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Commentary: successful sustainment ops in Zabul show maturation of Afghan forces

By By Col. Royce A. Edington, Train, Advise and Assist Command - South deputy chief of staff for support

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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, June 18, 2015 - During recent combat operations in Zabul province, logisticians from the Afghan military’s 205th Corps demonstrated their capability to effectively support sustained operations into remote regions of the country.

During this period the 205th Corps successfully supported units without assistance from coalition forces. This not only boosted their confidence, but also made a clear statement to the insurgents on the increasing capability of the Afghan National Defense Security Forces, or ANDSF, and their ability to project power into historical insurgent strongholds. The remarkable improvement in logistics capabilities bodes well for the future of ANDSF and clearly shows the increasing professionalization of the force.

Throughout the operations, there were numerous positive actions taken by the logistics leaders of the 205th Corps. Well before the operation started, logistics planners were studying requirements and developing plans to support. A detailed analysis of the number of vehicles, number of kilometers driven per day and number of troops supporting the operation was conducted. This analysis provided what the estimated requirements would be. In order to meet these requirements, the following actions were initiated.

In order to maximize readiness of vehicles and equipment, a maintenance support team was sent from Camp Hero in Kandahar City to Qalat to assist the 2nd Brigade Maintenance units. The pushing of this capability closer to the fight resulted in more than 50 vehicles repaired and returned to the fight against insurgents. Additionally, the logistics staff pushed a small team of mechanics forward to make repairs to vehicles and equipment on the front lines, significantly increasing logistics responsiveness.

Critical supplies were also pushed to Qalat from other areas within the 205th Corps. Additional food along with a field feeding team supported the increased number of troops who were part of the operations and ensured they were well-fed, thus keeping morale high. Logistics leaders also ensured sufficient quantities of fuel and ammunition were available. Successful maintenance operations were enabled by pushing forward repair parts for vehicles and weapons. However, an area noted for improvement is to resupply on a more frequent basis and integrate aerial resupply instead of depending solely on ground movements.

Signal and network communications were another area of vast improvement, as Afghan forces demonstrated not only the ability to establish an effective means to communicate among units and pillars, but also a will to utilize secure communications to maintain good operational security and keep the insurgents from knowing their plans.
All of the systems remained operational throughout the operation and the soldiers responsible for the systems showed a good aptitude in knowing how to set up the systems and conduct routine maintenance. As this capability continues to improve, ANDSF will gain a significant operational advantage since in previous operations the insurgents were able to intercept unsecure communications and adjust prior to ANDSF actions.

Finally, medical operations continue to be very effective as they build on significant gains made over the past several months. The medical planner for 205th Corps identified all of the medical support locations and developed a comprehensive plan on how to best get casualties from point of injury to treatment. Ground and air evacuation methods were analyzed and integrated into the plan, as well as placing a trauma and surgical team from the Kandahar Regional Medical Hospital in Qalat to increase survivability rates by stabilizing patients as quickly as possible. ANDSF’s ability to effectively care for its casualties strengthens the will of its soldiers to fight, since they know competent professionals are ready to care for them if they are wounded.

The logistics achievements ANDSF demonstrated in the Zabul operations highlight their growth and development as a professional force capable of sustaining multi-week missions against the enemy. Their ability to analyze the operation, determine requirements and allocate capabilities to ensure success were all impressive elements and showed their continued understanding of combined arms operations. As Afghan logistics leaders and soldiers gain more experience, their capability will continue to improve, and the overall effectiveness of ANDSF will also increase. The operations in Zabul demonstrated ANDSF is maturing as a professional force, and the future is very bright as they continue to take the fight to the enemy in order to bring peace to Afghanistan.