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Archive for October, 2009

Pakistan Public Relations (Drone) Strikes

Posted by Larry Barnes on October 31, 2009

On 6 September 2008, Asif Ali Zardari was elected Pakistan’s 13th President and has dramatically ratcheted up the Pakistani drone warfare program. Since President Obama took office Januanry 20th, Pakistani drone strikes have killed about a half-dozen militant leaders along with hundreds of other people, a quarter of whom were civilians.

Even with the unprecedented number of strikes by drone aircraft in Pakistan, under the cover of the Obama administration, the Taliban and al Qaeda networks based there have maintained their contacts with the Paki ISI. This completely rational and understandable alliance, even in the face of the death of growing numbers of leadership of militant organizations, has proven the efficacy of the “blame America” program.

The dead include two heads of Uzbek terrorist groups allied with al Qaeda and Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, in addition to hundreds of lower-level militants. According to rational analysis, the living leadership must be receiving extremely reliable assurance of ISI support.

The distractions from number of civilian deaths caused by the drones and the success of “presto change-o” diversion is an important element in the plan to maintain government control. The political atmosphere of today’s Pakistan, where anti-Americanism is rampant, and the cooperative Taliban and al Qaeda have reinforced the “support your Paki Government” campaign.

Useful idiots (such as Alston) publicly warned that unless the Obama administration explains what the legal basis is for selecting the individuals targeted by drone attacks, “it will increasingly be perceived as carrying out indiscriminate killings in violation of international law.” This enhances the perception that there are magical American drones, capable of loitering over Pakistan air space at their slow air speed. One wonders at the lack of outrage at the Pakistan ineptness in detecting, interdicting and destroying such drones. The billions in Air Force expenditures has not produced an ability to defend Paki air space. Could this embolden Pakistan’s external enemies. I certainly goes some distance to explain why Taliban and al Qaeda forces feel little trepidation at remaining on Pakistan soil.

Counterinsurgency experts David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, who have written that the drone strikes had “killed some 700 civilians, are expost-facto shills for the Obama and Zardari administrations. The civilians vs, militant killed ratio shell game implies the there is an acceptable ratio. The “2 percent” solution appears to count identified targets as “good kills” and everyone not identified as “bad Kills”. Obviously irrational, it none the less serves their own ends. In other words, in their analysis, 98 percent of those killed in drone attacks were civilians. Kilcullen and Exum advocated a moratorium on the strikes because of the “public outrage” they arouse. Currently the mindset appears to be that irrational demands and claims will archive a desirable outcome.

Doing the math, one discovers that 14 militants were killed in 48 drones strikes. If a person wanted to achieve a reasonable end, that information alone would cause concern for the strikes efficacy. If you were to consider their argument that drones can not effectively target individuals, 48 missiles would appear to have killed an astounding number of militants. Randomly fired missiles would not be expected to kill anywhere near 14 identified individuals.

A very different picture was presented this month by the Long War Journal, an American blog that closely tracks terrorist groups, in particular al Qaeda and the Taliban. Bill Roggio, the editor of Long War Journal, concluded that according to his close analysis of the drone strikes, only 10 percent of those killed were civilians. A rational person who considers the presence of a minimal amount of humanity in the Pakistan government, would consider this as closer to factual than Kilcullen and Exum’s numbers.

Kilcullen and Exum and the Long War Journal have the ability to distract from the real point of drone strikes and the real effect of disguising their source. The fact that Pakistan continues to benefit from manufactured confusion means that Obama will continue to participate.

More than half the people surveyed in winter 2008 in this region, known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, said the drone strikes were accurate and were damaging the militant organizations based there. In a democracy 50%+1 is a governing majority and means from Paki perspective that to continue the program looks to be a good out look for the conclusion of the campaign.

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DVIDS NATO TV

Posted by Larry Barnes on October 29, 2009

DVIDS NATO TV.

