|Marines, Afghan Army combat IEDs in Trek Nawa|
By Sgt. Mark Fayloga, Regimental Combat Team 7
The goal of the operation was to conduct a clearing mission to remove weapons caches, disrupt Taliban activity and interact with the local populace in an area of Trek Nawa that has seen scarce coalition force involvement.
A recent increase of improvised explosive devices being found in India Company’s area of operations was part of what spurred the operation. Removing IED caches would at least temporarily stall IED activity, but more importantly interacting with the people could prevent the Taliban from having freedom to work in the area.
The men had already found three caches, but when a helicopter crashed nearby, the focus of the mission shifted to providing security for the down bird until the following morning. The operation paused for a short while but then began again a few days later and concluded July 27.
In the end, the operation yielded four cache finds and a few detainees, but most importantly, Zavala said, was the successful interaction with the locals.
“Now that we’ve finished Op Thresher, people are coming up to the Marines and thanking them for clearing the area and they’re saying the Marines have provided a lot more security for the area, and they’d like to work hand-in-hand with us,” Zavala said.
Zavala hopes to continue to build on the growing relationship by beginning a project development shura to reinforce the new ties to the locals.
Prior to the operation, Zavala considered the area to be heavily under the influence of the Taliban, due in large part to intimidation, as there isn’t a strong Afghan government presence and the area is on the edge of India Company’s area of operations. Most of India Company’s focus has fallen on more heavily populated regions.
The shift in attitude was due in large part to the success of the Afghan soldiers during the operation. The operation was Afghan-led, with Marines providing support.
“I think they do a great job,” said Fiedtkou, a Queens, N.Y. native. “They know how to search, they know exactly what they’re doing and they ask for help when they need it. We mainly just support them.”
The Afghans soldiers were also responsible for helping to counter Taliban misinformation in the area.
“The ANA worked with the population and explained to them security is coming and we’re working hard to do it, but we need you to stop helping the Taliban so we can bring you the reconstruction and development everybody else is getting, but we need you to work the Marines and ANA to provide security,” Zavala said.
India Company plans to maintain contact with the population and continue to build the strength of the initial relationship. The next planned step is to begin having meetings with the populace to discuss beginning projects in the area.