By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Lindsey
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 9, 2009 - A new program backed by Afghan national security forces and Combined Joint Task Force 82 empowers Afghan citizens to take a stand against improvised explosive devices. "Operation Jaeza," or "reward," protects Afghans from enemy actions targeting innocent people, said Maj. Gen. Abdul Khaliq, commander of the Afghan National Army's 203rd Corps said during a Dec. 7 news conference at Forward Operating Base Thunder here.
The program was implemented four weeks ago, and produced $48,000 in rewards in just the past week. People in Afghanistan's Paktika, Paktia, Khost and Ghazni provinces produced leads on the location of the IEDs themselves, their makers or distributors of IED-making materials.
Khaliq said it is an honor to have the Afghan people work side by side with their country's security forces to help in the ways they can to end enemy threats.
The U.S. Defense Department's rewards program has offered monetary incentives generally ranging from $50 to $10,000 for information that leads to the disruption or defeat of enemy activities and weapons caches. Regional government officials and other public representatives spoke out to Afghanistan's local and national news agencies at the news conference about the importance of citizens taking action against the use of IEDs.
"This is a good program that we fully support," said Zarguna Hammeed, representative of the Women of Paktia. "People who discover information about IEDs should stop and report it. The money offered helps families as they help to protect others by reporting IEDs."
"I think the enemy is targeting people on purpose," said Army Brig. Gen. Kurt Fuller, deputy commander of the 203rd Corps and Combined Joint Task Force 82. "These are the same organizations who send suicide bombers into mosques to blow up themselves."
The department's rewards program and Operation Jaeza employ special precautions to protect people who report in to the tip-line and assure their anonymity. "We don't want people to put themselves in harm's way," Fuller said.
Because of the proactive steps taken by ordinary citizens to dismantle the manufacturing and distribution cycles for roadside bombs, leaders are confident the program will continue.
"People must organize their actions against enemy activities. ... To defeat this common enemy requires a partnership between the [Afghan national security forces] and the citizens," said Col. Waqaf Shah, 203rd Corps religious and cultural office chief. "We must pave the way for a safer future for our children, and protect innocent lives from these threats."
In the past year, reports show more than 850 civilians were killed as a result of 3,170 IED detonations. Civilians comprise 36 percent of all IED casualties.
(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Lindsey serves with Combined Joint Task Force 82.)