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India About To Go Hot In War Against Taliban

Posted by Larry Barnes on October 28, 2009

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U.S.-Indian Armies Wrap Up Historic Exercise

Posted by Larry Barnes on October 28, 2009

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
CAMP BUNDELA, India, Oct. 28, 2009 – With a massive display of firepower and teamwork, the U.S. and Indian armies finished their largest joint military exercise to date yesterday.

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About 250 U.S. soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 14th Cavalry Squadron, based out of Hawaii brought 17 of their Stryker combat vehicles and paired with the Indian army’s 7th Mechanized Infantry Battalion here at one of India’s premier military training sites.

Since Oct. 12, the two armies have swapped soldiers, shared equipment and traded war stories, officials said.

“That’s the most important aspect of this whole exercise — getting to know each other, getting to appreciate our cultures, and working together as a team,” said Army Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, the commander of U.S. Army forces in the Pacific.

Mixon and a host of Indian army generals traveled here Oct. 26 to view a culminating demonstration of firepower that offered up both the conventional battlefield power of the Indian’s T-90 tanks with the high-technology precision of the U.S. military’s tank killer, the Javelin.

Both infantries brought out their vehicles and weapons for a live-fire demonstration, and Indian helicopters dropped soldiers from both armies to join in the live-fire assault.

This was the largest deployment of the Stryker vehicle outside of deployments for war, and the Indian soldiers were eager to get a peek at its firepower and technical capabilities. The only restrictions were that the Indian soldiers could not drive the Strykers or use the high-tech communications network that manages the crew’s weapons.

Both armies traded firing their big guns on the range, and U.S. soldiers rode alongside their Indian counterparts in their infantry vehicle. A handful of Indian troops were allowed to fire the Javelin, a treat that many U.S. troops in the infantry have yet to experience.

The training started two weeks ago with simple handshakes among the soldiers and a display of the each army’s equipment. It quickly escalated to the two nations’ armies working side by side on complex maneuvers, some scenarios strongly resembling the types of joint operations troops see in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As opposed to joint military operations in which U.S. technology and firepower clearly positions itself as the superior force, the Indian army proved itself a capable force, teaching as much as it was learning, U.S. commanders on the ground said. The Indian army has long been fighting an insurgency, and brought new tactics to the table.

“The Indian army is a professional military force,” Mixon said. “I would be comfortable going with the Indian army anywhere, any time.”

The 2-14th returned from Iraq six months ago, and is slated to return in about nine months. This exercise is a ramp-up in training, as the unit prepares for larger pre-deployment training exercises such as those at the National Training Facility in California.

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But while the U.S. troops leave this week with training under their belts that prepares them for their next deployment, the value of the training was integrating successfully with the Indian army.

“At the end of the day, the important part of the exercise is the future cooperation and the understanding between the two armies,” Mixon said.

The United States has sought to increase its military relations with India in recent years. Until now, most of the exercises in that effort have been smaller troop exchanges or command-level exercises using only computer-driven scenarios. This is the first time that a large number of boots on the ground have acted out those scenarios together.

“This is all about training with the Indian army, to enhance relationships so that we gain a greater understanding of each other. That’s really what this is all about,” the general said.

U.S. Pacific Command works regularly with other militaries on large-scale military operations, especially maritime.

Yudh Abhyas started in 2004 as the first conventional army-to-army training in India since 1962. In 2005, U.S. troops came to train at India’s counter-insurgency and jungle warfare school. In 2006, Indian troops went to Hawaii for training, and in 2007, troops traveled to Alaska. The exercise shifted back to Hawaii last year.

“We want to be able to work together as militaries,” Mixon said. “By us training together and getting to know each other, if there were a contingency, we would be better prepared to respond to that contingency. You cannot do that training here at the last minute.”

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Force Recovers Missing Crew, Aircraft in Afghanistan

Posted by Larry Barnes on October 27, 2009

American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2009 – International Security Assistance Force members today recovered the remains of three civilian crewmembers and the wreckage of an aircraft missing for two weeks in the rugged mountains of northeastern Afghanistan, military officials reported.

