GARDEZ, Afghanistan, July 5, 2017 —
The International Security Assistance Forces transitioned its mission in Afghanistan on Dec. 31, 2014 to the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.
As part of that new mission, its regional commands transformed into Advising Platforms to provide for the Train, Advise and Assist mission.
“Task Force Southeast is a subordinate command of Resolute Support Headquarters and has the mission of Training, Advising, and Assisting Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in southeastern Afghanistan,” said Col. Kelly Ivanoff, Deputy Commander for TF Southeast.
The Afghanistan National Defense Security Force in the southeastern zone consists of the 203rd Corps of the Afghan National Army and the 303rd Zone of the Afghan National Police, headquartered in Gardez, Afghanistan.
The 203rd Corps is similar in number of personnel and composition to that of a U.S. Army division and is accountable for the security of an area the size of South Carolina.
“The Corps is comprised of four brigades with a total of 34 battalions and about 20,000 Soldiers. It’s responsible for operations and security across the provinces of Wardak, Logar, Khost, Paktiya, Paktika, Ghazni and Bamyan,” said Lt. Col. Geoffrey McKenzie, Commander of the Military Advisor Team for TF Southeast.
Over the past couple of years, the 203rd Corps has assumed responsibility for all security from ISAF forces.
“A joint operation in Dand-e-Patan district of Paktiya province demonstrated the vast capabilities of the 203rd Corps,” said Mr. Lance Armburster, lead advisor for the MAT, “The Corps executed a very complex operation to block historic infiltration routes and clear enemy fighters who had established a network of defensive positions in the area. The Corps then integrated local, national, and border police to hold the gains achieved during the operation.”
Advisors from Task Force Southeast believe that this proves the 203rd quite capable of planning and performing the security duties needed in the southeast of Afghanistan.
“The operation in Dand-e-Patan was impressive. The Corps really did a great job of preparing for and executing this mission in some challenging terrain,” said Maj. Joseph Miller, MAT advisor for planning operations, “The operation lasted about 45 days and definitely disrupted enemy forces who had been freely operating in that area for years.”
On the law enforcement side of the ANDSF, the 303rd are also proving they are an accomplished force.
“The police in the southeastern zone have also proven they are quite capable of securing local provinces and play a vital role in sustaining long term security in the region,” said Ivanoff.
The 303rd Police Zone is similar in size to the 203rd Army Corps and is directly responsible for law enforcement activities in addition to assisting the ANA with security operations.
“The Zone headquarters leads over 25,000 police which consists of the Afghan Border Police, the Afghan National Civil Order Police, and the Afghan Local Police,” said Capt. Jonathan Kasprisin, Training Advisor for the Police Advisor Team of TF Southeast.
The support, of helping maintain security, the 303rd Police Zone brings to the ANA is highly appreciated.
“The 303rd Zone is a valued member of the Afghanistan security system, striving day in and day out to make a better future for the people of this country,” said Maj. Brian Southard, Commander of the PAT for TF Southeast.
Teamwork between the two organizations is vital to the security of the seven provinces they oversee.
“Cooperation between the army and the police is key to the continued security in the southeastern zone,” said Col. Matthew Van Wagenen, Commander of TF Southeast “The cooperation I’ve seen in this zone is like none other in Afghanistan and it’s the primary reason the ANDSF have been able to make gains in security across the region this year.”
TF Southeast’s role in this security process is to guide and provide an example of solid systems and processes that can stand the test of time.
“Our advisors seek to increase the security capabilities of their counterparts on the 303rd Police Zone as well as the 203rd Corps,” said McKenzie. “The key is to leave them with systems that they can repeat and maintain such as day-to-day operational requirements, readiness activities and security force integrating, while allowing the corps and police to continue building their capabilities over time.”
The TAA mission has its difficulties, but the mission also holds benefits for the advising teams.
“This mission is both challenging and rewarding,” said Southard, “the reward is seeing our counterparts be successful. Whether it is the increased ability to manage supplies or the ability to train in an effective manner, our counterparts have displayed the capacity and capability to succeed.”
Both the 303rd and 203rd display their growing independence in securing the population within the seven provinces that they oversee.
“The 203rd Corps and 303rd Zone are really quite capable organizations. They deserve the credit for the improved security in southeastern Afghanistan. It's our privilege to work alongside them," said Ivanoff.