the 2014 ballot here & there & everywhere…

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And the people line up to vote here & there & everywhere in Afghanistan…

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TOLOnews.com

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Updated Monday, April 7, 2014

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World leaders have come out left and right to praise Afghans, following Saturday’s vote, which marked the beginning of Afghanistan’s first democratic transition of power in modern history. Although insurgents had threatened to derail the elections, they were carried out peacefully and saw turnout that surpassed expectations.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) estimated in a press conference Saturday night that over seven million Afghans participated in the presidential and provincial council elections, which would mean twice as many as did in 2009.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday congratulated Afghanistan for the election and said it was “critical” to securing the country’s democratic prospects and continued international aid. The U.S.-led NATO coalition is prepared to withdraw from the country by the end of this year, and the person elected to succeed President Hamid Karzai will likely play a key role in shaping the future of relations between Kabul and Washington.

The ballots “represent another important milestone in Afghans taking full responsibility for their country as the United States and our partners draw down our forces,” Obama said in a statement. “These elections are critical to securing Afghanistan’s democratic future, as well as continued international support.”

The U.S. has been trying to settle a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the Karzai administration that would allow some foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014 to help advise the Afghan security forces, conduct counterterrorism operations and oversee the use of aid money. Over four billion USD in military supported funding is tied to the deal. With Karzai refusing to sign on, however, the last hope for the pact seems to fall on whoever is elected to replace him.

Heading into Saturday’s vote many Afghans and non-Afghans alike were concerned about insurgent violence and possible fraud. Militants led a surge of violence in the weeks leading up to the vote. But Saturday came and went with a few scattered attacks that had no large effect on the national process, and fraud, for the moment, appears to have been more subdued than in past years.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has welcomed the Afghan elections as a historic event, and urged all candidates to respect the electoral institutions and their processes. It is likely the vote counting process will not be complete for several weeks.

“The members of the Council reiterate the importance of these historic elections to Afghanistan’s transition and democratic development,” the UNSC said in a statement.

“Members commend the participation and courage of the Afghan people to cast their ballot despite the threat and intimidation by the Taliban and other extremist and terrorist groups,” the statement added.

The high turnout, from both male and female voters, was celebrated by most as the major success of the day, regardless of the elections’ outcome.

“It is a great achievement for the Afghan people that so many voters, men and women, young and old, have turned out in such large numbers, despite threats of violence, to have their say in the country’s future,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen also chimed-in, calling the elections “a historic moment for Afghanistan”. Saturday was the first time since the coalition invaded the country that an election has been managed entirely by Afghans.

“This will be a historic moment, if we get this right, this democratic transition,” European Union (EU) Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton said.

The Indian government, a close ally of the Karzai administration, also commended Afghans on their participation in Saturday’s elections. “We salute the people of Afghanistan who turned out in such great numbers to exercise their right to vote despite the threat of violence and intimidation from terrorists and those who do not wish to see a strong, democratic and sovereign Afghanistan,” an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said on Saturday.

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officials also congratulated the people of Afghanistan. “Today’s success clearly demonstrates that the Afghan people have chosen their future of progress and opportunity,” ISAF said in a statement.

“As the world watched, the Afghan National Security Forces provided the opportunity for the Afghan people to choose their new President, securing over 6,200 polling centers across the country,” the statement added.

The Afghan security forces have taken over responsibility for security from US-led forces, and this year the last of the NATO coalition’s remaining 51,000 combat troops will pull out. The relative peacefulness of Saturday’s vote will mark a crowning success for the security forces who have already been applauded for their impressive performance during their first fight season in the lead over the past year.

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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.”

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