By Navy Seaman William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 3, 2008 - With the help of mentors from several countries and every branch of service, the 205th Corps of the Afghan National Army now can plan and execute operations, a senior advisor said yesterday. "These are Afghan pilots flying Afghan missions in support of the Afghan people," Army Col. Paul Somersall, commander of Regional Corps Advisory Command in southern Afghanistan, said to bloggers and online journalists during a teleconference.
Three of the 205th Corps' four infantry brigades have been assessed as capable of conducting independent operations with minimal support from their combat advisors.
"One of the brigades recently planned, executed and sustained themselves during a seven-day operation where they drove deep into what is called an enemy sanctuary or enemy safe haven to destroy identified enemy forces," Somersall said.
"They were successful leading the operation, with less than 30 mentors and 20 other coalition soldiers, in addition to their 300 ANA ground force," he said. "That was a great example of ANA's capability to lead and conduct their own operations."
To train and develop the 205th Corps, Somersall said, the trainers had to earn trust from the Afghan soldiers.
"How we do this mission is by establishing strong, trusted relationship with the ANA counterparts, and that is done by living, eating and fighting side by side in combat with our Afghan brethren," he said. "Depending on the location and the circumstances, mentors are expected to spend between two and 12 hours a day with their counterpart."
Somersall explained that for the mentors to be effective, they must learn how to see the challenges and opportunities through the perspective of the Afghan people.
While the mentors and the 205th Corps have concentrated on combat capabilities, they've also been meeting with village leaders to find out the needs and concerns of the citizens. The 205th Corps has responded by providing food, water wells, power generation, schools, as well as medical and dental outreach events, Somersall said.
One of the challenges the ANA has faced in the past has been logistics support, but that has been resolved and the Afghans are operating on their own, Somersall said.
"We've moved 90,000 tons of supplies since August using the MI-17 [helicopters], and these are all by the Afghans," he said.
Overall, Somersall said, the Afghan soldiers in the southern region of Afghanistan are tough, experienced fighters who are focused on fighting for their country and supporting the Afghan constitution.
"The 205th Corps is committed to winning in southern Afghanistan and doing what needs to be done to grow larger and stronger every day, he said. "I'm convinced that with increased numbers of well-trained mentors and advisors, as well as additional combat enablers of aviation and intelligence assets, we move a bit closer every day to being able to transfer and leave security responsibility to the government of Afghanistan."
(Navy Seaman William Selby works for the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)