The crew was flying an Army C-12 Huron when they failed to return to Bagram Airfield after a routine mission early Oct. 13 above Afghanistan’s Nuristan province.

Due to continued recovery efforts, officials said, information was not immediately released so as to not interfere with operations. Upon visible inspection of the site, the mission changed from search and rescue to search and recovery.

The incident is under investigation, though hostile action is not believed to be the cause of the crash, officials said.

Additionally, a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter en route to the recovery site Oct. 17 experienced a strong downdraft and performed a hard landing near the site. All crewmembers were rescued. On Oct. 21, the aircraft was stripped of its sensitive and useable parts, and destroyed in place Oct. 25. Mountainous terrain and elevation prevented aircraft recovery operations. Hostile action was not involved, officials said.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, an Afghan and international security force killed several militants yesterday in Paktia province during an operation to pursue a suspected Haqqani terrorist bomb maker and his associates.

The Haqqani element is believed responsible for several homemade bomb attacks in the Khowst-Gardez Pass in southeastern Afghanistan.

Security forces coordinated an air strike on the enemy location based on intelligence that Haqqani militants were in transit outside Haqdad Kheyl village in Wuza Zadran district. A combined security force ground element searched the location, confirmed that militants were killed by the air strike and identified the sought-after Haqqani bomb maker among those killed.

During the search, the force also seized bomb-making components, small-arms weapons and communications gear.

(Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news releases.

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Forces Kill Taliban Commander, Other Enemy Fighters

Posted by Larry Barnes on October 26, 2009

American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2009 – Afghan and NATO forces have removed dozens of insurgents from fighting in Afghanistan in recent days, including a long-sought-after Taliban commander, military officials reported.

Combined Afghan and International Security Assistance Force units killed at least two dozen insurgents during fighting in southern and eastern Afghanistan and detained numerous others. In operations yesterday:

— A combined force killed a dozen enemy militants in Kandahar province in an operation to interdict a Taliban commander and his unit believed to be responsible for attacks in the Arghandab district west of Kandahar City. The force coordinated an air strike on the enemy position. During the search, several of the dead were discovered armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition belts and communications gear. All items were destroyed in place.

— A combined force killed several militants and detained several suspects in Khowst province after searching compounds in pursuit of a Haqqani terrorist organization leader linked to a bomb-making and foreign-fighter facilitation network in the area. The force searched two compounds north of Khowst City. Militants outside of one of the compounds posed a hostile threat to the combined force and were killed. During the search, the joint security force discovered multiple hand grenades and assault rifles.

– Combined forces killed several militants in Ghazni province after searching an enemy position in pursuit of a district Taliban commander linked to several other militant commanders and foreign fighters in the area. The force received hostile fire during the operation from an enemy position. Returning fire, they killed several militants. The force then searched the enemy location and found multiple rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles and ammunition belts. All items were destroyed in place.

– In Wardak province, a combined force detained two suspects after searching a compound known to be used by a Taliban commander. The joint force searched compounds southwest of Kabul without incident and without firing shots.

– A combined force detained suspected militants after searching compounds in Khowst province known to be used by a Haqqani bomb technician linked to several militant commanders in the area. The force searched the compounds without incident.

In an Oct. 24 operation, a combined force searched a compound and detained several suspected militants believed to be members of a bombing network in Farah province. The suspects surrendered peacefully during the search and no shots were fired.

In operations Oct. 22:

– A combined force killed a dozen militants and detained several suspects in Kandahar province after stopping a number of vehicles in pursuit of a Taliban commander of the province’s Maywand district. The force initially targeted a number of vehicles in transit across southern Maywand after intelligence indicated militant activity. Several militants were killed after they failed to respond to warnings, and others were detained. Subsequently, the combined force received hostile fire from militants in multiple vehicles maneuvering in their direction. The force returned fire, killing another group of militants. The force searched each of the vehicles and recovered a number of small-arms weapons, documents and 2,600 pounds of black-tar heroin. The force identified one of the dead as the sought-after Taliban commander of Maywand.

