FORWARD OPERATING BASE SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan (Nov. 26, 2012) -- In remote villages of Kandahar province, to access the nearest city means crossing approximately 55 kilometers of hazardous terrain along unimproved routes through insurgent contested areas.
Recognizing this challenge, members of the 3rd Zone Afghan Border Police, or ABP, and their respective Security Forces Assistance Team advisers made a deliberate effort to reach the remote areas in Spin Boldak and Tak-teh Pol districts, remove insurgent influence and address villagers' economic and security concerns during Operation Southern Strike IV in Kandahar province, Nov. 15-18.
"These towns do not have any governance support. They do not see any of the ABP on a regular basis so suddenly we are in the enemy's backyard where he has been comfortable," said Lt. Col. Scott Sill, an Afghan Hand and senior mentor working with SFAT 11.
As part of the operation, leaders from the 3rd Zone ABP and subordinate kandaks identified four target areas considered safe-havens for the Taliban. Executed by elements of the 3rd Zone ABP's Quick Reaction Force Kandak and 4th Kandak, the operation also incorporated air support by the Afghan Air Force's Kandahar Air Wing, or KAW.
"Fellow kandak commanders reinforced each other, as well as the Zone orchestrated ground movements and synchronized air movement," said Sill. "This may seem like an easy task for Americans, but for the Afghans it is a first."
The joint KAW and 3rd Zone ABP mission, though a first, allowed the successful air transportation of ABP leaders to engage the village leaders while the kandaks secured the far-stretching routes and cleared into the villages by ground.
Sill believes the ABP gained confidence in the benefits of using military assets like medical evacuation, or medevac, support, route clearance and improvised explosive device reduction tools while working with the International Security Assistance Forces.
"They learned with these augmented capacities, 'I can reach further into my own area,'" Sill said. "We demonstrate how we do it. We find an Afghan sustainable solution and take these little steps so what today is a humanitarian aid drop; in a couple of months could be an air assault and medevac."
Sill hopes that this is the beginning of the ABP developing these assets within their force or requesting the augmented support from the Afghan National Army.
"As we have shown them how they can use tools that ISAF can provide, the next step is to teach [and] train them on those tools that way we can step further [back]," said Sill. "We are stepping up the Afghan's ability to do it themselves."
Throughout the operation the ABP demonstrated how they could do it themselves, but it was most evident during the last phase of the operation. ABP leaders engaged village elders, as they have done numerous times before, listened to their concerns, addressed security issues and advised residents on ways to access the police for support.
This time, however, there was a change.
In the small town of Gagre Naw, only nine families remain in the village known as a refit area for insurgents. The villagers, concerned insurgents will take the humanitarian aid they cannot secure, suggested to the ABP that they take the excess food and supplies to another village where many of their families relocated to.
Before the ABP's coalition force partners can identify the suggested village, the ABP using their local knowledge, created their movement plan, disseminated their order and were ready to move out.
"They [ABP] were down the road long before we could un-wind out of the primary objective," said Sill. "They surprise us with their ability to do things like taking the [humanitarian aid] down to the next village without our prompting. They saw a need and had the capacity to facilitate it. In fact we didn't realize that was going to even happen."
This news signals the end of the operation for coalition forces. However, for the ABP it is the next step in their mission. The police, far in front of coalition forces, have already left for the next village with the humanitarian aid loaded and are continuing the mission independently.