Division commander sees turning point in progress of eastern Afghanistan
June 5, 2014
Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend
More than three months have passed since our transfer of authority in February, and it has been busy for our Mountaineers and Combined Joint Task Force - 10 troops, especially as they prepared the Afghan National Security Forces for the presidential elections on April 5.
The ANSF did a remarkable job leading up to the elections as they executed several operations to prevent enemy spectacular attacks. We anticipated heavy fighting between the ANSF and the enemy in the past weeks, but we have yet to see the enemy achieve any significant effects against the ANSF or the populace.
The enemy's inability to achieve their stated objectives prior to and during the elections has been the result of the dedicated advisory and assistance efforts of our Mountaineers and CJTF-10 troops. This, combined with the encouraging efforts of the ANSF who are in the lead for security, was the tip of the spear directed against the enemy throughout our area of operations. With the determination and spirit you would expect, our Mountaineers and CJTF-10 continue to advise and assist the ANSF so they may continue to build upon their successes and secure their country.
In late February, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), TF White Eagle (Polish Partners) and ANSF from the 203rd Corps provided security to the closing ceremonies celebrating international Islamic culture at the Islamic Capital of Culture for Asia in Ghazni. This event was well-executed and provided confidence to the ANSF as they prevented the enemy from disrupting the Ghazni Islamic Festival.
In March, the enemy threatened to attack and disrupt the Afghan celebration of Now Roz (New Day), which marks the beginning of the Islamic New Year. But, again the ANSF executed a well-thought-out security plan and prevented the enemy from executing any significant attacks.
As the Afghan National Security Forces continue to defeat the enemy and secure their own country, they are becoming more respected by the local population each day. The 3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division (LI), and the 203rd Corps commander, Maj. Gen. Yaftali, hosted Representatives McKeon (Calif.), Denham (CLIF.) and Castro (Texas) at his Corps Headquarters. Maj. Gen. Yaftali was a superb host, and he stated his appreciation for the support the U.S. and coalition have provided to his country.
In the beginning of April, the Afghans began establishing security rings around polling centers to prevent enemy disruption of the presidential elections. The Afghan Air Force (AAF) was very active and far exceeded our expectations. The AAF delivered ballots to remote districts without our help and in poor weather conditions.
On April 5, the day of the presidential elections, it rained; the Afghans living in an arid land considered rain on such an important day to be a good omen, and it was. As the enemy attempted to disrupt the elections, millions of Afghans were undeterred by the rain or by enemy threats and came out to vote -- especially female voters.
For all of their efforts, the enemy was defeated in each case by the Afghan Security Forces, and they were unable to deprive the Afghans of an opportunity to determine their own future. Although the election was a truly historic and watershed moment for the ANSF and the people of Afghanistan, no candidate won a majority of the vote. So we are preparing for a run-off election in June.
As we recognize spring is just beginning, we are proud of what is certainly a turning point in the progress of eastern Afghanistan and its security forces. However, there are many dangers still ahead; we remain vigilant against the enemy threat and aggressive in our support to the ANSF.
One of the most important things we may assist the ANSF with going into the fighting season is to establish a lasting and powerful sense of confidence among the Afghan people, confidence that the ANSF are able to defeat the insurgents in their own right, and confidence we will continue to support them. We are doing this from "over their shoulder," as they are truly taking the lead in securing their country.
The 3rd BCT "Spartans" continue to train, advise and assist the 203rd Corps south of Kabul to prepare them for the run-off election and the fighting season.
The 3rd BCT is witnessing improvement in staff operations at the brigade and corps level where the ANSF are increasingly developing their own intelligence and are conducting operations with minimal support.
I visited with several battalions within 3rd BCT. These battalions are holding strong and still maintaining the pressure on the enemy. Their advisers have been focused on preparing the 203rd Corps to maintain pressure on the enemy as the fighting season continues.
During this time, the ANSF continued to improve in their core competencies and are taking the fight to the enemy with minimal assistance from the Spartans. Soldiers of both 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery, and 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry, recently conducted successful operations to deny the enemy the ability to conduct rocket attacks against our bases.
Over the next 30 days, the Spartans will begin collapsing their footprint within south of Kabul. Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment has transferred Combat Outpost (COP) Sultan Kheyl in Wardak Province over to the Afghanistan National Civil Order Police. In a sign of progress, COP Sultan Kheyl was the last company-sized COP South of Kabul.
The sole sustainment brigade in Afghanistan, our own Task Force "Muleskinner," 10th Sustainment Brigade, has provided improved sustainment support across Afghanistan since arriving in January.
They reorganized and developed new operations to adapt to the changing environment and provide better support in the areas of supply, distribution, finance, postal and personnel services.
Some of their notable achievements include managing and issuing $49.3 million worth of food and water, 66.5 million gallons of fuel valued at $262 million, and $256.7 million worth of repair parts and other supplies, as well as returning $234 million of multiclass supplies to the Army enterprise system, all of which supports the larger Army's readiness.
In an effort to improve living conditions for the Afghan people, the Muleskinners distributed 314,000 pounds of humanitarian relief supplies to more than 25 different locations throughout Af-ghanistan.
By leveraging improved management of distribution capabilities, the Muleskinner team closed the Bastion Ammunition Supply Point and three supply support activities at Forward Operating Bases Marmal, Phoenix and Leatherneck in order to operate more efficiently and provide better support to our Soldiers and coalition partners.
In close collaboration with the Soldiers on the ground, regional commands and joint strategic partners, the 10th Sustainment Brigade will continue to improve sustainment support in order to maintain the vital military and civil support to Afghanistan's young democratic government.
Our Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, "TF Gauntlet," planned and resourced the last official Boston Marathon Shadow Run as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Some 600 Soldiers, airmen, Marines, sailors and Civilians from across Afghanistan ran in our Boston Marathon Shadow Run. We ran to remember the victims of last year's bombings and to all the heroes of our coalition of nations who have sacrificed everything standing for our principles and way of life. This was truly a remarkable event for all who participated.
Since our assumption of authority for RC-East, four Mountaineers have lost their lives -- three of them Spartans who fell in battle with the enemy. We will continue to honor their sacrifice and service. Please keep their Families in your thoughts and prayers.
The Mountaineers and all members of CJTF-10 continue to make a real difference here in Af-ghanistan. More importantly, the ANSF grow stronger each day, bearing the greatest share of security operations and denying the enemy the opportunity to achieve their ends.
You can be proud of the work our great service members and our Afghan partners do here in Regional Command-East.
Visit the 10th Mountain Division (LI) Facebook page at www.facebook.com/drum.10thmountain and www.facebook.com/RC-East.
Thank you for your continued support. "Climb to Glory!"