Operation Southern Fist III
March 26, 2013
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan - Afghan National Security Forces assisted by International Security Assistance Forces began Operation Southern Fist III March 3, in the district of Spin Boldak, Kandahar province, Afghanistan.
The operation was designed to eliminate an insurgent infiltration route, known locally as the "Jungle", that is suspected of being used as a stop over and materials collection point to gain access to Kandahar province.
Southern Fist III was the idea of the Spin Boldak district Afghan Border Police Quick Reaction Force commander, Lt. Col. Haji Janan, said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kenneth W, Scheidt, a mentor and adviser known as an Afghan Hand who partners with Janan.
"He's quite convinced that that area had been used as sort of a layover for Taliban affiliated elements to move further into the Kandahar province," said Scheidt. "He is looking at this as being a way of mitigating the overall fighting season of the Taliban."
The operation consisted of several events that lasted for 10 days and began when ANSF and ISAF forces linked-up on the first day to search pre-designated areas for potential weapons and home made explosives caches.
The second day started with ANA engineers using bulldozers to remove the trees and brush in the jungle while shuras, or meetings, were held at a nearby villages to allow ANSF and ISAF leaders speak to and answer questions from the villagers.
The shura was important because it sent a message to the local Afghans that they can talk to the ANSF to help them get rid of the Taliban in their area, said U.S. Army Cpt. Derek C. Knapp, the executive officer of Security Force Assistance Team 10 comprised of members of the Texas Army National Guard.
To further connect with the local villages, the ANSF allowed the villagers to enter the area of operations to collect wood and brush as it was uprooted to use as fuel for cooking and heating.
"Almost immediately when the bulldozers started to clear the jungle they were already starting to pile the brush over to one side," said Knapp. "The locals could take that brush, use it for firewood or sell to other Afghans."
The remaining days of the operation were centered on the work of the bulldozers of the Afghan National Army, 205th Corps Engineering Kandak, who were formed and began training for this mission only six months ago.
"This is their first major operation," said U.S. Army Cpt. Fabian J. Barrera, an engineer adviser with SFAT 4A, of the Texas Army National Guard. "This is a fast move for them with the little training they received to actually being out here doing a combat operation."
The engineers were not able see the area before the mission but they were able to adapt to the environment and changes on the ground in order to make the mission a success, said Afghan National Army Maj. Karim Daad, the 205th CEK executive officer.
"Changes were made," said Scheidt. " They did adapt to them. They had coordination meetings."
"Major operations, especially with complex equipment over long distances, do require a level of coordination and understanding of the overall environment," said Scheidt.
Coordinating with each other and understanding the unique capabilities that each had to offer, the ANSF in Kandahar province accomplished much more than destroying an insurgent safe haven. They have demonstrated their ability to execute a major operation.
Operation Southern Fist III showed that with Afghan forces working together they can make an impact in their area of operations that mitigate the dangers of the fighting season.