Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Minnesota and Croatian Soldiers Assist Afghan Army in Securing Election

Minnesota and Croatian Soldiers Assist Afghan Army in Securing Election
September 18
For the elections of 18 September soldiers of the Minnesota Army National Guard, and Croatian Army assisted the 4th Kandak in helping to provide a safe and secure environment for voting in the Chemtal district of Balk Province. Chemtal district is a few kilometers west of the city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Chemtal district and just to the north Chahar Bolak district, had the highest amount of insurgent activity in the regions immediately in and surrounding the city of Mazar-e-Sharif. The soldiers of HHC 4th Kandak were stationed at the Chemtal Afghan National Police
station, along with their US mentors. The soldiers moved into the area
and started doing patrols about five days before the elections, and
their Minnesota National Guard Mentors moved into the field with them on
the 16th. The Minnesota Guardsmen began doing mounted convoy patrols
each day with their Afghan soldiers up to and through the election.
The M-RAP All Terrain Vehicles (MATV) of the American provided a real
show of force presence to help the ANA soldiers, as they worked to
reassure that the people of the Chemtal district that it would be safe
to vote on the 18th. The MATV is a very loud and large vehicle, and is
hard not to notice when it comes through an area. The Chemtal district
governor was very appreciative of the assistance of the US and Croatian
forces and said "That the presence of the Americans likely reduced the
number of incidents over the course of the election."
Unfortunately though the coalition forces were not able to be everywhere
at one time with their Afghan soldiers. The morning of the election the
leadership of 4th kandak received word that an attack had occurred near
the village of Jar Qala, which was about four to five kilometers
straight-line distance from the police station. The US MATVs tried to
drive to the small village to meet up with the ANA soldiers that they
were told were there. Unfortunately due to the size of the vehicles and
the confusion of trying to drive down small field roads made navigating
to the site without Afghans leading almost impossible. The Americans
returned to the small ANP police station in order to wait for Afghan
Army reinforcements. About noon Afghan Quick Reaction Force Commando
soldiers arrived to the police station, and a plan was put together to
go to the site of the violence.
Shortly after twelve thirty local time three Afghan Humvees along with a
Afghan Army Ford Ranger led a procession of five US MATVs armed with
machine guns and grenade launchers, followed by several more Afghan Humvees and Rangers. The traveling was somewhat slow going traveling to the site of the incident. The roads could at
best be compared to compacted dirt between farm fields in the states,
with deep ditches or tall trees on each side. Because of the size of the
MATVs several tree branches were knocked over or pulled down. The travel
became even slower, as the Afghan commandos decided to dismount and
begin walking after just a couple kilometers of travel, for fear of
driving into an IED or ambush.
The route to Jar Qala became confusing to the US forces, as their high tech moving map showed that they should have turned north to their destination instead the column of soldiers and vehicles continued west. One of the challenges with relying on translators, is that sometimes parts of conversation do not get conveyed properly or confusion in the translation, often through no fault of the interpreter. This was the case as the Afghans failed to convey that the destination was not the village of Jar Qala, rather another small collection of houses a couple kilometers west.
Upon turning back to the north and entering a clearing the object of the
mission became obvious. A burned out flatbed truck, which had obviously
been hit by a rocket propelled grenade. There had been some election
materials in the back of the vehicle but that was all burned up. Both of
the doors to the vehicle were wide open, and no one was inside, so
appeared that driver and any passengers may have made it out. Not
everyone made it to safety. Approximately 50 meters behind the vehicle
was the body of a ANP officer who had been shot by insurgents, most
likely in a firefight after the RPG blast.
The Afghan Commandos and soldiers of 4th Kandak did exactly what would be expected of an western infantry company. Upon coming upon to the vehicle they fanned out around to begin pulling security, and looking for other survivors or bodies. The Afghan soldiers requested the help of the US vehicles technologies. Some of the MATVs which were on site have a high tech weapon system mounted on top. The high tech equipped vehicles began scanning throughout the area to attempt to see if there were any survivors injured and hiding in the tall weeds. When no one could be found they turned their attention to scan the surrounding trees to see if anyone
was watching. A favorite technique of insurgents, just like criminals
watch the scene of a crime, is to watch from a distance and see if coalition forces let their guard down. It was obvious that there had been more than one person in the vehicle transporting the election supplies. The body of the policeman was the only body that could be found at the scene. There were unconfirmed rumors from the ANA soldiers that there two more ANP and possibly a
female election worker in the vehicle that were captured, tortured and murdered. There was also a rumor that two people were in the vehicle were shot and injured and made it to the safety of one of the nearby houses. Where they were later cared for and taken to a hospital. For as
much violence as there was around the vehicle it is easier to believe
that whoever else was in the vehicle met the same fate as the policeman
who found in the road behind the burned out wreckage.
Unfortunately for the people of the Chemtal District their election was not free of violence. The Taliban and local insurgents derive their power from fear and intimidation of the local people. If the people do not have trust in their government for their protection, they will turn to the Taliban for their perceived safety. Hopefully soon the Afghan Army and Afghan National Police will have enough capabilities to find and destroy the anti-government forces that would do harm to the peace loving citizens of Afghanistan.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear captain, i'm happy to imform you that your name together with your humanitary effort had reached publication on mainstream croatian press.
Here text of article (in croatian):

Nezbrinutim siročićima, njih stotinjak, vojnici donijeli školske potrepštine i društvene igre

(To dispossessed orphans, ,of them about an hundred, soldiers donated school materials and sociery games)

MORH je započeo pozitivističku kampanju za misiju u Afganistanu, možda potaknutu negativističkim temama koje su posljednjih dana došli do javnosti. Hrvatski vojnici otišli su u posjetu "Bibi Fatemah", sirotištu za nezbrinutu djecu u naselju Ali Chopan, predgrađu Mazar el Sharifa, gdje su naše snage smještene.

Radi se o ekipi koja je dio mentorskog tima skupa s Nacionalnom gardom Minnesote, a u posjeti su bili sa svojim pulenima, pripadnicima 1. brigade 209. korpusa Afganistanske narodne armije. U sirotištu inače boravi stotinjak djece, a naši, američki i afganistanski vojnici podjelili su im poklon pakete sa školskim potrepštinama te društvenim igrama. Inicijator ovog posjeta bio je američki časnik, satnik Marc Rassler.

Well, seems you have gained another century (croat for company) under you now, captain!