Afghans lead Aussies on 14-hour patrol through Taliban hotspot
March 25, 2011
- "The people, they talk to us honestly," said Ahmad. "Especially the children. When we give them candy, they show us where the Taliban are."
TANGI VALLEY, Afghanistan - Afghan National Army soldiers and their Australian Army mentors conducted one of their longest patrols through Tangi Valley, Afghanistan March 22.
The 14-hour patrol was an attempt to push back insurgents and disrupt their activity in one of the largest Taliban strongholds in Uruzgan province said Australian Army Maj. Dave French, commanding officer, Combat Team C, 2nd Mentoring Task Force, Combined Team Uruzgan.
"This was a fighting patrol," said French. "It wasn't about clearing and holding the area. It was about engaging the enemy in their home and stopping their influence from spreading into areas that we control."
The patrol started in the early morning, under the cover of darkness, and even though the ANA Heavy Weapon Company, 1st Kandak (Battalion), 4th Brigade, 2nd Atal Corps, did not have night-vision devices, they still led the charge.
"They're starting to become very competent at nighttime operations," said Australian Army Capt. Byron McDonald, team leader for Combat Team C, 2nd MTF, CTU. "It shows they're taking more ownership in the mission. They take the lead and we provide the support."
After several hours of hiking, the soldiers reached their destination - a series of hilltops surrounding a village known for Taliban presence.
French said the goal was to surprise the enemy by appearing from somewhere unexpected. The tactic worked so well; the Taliban were unable to get into fighting positions and chose not to fight. This allowed the ANA to enter the village and interact with the community without interruption.
One of the key things the ANA has learned from their Australian mentors is the importance of making connections with the people, said ANA Lt. Nasir Ahmad, platoon commander for Heavy Weapon Co., 1st Kandak, 4th Brig., 2nd Atal Corps.
"The people, they talk to us honestly," said Ahmad. "Especially the children. When we give them candy, they show us where the Taliban are."
In addition to talking to villagers, the soldiers also found a cache of anti-tank mines, which they promptly destroyed.
French said overall the patrol was a success. Even though the main purpose of the patrol was to engage the enemy, the soldiers managed to make significant ties to the community and remove harmful weapons from the battlefield.
The soldiers did receive enemy fire as they were leaving the area, but it was massively ineffective and likely an attempt by the Taliban to save face, said McDonald.
"They've got to be thinking to themselves - 'What just happened''" said French. "They've got to be wondering where we'll come from next."
McDonald said Heavy Weapon Co. and Combat Team C have pushed further into Tangi Valley than any other force in the past.