— A combined force detained several suspected militants after searching compounds in Wardak province known to be used by a Taliban commander and his unit responsible for several rocket and bombing attacks in the region. The force targeted the compounds near the village of Patankhel in the Sayed Abad district after intelligence indicated militant activity there. The force searched the compound without incident and detained several suspects. No shots were fired, and no one was injured in the search.

In other news from Afghanistan, international forces have responded to accusations that a U.S. servicemember burned the Quran last week in Wardak province’s Maydan Shar district.

In response to the accusations, ISAF troops conducted an investigation in conjunction with local Afghan army commanders and found the claim groundless.

A spokesman for Wardak Gov. Mohammad Alim Fadayee, and Mullah Qari of the Afghan army in Wardak, publicly stated that ISAF troops were not responsible for the desecration and found no wrongdoing by international forces.

In his public address, Mullah Qari provided the results of the investigation into the incident and offered an explanation.

“Dear brothers, recently, the incident of burning of the Quran that happened in Kowte Ashrow, it was the actions of the enemies of Afghanistan and Islam for their private purposes,” Qari said. “The enemies of Afghanistan are trying to make people go against the government in order to start riots.”

(Compiled from NATO International Security Assistance Force news releases.)

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Iraq Drawdown on Track

Posted by Larry Barnes on October 21, 2009

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2009 – Although much work remains to draw down the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, Pentagon officials told Congress here today the Defense Department is well on schedule to meet President Barack Obama’s withdrawal timeline.

Obama announced in February plans for a responsible drawdown of forces in Iraq. His plan, in accordance with the U.S.-Iraq security agreement signed in 2008, called for U.S. forces there to cede operations within city limits by June 30 and ultimately transition into an assistance and advisory force for the Iraqis. By Aug. 31, 2010, only 50,000 troops are expected to remain in country, and by Dec. 31, 2011, all U.S. forces should be withdrawn.

“We’ve continued along the timeline laid out by the president,” Michelle Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, said before the House Armed Services Committee. “We continue to plan for and implement a responsible U.S. drawdown, one that advances our goal of a stable, sovereign and self-reliant Iraq. We are continuing our efforts to train and equip [Iraqi security forces] so they can effectively defend the Iraqi people and protect Iraqi institutions by the end of 2011.”

Since January, the U.S. military footprint in Iraq has decreased from more than 143,000 troops to about 120,000. And this week, an Army brigade combat team was off-ramped from its scheduled January deployment there.

“[Iraqi security forces] have performed quite well since June 30, 2009, and the security situation in Iraq continues to improve despite a few high-profile attacks,” Flournoy said, noting improvement in Iraq’s security forces.

Transitioning full security responsibility within the cities to the Iraqis was an important first step in demonstrating the U.S. commitment to the timeline, Flournoy said, and was much more. The Iraqis gained more confidence in their abilities, and the population is becoming more accustomed to seeing their own countrymen patrolling the streets and protecting their rights, she said.

However, she added, Iraqi forces still depend on U.S. support. Flournoy explained that budget shortfalls caused by the past year’s global recession have made it difficult for Iraqi forces to field critical equipment and increase their numbers.

The Iraqi government contributed nearly $10 billion of its own money to fund the country’s forces this year, a stark contrast from 2005, when less than $2.5 billion came from Iraq. But that amount isn’t enough to meet budget and equipment needs within the necessary timeline, she said.

“Much remains to be done to enable the [Iraqi forces] to assume full responsibility by Dec. 31, 2011,” she said.

Iraqi forces must be able to provide security for Iraq’s population and to conduct internal defense and basic external defenses to maintain stability there, she explained. Congress recently granted the Defense Department authority to provide “excess material” and some “non-excess material” to help the Iraqis meet that goal.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is authorized to transfer excess U.S. material such as commercial trucks, clothing, helmets and body armor. Non-excess material includes pistols, cargo trucks and up-armored Humvees, among other things.

