Story by Major Bradley Gordon
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Afghanistan — Coalition Forces with Task Force Leatherneck located in Helmand province have kicked off Operation Tofan Sharq (Eastern Storm), a major offensive operation to root out the Taliban-led insurgency in the Upper Sangin Valley region of Kajaki.
After five days of pushing north from Sangin along Route 611, Coalition and Afghan National Security Forces have pushed the insurgency out of Kajaki and secured the road leading to the once-terrorized village.
“We are assisting the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps to secure the main road between Sangin and Kajaki,” stated Brig. Gen. Lewis Craparotta, commanding general, Task Force Leatherneck. “Senior Taliban commanders have been killed or forced into the northern portion of Helmand. The conditions are being set to encourage families to move back to Kajaki, into their homes in order to allow life to get back to normal. We are giving the people an opportunity to live in peace, something they have not had in years.”
The Taliban was well-anchored in the area surrounding the dam, creating a significant security threat for any contractors willing to work in the area and local residents.
Recent opposition by local tribal leaders had developed toward insurgent activities in the area. This dissension is believed to be from the heavy taxation the Taliban had imposed on local Afghans who used the resources provided by the dam.
The Kajaki Dam is the main power source for Sangin and most of the Upper Sangin Valley. Originally constructed in 1953 as a result of an irrigation project by the United States Agency for International Development, recent reconstruction efforts have been slow and difficult. Security will enable repairs to existing power grids as well as improvements to the irrigation system.
“We have an opportunity to improve the irrigation system for the farmers with limited investment,” said Craparotta. “Security and overall quality of life will change in the coming months.”
Task Force Leatherneck made many efforts to warn area insurgents through leaflet drops and radio messaging. These communication methods were used to give insurgents a chance to reintegrate with the Government of Afghanistan.
“The insurgents knew we were coming but they didn’t when or how,“ said Craparotta. “The Marines in the field, fighting side-by-side with our Afghan partners overwhelmed the enemy. What is left of the insurgent force has probably withdrawn to the north.”