By Maj. John House, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 25, 2008 - Establishing peace and stability here is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, and Afghan Regional Security Integration Command Central is helping fit the pieces together to build a cohesive security picture in the region. "For a successful counterinsurgency operation, all players -- the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police and coalition forces -- have to be involved and working together," said Marine Corps Col. Phillip Smith, who commands the unit.
Kunar province is a hotbed of operations for anti-government elements, including foreign fighters infiltrating through Pakistan. Responsibility for interdicting this infiltration falls largely on the Afghan Border Police.
Border-control points on main roads can only be partially effective, since insurgents avoid these routes anyway, officials explained. Mentors from Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix and Task Force Rock, from NATO's International Security Transition Force Regional Command East, have been helping the border police establish elevated observation posts along the border to fill the gaps.
"We're building up OPs on the Pakistan border to give them fighting positions that will enhance defensibility and survivability," said Army Capt. Brian Pinson, an embedded trainer with 5th Kandak, 1st Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps.
One of these observation points, at Donai, was built in just a week, Army Capt. Albert Fitzpatrick, of Task Force Rock said. Working side by side, border police and U.S. mentors dug trenches and fighting positions, filled and placed sandbags, and built a command post.
"Its location is important to border security," Fitzpatrick said.
Afghan Border Police Capt. Ramah Gull, whose men occupy the observation post around the clock, agreed. "It will help us secure areas from the Nawa Pass to the adjacent valley," he said.
When Gull's element takes fire or observes suspicious activity, he can call in the provincial border police quick-reaction force. A U.S. Special Forces detachment is busy training a border police kandak, or battalion, as a quick-reaction force at the Camp Wright range on the Asadabad Provincial Reconstruction Team compound.
"The training is very advanced," said 2nd Lt. Zamari of the border police. "(It is) a good fit for our mission."
Dealing with enemy fighters operating in Kunar, and particularly in the Pech Valley, is a matter for the Afghan National Army, mentored and reinforced by embedded training teams from Task Force Rock and Task Force Phoenix.
"The enemy is trying to disrupt lines of communication using small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices," said ANA Capt. Mohammed Tahir, intelligence officer for the 3rd Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 201st Corps. "The Korengal Valley is especially contentious."
The enemy takes advantage of the mountain terrain to attack and disperse quickly. Once an area is cleared of insurgents, coordination with Afghan National Police is essential to establish and maintain control. The Kunar Provincial Coordination Center is the node in Asadabad where this occurs.
"Building relationships between the ANP and the ANA is vital," Brig. Gen. Abdul Jalal, the provincial police chief, said. "We are building these relationships now."
But, he stressed, more equipment and training are needed.
"Focused District Development -- a program that takes a whole district at one time, trains and equips them, and returns them to duty -- will begin to address such shortfalls," Army Brig. Gen. Robert Livingston, CJTF Phoenix commander, said.
Piecing the security puzzle together will take time, resources and effort.
The Afghan security forces can fight, Livingston said. "Sustaining the force is their key to success," he added.
(Army Maj. John House serves with Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix Public Affairs.)
The September issue of the Hi Tech Criminal Justice newsletter was instrumental in preparing this article.