By Maj. Gen. James C. McConvilleMay 15, 2013
Greetings from Afghanistan.
Spring is nearly at an end and the fighting season in Afghanistan has begun. Rather differently from my previous years here, the Taliban's public announcement of their fighting season campaign was the biggest news -- not the actual fighting. Although it's much too early to tell and we anticipate heavy fighting between the Afghan Security Forces and the enemy in the days ahead, we have yet to see the enemy achieve any significant effects against the Afghans. The enemy's inability to achieve their stated objectives has been the result of the dedicated advisory and assistance efforts of our Screaming Eagle and CJTF 101 troops combined with the unwavering efforts of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) who continue to take the lead for security; forming the tip of the spear and directly engaging and defeating the enemy throughout the area of operations.
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. In April, they attempted to disrupt opening ceremonies celebrating Ghazni City's recognition by the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) as an Islamic Capital of Culture for Asia in 2013. And, again in April, the enemy attempted to execute major attacks coinciding with the Afghan National Holiday, Mujahedeen Victory Day, which celebrates the defeat of the communist regime in Afghanistan in 1992. For all of their efforts, the enemy was defeated in each case by the Afghan Security Forces and they were unable to achieve their aims of disrupting these events and trying to deprive the Afghan children of an opportunity for a future.
As we recognize that the summer is just beginning, and that there are many dangers still ahead, we remain aggressive in our support of the ANSF and vigilant against the enemy threat. One of the most important things we may achieve this summer is to establish a lasting and powerful sense of confidence amongst the Afghan people, confidence that the ANSF are able to defeat the insurgents in their own right; and, confidence that we will remain faithful to their cause, enduring in our commitment to a stable and peaceful future.
On 24 April 2013, COL J.P. McGee, Commander of our 1st Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Bastogne, conducted a patrol in the village of Chamtallah, Kogiani District, Nangarhar Province. While talking to the local population, he was able to speak to a group of about 15 young boys, all under the age of 14 years. He asked each of the boys what they wanted to be when they grew up and the answers were worth noting. Eight of the boys said they wanted to grow up and join the Army because they loved Afghanistan and wanted to protect it. The remaining 7 boys split their responses between becoming doctors and engineers. One of the boys asked COL McGee if he had any sons. When COL McGee responded that he did; the Afghan boy replied that maybe his sons could become Army Officers and work with him when he was in the Army. As the Afghan Security National Security Forces continue to defeat the enemy and secure their own country, they are becoming more respected by the local population each day. Stories such as COL McGee's are increasingly commonplace as the younger generation here in Afghanistan reaps the benefits of improved opportunity that our efforts over the last decade helped to bring about.
With the determination and spirit you would expect, our Screaming Eagles and CJTF-101 continue to advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces so that they may continue to build upon their successes and secure THEIR country.
First Brigade, 'Bastogne,' continues to invest heavily in its partnership with the 2nd and 4th Brigades of the Afghan National Army's 201st Corps. This partnership, along with the strong relationship built with the Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) and the Afghan Border Police (ABP), has gone a long way to increasing security in the Nangarhar, Nuristan and Kunar area. The establishment of Afghan Local Police (ALP) programs in several districts continues to reinforce success in all three Provinces. The most significant of these is the training rotation for ALP volunteers from the remote Kamdesh district of Nuristan province. These men, with the assistance of transportation provided by the Afghan Air Force (AAF) helicopters, are already making a strong impact on this region of the country.
The 3rd Brigade, 'Rakkasans,' are wrapping up their successful tour and have begun redeploying home to Fort Campbell and the 4th Brigade, "Currahee," have arrived to assume responsibility for the provinces of Khost and Paktiya, along the Pakistan border. The Rakkasans have continued to advise and assist the ANSF in the eastern provinces of Khost and Paktya while simultaneously orienting their Currahee brothers and sisters to the area of operations. During this time, the ANSF continued to improve in their core competencies and are taking the fight to the insurgency with minimal assistance from the Rakkasans. Over the last 30 days the Currahees have steadily flowed into Afghanistan and the relief in place process is in full swing. The relief in place among other tasks includes a full inventory of all equipment, introductions and handover of key relationships, and hands-on review of tactics and techniques.
Over the past month, 101 Combat Aviation Brigade, 'Task Force Destiny,' has been conducting a relief in place with Task Force Falcon, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade. Aviators and Soldiers from both organizations are working together to ensure a seamless transition. Task Force Destiny hosted Col. Rasool, the Afghan Air Force Surgeon General, and flight medics from the 377th Kabul Air Wing Partnership. Flight medics from C Company, 3-10 MEDEVAC conducted classes with their Afghan counterparts on bleeding management and patient assessment; Task Force Destiny will complete their mission in Afghanistan on May 19th. They will depart Afghanistan knowing that they have provided world class aviation support to the troops on the ground and have lived up to the "gold standard" expected of aviators in the 101st Airborne Division (AASLT).
The Screaming Eagles, and all members of CJTF-101, continue to make a clear and apparent difference here in Afghanistan. Yet more importantly, the ANSF grow stronger and more powerful each day, bearing the greatest share of security operations, and denying the enemy the opportunity to achieve their ends.