A member of the Afghan Narcotics Interdiction Unit cuts a lock on a suspected insurgent compound during Operation Speargun in Urmuz, Afghanistan, March 26, 2012. (Photo by Sgt. James Mercure)
URMUZ, Afghanistan (April 3, 2012) — Afghan National Security Forces executed a town clearing of Urmuz during Operation Speargun, March 25 through 30.
Located in the southern part of the Now Zad district of Helmand province, Urmuz has been a narcotics haven for insurgents. Historically, a limited presence by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has allowed insurgents to traffic drugs throughout the region without reprisal.
Coalition forces supported the ANSF during the 5-day mission.
“This operation set the conditions to allow the ANSF to gain a foothold and move into the area,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Trimble, from Louisville, Ky., battalion commander, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. “We showed the insurgents we can land in their backyard anytime we want, and together with the ANSF, we attacked and removed their processing capabilities to make heroin, which is where the insurgents get their capital.”
As the operation progressed, ANSF and Marine-led coalition forces located several of the insurgent’s explosives, weapons and narcotics caches.
“The insurgents had a choice to keep their stuff protected or fight us, and they couldn’t do either effectively,” said Capt. Dan O’Brien, from Pensacola, Fla., Alpha Company commander, 1st Bn., 8th Marines.
The skills the ANSF used to locate the caches and repel the insurgents impressed their Marine counterparts.
“The ANSF guys cleared all the compounds while we set up security. There wasn’t a single [compound] where we made first entry. The ANSF just know what normal looks like, and when you combine that with our technical proficiency, you have a truly effective combination.”
One of the significant obstacles that ANSF and coalition forces face is the “karez” system: large holes in the ground throughout the town of Urmuz - some more than 50 feet deep - leading to an underground waterway.
“As we cleared the town, we found tunnels leading to the bottom of the karez system, which led us to a stash of pre-made IEDs, mortars and other weapons that we blew in place,” said Cpl. Cory Vickery, from Sylva, N.C., squad leader, 2nd squad, 2nd platoon, Alpha Company.
With the discovery and destruction of insurgent paraphernalia, Operation Speargun supports the ANSF mission to establish a security presence in Urmuz, while preventing insurgents from being able to use the area as a base of operations.