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News | June 27, 2011

Afghan forces expand security near Helmand capital during Operation Qala Sharqay

By Cpl. Adam Leyendecker , II MEF (FWD)

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (June 27, 2011)  — Afghan soldiers backed by British and American troops pushed to a position northeast of the Helmand provincial capitol of Lashkar Gah to build a new patrol base and improve security in the city as part of Operation Qala Sharqay, June 19.

When complete, the operation will make Lashkar Gah the first city in Helmand province to boast security of purely Afghan National Security Forces.

“Our men have picked up good skills from coalition forces and we are now ready to take over security,” said Afghan National Army Brig. Gen. Sheren Shah, commanding officer of 3rd Brigade, 215th Corps.

Though the 3rd Brigade was established just 18 months ago, coalition leaders have seen enough improvement to go forward with the operation put together by leaders of the 3rd Brigade.

The plan calls for the patrol base being built to garrison more than 200 soldiers and to be finished around March 2012. During operations this week, the soldiers established a base to begin permanent security and prevent insurgent infiltration into the city.

“The people of Lashkar Gah are happy we are getting here,” said Afghan National Army Maj. Fatah Moheb, executive officer of 4th Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 215th Corps.

Afghan soldiers brought with them infantry and engineer teams to successfully execute the plan by first making use of locally available compounds.

The plan, which was drawn up by Afghan National Army officers from the 3rd Brigade, 215th Corps, was brought to and approved by Helmand Provincial Governor Gulab Mangal and coalition leaders.

The plan calls for spreading out Afghan soldiers outside the capital to help re-inforce Afghan Uniformed Police in the city. This will allow the AUP inside the city to focus on security in the urban areas while the ANA soldiers serve as a buffer outside the city limits where small arms fire and improvised explosive devices have been a threat.

The Afghan National Army will be effective working in coordination with AUP stationed in the city, said Lt. Col. Giles Woodhouse, commanding officer of the 3rd Brigade Advisory Group.

Insurgents are still known to have strongholds outside of Lashkar Gah in places such as Yakchal and Populzay across the 601 Highway, a vital economic corridor in the region. By strategically placing Afghan soldiers in the area, locals and coalition forces will have a more secure freedom of movement from the capital to the rest of Afghanistan.

Prior to Operation Qala Sharqay, there had been very little ANA footprint or coalition activity to the northeast of the capital.

In an area which previously had only temporary security, the operation will ensure the local populace will have permanent safety provided by the ANA command and control center set up by Afghan soldiers, said Woodhouse.

“Our young men are ready to take over responsibility that will be handed over in two to three weeks,” said Shah.

Ultimately, when Operation Qala Sharqay is complete, Lashkar Gah is scheduled to be the first major city in Helmand province to transfer security operations entirely to Afghan National Security Forces.