KAJAKI, Afghanistan – During a time when insurgent forces typically bed down until the spring poppy harvest, Afghan National Security Forces, aided by a small group of Marine advisors, engaged multiple enemy forces during Operation New Hope, Kajaki, Afghanistan, Jan. 16 through 19.
Afghan National Army soldiers led the main assault with supporting forces from the Afghan National Civil Order Police and the Afghan Uniform Police. The operation’s focus was to bring peace, stability and increase the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s influence in the area. Afghan National Security Forces localized their efforts to Kajaki Sofala, part of the southern green zone in Kajaki, and a known insurgent hotbed in the district.
By the time the chilly Afghan dawn had come marking the start of the operation, ANSF forces were receiving enemy fire from multiple directions. Fueled by the desire to bring peace to the highly contested area, the ANSF fearlessly pushed forward.
“When it came to fighting the enemy, the ANA were tenacious, they were aggressive, used good tactics, communicated well, coordinated well, were tactically patient when they needed to be, and they were aggressive when they needed to be,” said Capt. Mastin Robeson, a team leader with the Security Force Assistance Advisor Team, Regimental Combat Team 7, from Greenville, S.C.
“The ANA have strengths that we don’t have. They understand light infantry to a level that we never will. Those guys walked around without packs on for three days living off whatever scarce food they could eat. They didn’t bring any warming layers, and they didn’t bring any blankets or anything else. They just went into the attack, and for three days, fought it out and then consolidated a patrol base. It was impressive to watch those guys fight.”
Although fighting was heavy throughout the operation, the ANA was successful in defeating their enemy.
“When we moved from Patrol Base Pennsylvania and got into the green zone, the enemy started firing upon us,” said Lt. Matasmbilla Haqmuel, deputy commander of 2nd Tolay, 1st Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps, and a native of Kunar province. “So we started fighting with the insurgents and made them retreat. We became stronger throughout the day, and the enemy took casualties. We found a lot of weapons caches and improvised explosive devices materials.”
During the three-day operation, more than 100 ANA soldiers along with various ANSF elements cleared weapons caches, IEDs and enemy fighting positions from the area. Accompanying the ANA were 18 Marine advisors providing call for fires and tactical input when needed.
“The AUP helped guide the ANA through any IED belts that were in the area,” said 1st Lt. Jonathan Kahn, a company advisor with the SFAAT, RCT-7, from Maplewood, N.J. “The locals were excited. They wanted the operation and they were hungry for GIRoA to come back in there.”
For the ANA, the operation marked a milestone in their ability to plan, implement and coordinate a large scale operation primarily on their own.
“I was very happy to see these guys assume their leadership in this operation and assume the planning effort and really take charge and even tell Marines they didn’t need their support outside of medical evacuation support and close air support,” Robeson said. “I was very happy with how they performed, and most importantly, they took back the district completely on their own with only enabler support from Marines. It’s one of those things where you watch these guys develop, you watch them do the planning process. You see the ownership they have of the plan, the ownership they have of their country and see them be able to get on the deck and fight with courage skill and defeat the enemy. It was a dug in enemy. The enemy had pillboxes, bunkers, trench lines and a very coordinated defensive plan, and the ANA didn’t back down. They attacked straight through it. It was a proud moment for us as advisors to see these guys achieve that level of success and know that we’re actually starting to work ourselves out of a job, which is every advisors goal.”
By the end of the three-day operation, the ANA had accomplished all their mission objectives and helped facilitate a brighter future for the area.
“The brigade established and coordinated the layered clearing operation with other elements of Afghan security forces through a joint command operations center,” Lt. Col. Jonathan Loney, SFAAT officer in charge for 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps ANA. “They conducted the operation with the approval and full support of the Kajaki District Governor. This operation highlights ANSF’s progressive ability to successfully coordinate and task organize different security elements and incorporate Afghan operational solutions to support the expansion of GIRoA’s influence in the area.”