“It will certainly help to ensure that [Iraqi forces] can fulfill their mission by the time U.S. forces depart, an obviously vital step towards the goal of a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq,” Flournoy said.

Pentagon officials also are evaluating plans to address equipment shortfalls beyond transferring equipment, she said, meaning the United States may end up purchasing some new equipment for Iraqi forces. Determining the amount of U.S. equipment and financial support to Iraq depends on the needs of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, she explained.

“A core principal in our decision making is that equipment will only be considered for transfer if it is not needed by U.S. forces,” she said. “[The Defense Department] will also work with the military services to manage the cost of replacing that transferred equipment.”

What to do with equipment not appropriate for transfer also factors into the effectiveness of the U.S. drawdown, she said. About 3.3 million pieces of U.S. equipment are in Iraq now, and although some will transfer to Iraq and eventually to Afghanistan, the majority will stay with U.S. forces.

The department has been preparing such a scenario for more than year, and Flournoy said those plans look to be working well. The services already have identified non-mission-essential equipment that can be brought back early and allow a responsible and gradual drawdown of equipment as troops redeploy, she said.

“We’re committed to conducting the drawdown of troops, equipment and material in a manner that addresses the needs of our military and our obligation to the American taxpayer,” Flournoy said. “While doing all of this presents significant challenges, we’re confident that we’re making progress in our goals on the timeline laid out by the president.”

Navy Vice Adm. James Winnefield, strategic plans and policy director for the Joint Staff, followed Flournoy’s testimony and added that some aspects of the withdrawal plan are ahead of schedule. U.S. troops occupy around 200 fewer bases in Iraq than in January, and 35,000 fewer civilian contractors are on the ground there today, he said.

Winnefield also reminded the committee of the Army brigade this week that was off-ramped, and that only 10 brigade-size units will be operating in Iraq by the country’s January elections.

Pentagon officials are “well on our way to the six advise-and-assistance brigades that we plan to have on the ground by Sept. 1,” Winnefield said. Two U.S. advisory brigades already are in Iraq, working with and training Iraqi forces.

Leaders in Iraq are planning the final phase of the drawdown, Winnefield said. Brigade combat teams will redeploy one by one and by battalions through summer to ensure the remaining forces can maintain their Iraqi partnerships.

The current plans keep the drawdown process on track with Obama’s timeline and ensure training operations will follow through after Sept. 1, when U.S. troop levels are expected to be at 50,000, the admiral said.

“We do remain on track,” he added. “We intend to continue the drawdown in a manner that protects our military forces and civilians, exercises good stewardship of the resources provided to us, does not jeopardize the readiness of our military as we reset and leave a stable, secure and self-reliant Iraq as a long-term strategic partner to the United States.”

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Iraqi Forces Arrest Terrorism, Murder Suspects

Posted by Larry Barnes on October 21, 2009

American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2009 – Iraqi forces, aided by U.S. forces advisors, arrested two terrorism suspects and a murder suspect in Iraq in recent days, military officials reported.

Iraqi security forces, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested two suspected terrorists — a father and son — in Salahuddin province Oct. 16.

The forces arrested Diyah Adib Hassan Albu Nassir in his home in Bayji with a warrant issued by the Federal Appellate Court of Salahuddin. They arrested Nassir’s son, Farhan Diyah Adib Hassan Albu Nassir, after they determined there also was a warrant for his arrest. The elder man is suspected of funding insurgent activities for several terrorist organizations in northern Iraq.

Elsewhere, the Qaim special weapons and tactics unit, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested an Iraqi police murder suspect Oct. 19 based on a warrant issued by Iraq’s Higher Judicial Council Magistrate Court.

The suspect also is accused of having al-Qaida in Iraq ties and involvement with insurgent activity, according to the warrant.

(Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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Forces Arrest Suspected Terrorist Leaders in Iraq

Posted by Larry Barnes on October 21, 2009

American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2009 – Iraqi forces arrested several suspected terrorist leaders in Iraq in recent days, military officials reported.

