Monday, April 30, 2012

Combined Force Detains Taliban Facilitator

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, April 30, 2012 – An Afghan-led and coalition-supported security force detained a Taliban facilitator, detained two additional insurgents and seized multiple weapons in the Daman district of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province today, military officials reported.

The facilitator provided vehicles for suicide attacks against Afghan and coalition security forces throughout the province.

Also today, an Afghan-led security force detained a Haqqani network leader and another suspect in the Sabari district of Khost province. The insurgent leader directed roadside bombings and other attacks against Afghan and coalition troops. He also supplied weapons and ammunition to insurgents in the area.

In yesterday’s Afghanistan operations:

-- An Afghan-led force killed two insurgents and confiscated weapons and blasting caps while searching for a Taliban leader in the Baraki Barak district of Logar province. The sought-after insurgent leader organized roadside bombings and other attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. As the Afghan portion of the force moved into the area and conducted a call out, the insurgent leader and an additional insurgent attempted to fire on the force. The Afghan soldiers returned fire, killing the attackers.

-- In the Qalat district of Zabul province, a combined force detained a senior Taliban leader and one other insurgent. The insurgent leader organized attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in Kabul, Kandahar and Herat provinces. He also coordinated with Taliban leaders in Pakistan to supply weapons, ammunition and equipment to insurgents.

-- A combined force detained multiple suspected Haqqani insurgents in the Muhammad Aghah district of Logar province.

-- A combined force detained two suspects while searching for a Taliban leader in the Qarah Bagh district of Ghazni province. The leader plans and directs roadside bombings and other attacks against Afghan and coalition troops.

-- A coalition airstrike killed four insurgents emplacing an improvised explosive device in the Maidan Shahr district of Wardak province.

-- Afghan soldiers and coalition forces found small arms, bomb-making materials and a radio in Wardak’s Sayyidabad district and detained four suspects.

In April 28 operations:

-- A combined force captured two Haqqani leaders, detained two additional suspects and seized multiple assault rifles, several hand grenades and multiple magazines with ammunition in Khost’s Khost district.

-- An Afghan-led force captured a Taliban leader and an additional suspect in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province. The insurgent leader directed attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout the Shah Wali Kot and Khakrez districts. He also provided weapons, ammunition and equipment to insurgents.

-- A combined force captured a Taliban leader in the Musa Qalah district of Helmand province. The insurgent leader coordinated attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout the Musa Qalah, Nahr-e Saraj, and Sangin districts. He was responsible for an attack on an Afghan army outpost in central Helmand earlier this month that killed six Afghan soldiers.

-- A combined force captured a Taliban leader, killed another insurgent and captured several others in the Wali Muhammad Shahid Khugyani district of Ghazni province. The insurgent leader conducted roadside bombings and other attacks against Afghan and coalition troops.

-- A combined force captured a Taliban facilitator, detained multiple additional insurgents and seized a homemade bomb, weapons and magazines with ammunition in the Khugyani district of Nangarhar province. The facilitator supplied weapons and roadside bombs to insurgents throughout the district for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

-- An Afghan-led, coalition-supported force captured a Taliban leader in the Bala Boluk district of Farah province. In addition to directing insurgents, the leader is suspected of using intimidation and threat techniques to force local people into aiding the Taliban.

In other news, an Afghan patrol supported by coalition forces found a 122 mm rocket in the Paghman district of Kabul province April 27. An Afghan explosive ordnance disposal team disarmed the rocket.

Al-Qaida Offshoots Are Biggest Terror Threat, Official Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON  – Core al-Qaida – the group led by Osama bin Laden – has been surpassed by its affiliates as the biggest terrorist threat to the United States, a senior intelligence official said.

“With bin Laden’s death, the global jihadist movement lost its most iconic, most effective and most inspirational leader,” Robert T. Cardillo, deputy director for intelligence integration with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told reporters in an April 27 conference call.

Bin Laden’s death allowed al-Qaida second-in-command Ayman al Zawahiri to move up, but he has not changed the group’s strategic direction and does not have the charisma to appeal to new recruits, Cardillo said.

Navy SEALs killed bin Laden in Pakistan during an intelligence-driven operation on May 2, 2011.

The al-Qaida offshoots – al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Shabob in Somalia, al-Qaida in the Mahgreb – “will surpass the core al-Qaida remaining in Pakistan,” Cardillo said. “Each group will seek opportunities to strike Western interests in its operating area, but each group will have different intent and opportunity to execute those plans.”

The “Arab Spring” uprisings that began last year have influenced the jihadist movement, the deputy director said. “The unrest and reduced security provides terrorists inspired by that movement more operating space as security services focus more on internal security and regime stability,” he said.

As new Middle East leaders address public demands for their participation in government, “we assess that core al-Qaida and the jihadist movement will suffer a strategic setback in that the Arab Spring strikes at the very core of their jihadist narrative,” he said.

Al-Qaida believes in progress by violence, but the elections in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and the up-coming election in Libya rebuke that assertion, Cardillo said.

“However, prolonged instability or unmet promises by these new governments … would give al-Qaida, its affiliates and its allies more time to establish networks, gain support and potentially engage in operations,” he said.

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Andrew T. Brittonmihalo, 25, of Simi Valley, Calif., died April 25, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained from small arms fire.  He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

For more information related to this release, the media may contact Special Forces public affairs at 910-689-6187.

Afghanistan: Texas Guard member shows Afghans “sweet” business opportunity

Army 1st Lt. Adam Carrington
Task Force Mad Dog

GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- The Soldiers of Task Force Mad Dog - headed up by the California Army National Guard’s 578th Engineer Battalion and made up of a variety of Army National Guard engineer units - recently completed a major construction project building eight bases here.

