Story and photo by Cpl. Adam Leyendecker
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan – The sacrifices made by Afghan and coalition forces are beginning to make a difference in the Helmand province capital city of Lashkar Gah, where insurgents used to thrive and flourish by seizing control of poppy fields and safe houses.
Ten years into the war, Lashkar Gah is becoming the first major city in Afghanistan to be controlled completely by Afghan National Security Forces as coalition forces transfer the responsibilities to them.
The process began when Afghan National Army led Operation Qala Sharqay started, June 19, with the Afghan soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 215th Corps.
“Our young men are ready to take over the security operations,” said Brig. Gen. Sheren Shah, commanding general of 3rd Brigade, 215th Corps. “The coalition forces have done a great job at preparing and mentoring us for this process. We are confident in our ability to handle this task.”
At the crack of dawn, Afghan soldiers from Engineer Company, 3rd Brigade, immediately pushed toward setting up a patrol base that would establish security for the northeast side of Lashkar Gah. Carrying lumber, setting up tents, sawing wood, driving nails and raising the flag for locals to see from miles away, the soldiers did not stop working even in the midst of gunfire. The only thing that would stop the Afghan soldiers from their hard labor was the sun disappearing in the western horizon. Yet, the work would continue the following morning.
From the planning to the execution of the operation, the Afghans were fully in charge with coalition forces present to offer suggestions.
“The Afghan soldiers are acutely tuned in to the needs of the community and very savvy when it comes to knowing what needs to be done to quell the insurgency,” said Lt. Col. Giles Woodhouse, commanding officer of 3rd Mercian Warriors in charge of the 3rd Brigade Advisory Group. “I believe their sufficient ambition and pride will see them through success.”
Though the 3rd Brigade was just formed 18 months ago, the improvement and development of the soldiers shows the determination and resilient character of the brigade, said Woodhouse, native of Wiltshire, England.
When enemy insurgents tried to halt the progress of the operation, the ANA sent out their infantry and the engineers kept building.
Determined, the ANA silenced the enemy weapons on several occasions during the first two days of the operation. There was no doubt in watching the events that took place during the first few days that the Afghan forces were very much capable of deterring an enemy trying to penetrate into the city.
“Our men are going to have a positive impact on the security situation and have success,” said Maj. Fatah Moheb, executive officer of 4th Battalion, 3rd Brigade. “The soldiers are having a good impact on the locals and establishing a relationship with them. The people are happy we are here.”
Throughout the area, Afghan soldiers conducted shuras with the locals to gauge the needs of the population. Having lived in their shoes, the Afghan soldiers are able to understand the interests of the community.
Through the connection and interaction with the local Afghans, combined with the improved war tactics of the 3rd Brigade, coalition and Afghan leaders alike see the professionalism and strides Afghan security forces have made. The transfer of security operations in Lashkar Gah to Afghan forces is just the beginning of the vision coalition forces have in Helmand province.