Iraqi constables with the 5th Emergency Response Battalion arrested a suspected leader of an al-Qaida terrorist cell in Ninevah province Oct. 3.

The constables arrested Hajji Ali al-Tikriti for allegedly coordinating multiple attacks against Iraqi security forces and civilians, smuggling weapons throughout northern Iraq and for extorting civilians in the province. He also is suspected of being a key influencer and contributor in numerous vehicle and roadside bomb attacks throughout Mosul, and is believed to be the military mind behind a terrorist cell in Mosul.

The constables conducted the arrest under the authority of a warrant issued by the Superior Judiciary Council of the Riyad Central Investigative Court.

Meanwhile, Iraqi constables with the 6th Emergency Response Battalion arrested Ghassan Adnan Hamza, a suspected terrorist cell leader associated with Jaysh al-Mahdi, an Iraqi paramilitary force, during an operation in Diyala province Sept. 27.

The man was arrested with a warrant issued by the High Judicial Council Appellate Court of Diyala for suspicion of murdering several civilians throughout northern Iraq, attacks against Iraqi security forces, laundering money and for setting up multiple terrorist cells aimed at destabilizing Iraq.

Elsewhere, Iraqi security forces captured six suspects involved in terrorist acts conducted in and around Kirkuk, Mosul and Baghdad in separate security operations Oct. 3.

Near Tuz Khurmatu, southwest of Kirkuk, the 3rd Emergency Services Unit, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested a suspect believed to be involved in an assassination and kidnapping ring that operates in and around Kirkuk. The man also is suspected of helping to build the vehicle-borne bomb that destroyed a mosque and killed several Iraqi civilians in Taza on June 20. The force arrested an additional suspect during the search after police determined that he may pose a threat to the local community.

In a separate operation, the 3rd General Directorate Salahuddin Police Unit, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested two suspects during a search in Qara Tapa for an al-Qaida in Iraq mortar cell leader who operates throughout Diyala province. The suspects were questioned and determined to have connections to al-Qaida operations in Qara Tapa, southeast of Kirkuk.

In northern Mosul, Iraqi soldiers, with U.S. forces advisors, arrested a suspect during a search of two buildings for an al-Qaida in Iraq member believed to be responsible for multiple vehicle-borne bomb attacks throughout the northern Iraq city.

In northern Baghdad, Iraqi soldiers and U.S. advisors searched a building known to be used by the terrorist group Khataib Hizballah. During this operation, the security team encountered a suspicious person, who was arrested without incident.

Elsewhere, Iraqi police and U.S. and Iraqi soldiers arrested eight people Sept. 30 wanted on warrants for homemade bomb attacks against security forces in Kirkuk. One of the detainees is suspected of involvement with a bomb attack Sept. 8 that killed four and wounded two Iraqi police officers outside Kirkuk city.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.

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Marines Clear Taliban From Buji Bhast Pass

Posted by Larry Barnes on October 21, 2009

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELARAM, 213596Farah Province, Afghanistan – Marines from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment conducted Operation Germinate to clear Taliban insurgents out of a pass through the Buji Bhast Mountains near here Oct. 6-10, 2009. The pass is the most direct route from the southern plain here to the district center of Golestan District in the mountains, where part of 2/3’s Company F is located.

The first element of 100 Marines left here by convoy the evening of Oct. 7 headed for the southern entrance to the pass. Hours later, a second airborne contingent of 100 more Marines and Afghan soldiers flew into previously identified positions in the pass to keep the enemy from escaping into the mountains. The Marine and Afghan national army forces aimed to push the enemy out – one way or another.

“I figured it was either going to be a ghost town or it was going to be a significant battle,” said Capt. Francisco X. Zavala, Company F commanding officer, “Unfortunately, there was some battle, but it was nothing my Marines couldn’t handle.”

