Story and photos by Cpl. Adam Leyendecker
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan– More than 400 Afghan National Security Forces rolled through the outskirts of the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah along Highway 601 during Operation Zmaray Sika, July 17.
The Afghan National Police led the operation, which also included forces of the Afghan Border Police, National Army, National Civil Order Police, National Directorate of Security and coalition troops with Task Force Helmand.
Afghan security forces have been gradually taking the lead in more operations throughout the capital region over the last year. The operation took place just ahead of the official transfer of authority of security in Lashkar Gah from coalition forces to Afghan July 20 at provincial governor Gulab Mangal’s compound.
From the planning to execution of Operation Zmaray Sika, the Afghans were in the lead with no assistance from coalition forces, said Lt. Col. Alistair Aitken, the commanding officer of Combined Forces Lashkar Gah.
Afghan National Policeman Col. Kamalladim, chief of security for Lashkar Gah, led the operation and directed the other branches’ assignments.
Troops with the 4th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, also known as “the Highlanders,” provided air support and counter-improvised explosive device teams.
At dawn on the first day of the operation, Afghan security forces gathered at a newly established patrol base outside of the capital. The troops said they were eager to quell an insurgent force which had harassed the local area.
Likewise, locals said they were waiting for the Afghan forces to bring stability to the area.
“This is important to the people of Lashkar Gah,” said Aitken. “It sends a message that there is an effective Afghan national security force in the area. The locals are tired of being intimidated by outsiders and young men who have been led astray.”
As the sun rose and lit up the rural landscape, the Afghan forces conducted mounted and dismounted patrols in hopes of flushing any insurgents.
“The goal of the operation was to deny insurgents the range in this area to launch attacks on the city,” said Capt. Andy Magee, battle captain for 4 SCOTS.
The Afghan forces rolled through miles of unpatrolled land with ease. The Afghan Border Police patrolled further north of the 601, as the Afghan National Army stretched their forces to the south. The police cleared the heart of the operation while being supported by troops with the NDS and ANCOP.
The Afghan security forces made it through the day without firing a shot in an area known for a strong insurgent presence. They also successfully removed a few IED’s from the area to make the land safer for the local populace.
“If more people can witness this type of operation they will be convinced of how incredible a force the
ANSF really are,” said Aitken. “All these people are a part of a greater Lashkar Gah.”
Additional photos here