Jan. 29, 2010 —
Afghan Border Police Company Commander Tagh Ali, passes out FM/AM radios to locals in the village of Shabow Khel during a joint humanitarian aid mission in Khost Province, Afghanistan.
KHOST, Afghanistan (Jan. 28, 2010) — Counter-insurgency strategy, protecting and interacting with the local population, has been mandated in Afghanistan since Gen. Stanley McChrystal arrived in June 2009.
The Soldiers from 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division have been implementing COIN successfully since February 2009. For the past 11 months Soldiers from Task Force Steel have conducted daily joint patrols with the Afghan border police.
“A year ago we didn’t have any of it,” said Sgt. Maj. Roger Jacobs, Task Force Steel. “The JOC [joint operations center] was set up a couple of months ago. They [the ABP] were on our COP [combat operating post], but they weren’t going on patrol. Over the year we’ve slowly progressed to joint patrols almost daily.”
One of these patrols rolled out of COP Narizah Jan. 25, led by Army 1st Lt. Christopher Kittle, a native of Westfield, N. Y.
The mission of the joint U.S./ABP patrol was to drive to the village of Shabow Khel to interact with local tribal elders and hand out FM/AM radios, so that locals can listen to the provincial governor and keep up with the latest local government news.
According to Kittle, the radios serve a dual purpose, they also allow for a positive interaction with the locals as the radios are only handed out by the ABP. This can and has led to an increase of intelligence on the locations of IEDs.
Once they arrive in the villages they patrol, the ABP, led by their Company Commander Tagh Ali, is in the lead with the TF Steel Soldiers in support.
“So, we were in the village and it was pretty much all Tagh Ali, the [ABP] commander’s show,” Kittle said. “He was the one calling the elders over. He was the one speaking to the elders.”
The ABP went forward first during the initial dismount in the village, to search locals that had gathered in a small throng near the outer wall of the school courtyard. Meanwhile, the TF Steel Soldiers set up a 360 degree perimeter with the crowd of 75-100 villagers at the center.
“Our involvement, our engagement with the locals is changing,” Kittle said. “[We’re] really, trying to get it so they look to the Afghan government, GIRoA [the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan], to support them.
“We’re getting engaged in these border villages to show that we’re here and we’re here to stay and it’s not just us,” Kittle said, “it’s the border police, it’s the ANA [Afghan National Army] or the ANP [Afghan National Police].” Ali and other Afghan Border Patrol handed out the radios to everyone in the crowd, one smiling gentleman even managed to snag two.
“I believe it went good,” said gunner and Bluefield, W.V. native, Army Pfc. Jonathan Wolford, TF Steel, “they know they can trust us. That is part of the COIN [strategy], to establish mutual trust.”
“We want to get the ABP to engage with the village leadership,” Kittle said. “They’re the ones who we want out there in the villages. Our role is more to support them and provide assistance to them to allow them to go out [and] conduct operations. We conduct our own operations, but the majority of ours is combined operations with the Afghan border police.”
After about an hour at the school, the crowd started to slowly dissipate, the Soldiers and ABP hopped back into their vehicles and reversed their route to the COP.
“Today was a non kinetic mission,” Kittle said. “It wasn’t directed completely at fighting the Taliban. It was directed at undermining the Taliban’s authority or any legitimacy the Taliban has in the area.”