As the ground-side element rolled through the pass, the rest of the Marines and ANA soldiers who had been inserted via helicopter blocked the eastern and northern exit routes. Their supporting mission was to stop and search Afghans fleeing the area and prevent any possible insurgent support from reinforcing their comrades.

It didn’t take long for them to attract the wrong kind of attention.

“We saw spotters throughout the hills, and we were just waiting for something to happen,” said Staff Sgt. Luke N. Medlin, the engineer platoon sergeant and part of the eastern blocking position.

A few hours after they assumed these blocking positions, the Marines and Afghan soldiers started receiving fire from machine guns, rifles and mortars from enemy positions in the surrounding hills. The Marines quickly dispatched the initial attackers and called in a UH-1N Huey, an AH-1W Super Cobra and an F/A-18 Hornet to destroy the enemy position further uphill.

“We were attacked from a well-fortified fighting position in the hills,” Medlin said. “My Marines quickly returned fire, giving us time to maneuver and overwhelm the position with fire until air support got there.”

Once the sound of gunfire died away, the Marines began searching the mud-brick buildings scattered throughout the pass to ensure they hadn’t missed any hidden insurgents and introduce themselves to the people living there.

The Marines spent the next two days moving from compound to compound, working with the people and maintaining a visible presence in the pass to keep the enemy from trying to move back in. They did receive some small-arms fire, but it was quickly dealt with.

“During the clearing of one compound, a woman drew a pistol, aiming it at one of the Marines,” said 1st Lt. Shane Harden, weapons platoon commander, F Company. “Lance Cpl. (Justin B.) Basham demonstrated extreme composure and great fire discipline not to shoot her. Within a split second he realized that he could use a non-lethal method to disarm her.”

At first the people in the Buji Bast pass were skeptical and nervous when the Marines came into their villages, Harden said, but after explaining why they were there, the people accepted their presence.

“Luckily the people that were still in the compounds cooperated with us, once they seemed to understand why we were here and what we were doing. It really helped speed things along,” said Lance Cpl. David W. Parrotte, an infantryman with Company F.

During the searches the Marines collected not only weapons and grenades, but also large supplies of IED-making materials, like batteries, connecter wires and open radios. They also found 2,000 pounds of ammonium nitrite and 1,500 pounds of sugar, which are both primary components of homemade explosives, according to Zavala.

In some of the compounds, anti-International Security Assistance Force propaganda was found and confiscated. Some of the contraband was linked to two men who were taken into custody.

On Oct. 10, the last day of the operation, male and female corpsmen were brought in to treat and assess locals while battalion commander Lt. Col. Patrick J. Cashman held shuras with elders in the villages. These meetings gave the residents a chance to ask questions and put in reimbursement claims for any goods or property damaged during the searches.

During the shuras, the medical personnel treated and assessed some of the local population for symptoms of sickness and injury. The 2/3’s medical personnel treated approximately 300 people.

At each of the meetings, Lt. Col. Sakhra, commander of the Afghan 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 207th Corps, talked to elders about actions they should take to keep insurgents out of their towns and the pass. He talked about the power of unity against the Taliban insurgents who threaten their way of life and stressed that they need to trust the Marines and help them eliminate the threats.

“Lieutenant Colonel Sakhra did a fantastic job pointing out the responsibilities of the elders,” said Cashman. “He has the cultural knowledge to tell them where they are wrong and how they need to change to save the lives of their people.”

Cashman added that most of the problems in these small, isolated towns result from the younger men having no way to provide for a family or find legitimate work. So, some of them pick up a gun and take what they want. It is the responsibility of the elders to guide their people and help them prosper without using violence as an easy way to make a living.

After the meetings, the people were given food and water to take home, and instead of leaving immediately, the Marines and corpsmen stayed to give as much time as possible for the villagers to bring their sick and elderly for a checkup.

This four-day operation to clear insurgents out of the Buji Bhast Pass promises safer travel for Afghan people and coalition forces alike. But equally important are the first building blocks of trust laid down between the Marines and ANA and the residents of the pass.

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