The project also saw the Guard members working alongside partnered units from the Afghan National Army.

“When we were tasked with this build, I was initially worried about how we were going to maintain our partnership operations,” said Army 1st Lt. Joe Lee, TF Mad Dog ANA coordinator.

“Then we realized that this was a perfect training opportunity to co-locate and partner with an ANA engineer unit at a priority build site,” he said.

By partnering with the ANA, it meant not only additional training for the ANA engineer soldiers but also that critical construction deadlines could be met.

“The ANA are a real force multiplier for us,” said Army Capt. Robert Rogers, with the 1022nd Vertical Construction Company, part of TF Mad Dog. “There have been several occasions that we would have been dead in the water without their support.”

Many engineer partnerships had been centered on pairing up Afghan engineer units with route clearance companies. For many of the ANA engineers this was among the first projects where they were used in their capacity as construction engineers as the Afghan engineers were often used in more traditional infantry related roles.

A platoon from the ANA’s 3rd Brigade worked with the 1022ndVCC and began the mission focusing primarily on maintenance and ensuring the correct parts and supplies were available.

The ANA engineer unit soon took on their first full construction mission: building a vehicle fighting position. The ANA engineers also provided equipment critical to completing other missions. While building a concrete pad for a large tent, the engineers of the 1022nd VCC encountered drainage issues. The ANA soldiers were able to step in and fix the issue.

“Watching that ANA soldier operate that [hydraulic excavator] was like watching a perfectly choreographed dance,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Flatmoe, a platoon sergeant with the 842nd Horizontal Engineer Company, attached to the 1022nd VCC. “It was smooth, with no mistakes, and perfectly executed…. It was an amazing thing to watch.”

Because many of the construction projects were conducted throughout the winter, at times construction halted due to weather concerns. During that downtime, the Guard members and ANA soldiers trained together on common soldier skills, such as calling in a medical evacuation request.

“I have gotten good experience,” said ANA Lt. Shafi. “Like today they taught us about how to call for medevac, and they teach us a lot.”

And that combined effort ensured mission success.

“The ANA engineer soldiers and their equipment have really kept this build going on so many occasions,” Rogers said. “When we fell behind because of new construction requirements, the ANA have consistently been there to help us catch up. When a key piece of equipment breaks down, the ANA have theirs ready to continue the mission.”

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Afghanistan: “Yak team Wahed” – One team united in Afghanistan

By Army National Guard Spc. Nicole Newton
Tennessee National Guard

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – “Yak Team Wahed.”

That saying had special meaning to us as our interpreter, Wahed, bridged the language gap and made it possible for NATO soldiers to communicate and work seamlessly with Afghan soldiers.

We seldom hear of the successful tandem efforts between the Afghan National Army and their coalition counterparts but that afternoon we had the opportunity to see it. That is exactly what this mismatched group was – one team united.

As we drove up to a portion of the base I’ve never been to, the tall barricades and iron gates blocked the view of where we would be spending the next few hours with the ANA.

The tall, slender Air Force tech sergeant turned to me and said, “We’re on red in this area, so you if you want to, you can go to red.” He said it so calm and cool as if he were giving me options for lunch, but what he meant was “you might want to lock and load your weapon in this area.”

Although the team of U.S. and European soldiers visits twice a week to train the ANA, staying vigilant is a must. I swiftly slapped my loaded magazine in the well as we walked through the iron gates into the Afghan compound on Kandahar.

We were a small medley of multinational forces, led by a local interpreter whose friendly and cheery demeanor made any nervous feeling I had dissipate quickly. I looked around, amazed at the flowers, palm trees and landscaping, my only experience of this country has been brown dirt and broken gravel.

We made our way further into the compound until we arrived at a mechanic style garage with a large white school bus sticking halfway out of it. One of the ANA soldiers sat parked in the driver’s seat and waved as we walked inside to visit for the day. On the other side of the open garage, a Humvee with a dead battery sat, and outside the garage, a large generator out of commission.

I watched out of the corner of my eye as the large group of ANA soldiers swiftly broke apart and traveled from one item to the other, deciding which puzzle to work on first. They were scurrying around with bright eyes, like children at the park who take the decision of which jungle gym to play on first very seriously.

Army Spc. Farlance Breece, a maintenance specialist, works with these soldiers twice a week and happily told of his temporary duty to train and work with the ANA. He spoke of his new comrades with warmth, as he talked about their curious nature and ingenuity.

The soldiers started teaching the ANA soldiers how to properly maintain and repair their vehicles and equipment just a few weeks before our visit, but it didn’t take long for them to catch on.

“Most of these guys have learned this stuff from their fathers so we just show them new ways to do some things and teach them more complicated things,” Breece said. “They are very smart, they catch on fast.

“Today we changed the oil in a Blue Jay bus and looked at an up armored Humvee. We tried to do battery repair but ran out of battery acid.”

The problem solving skills that Breece spoke about became visible as two ANA soldiers snuck off for a few minutes and reappeared with a large bucket of clear liquid.

“They found more battery acid,” Breece said with a chuckle, “I don’t know where they got it from but they found more and there they go,” he said, pointing to the pair hovering over the old battery, funneling acid to give it new life.

After the two maintenance items for the day were complete, the ANA decided to keep the momentum going and brought in the rest of their vehicles for oil changes.

“Look they're [pre-checking and servicing] the vehicles on their own now,” said Pfc. Jonathan Raines with a pleasant surprise.

Both Soldiers said working with the Afghan Army has been a positive experience for both forces.

“It’s one of the high points of my week,” Raines said. “I really enjoy working with them; they all have a sense of humor. Even if I don’t understand what they’re saying, it’s still entertaining.”