Afghan security forces make explosive progress

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 08:12
New independence shown during IED disposal
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan — (From left) Afghan Uniformed Police Senior Captain Abdul Kardur, Afghan National Army 1st Sgt. Shir Baharar, and ANA 1st Lt. Ali Ahmad discuss the successful detonation of an improvised explosive device by an Afghan explosive ordinance disposal unit in the city of Gardez Feb. 18. AUP members discovered the bomb and members of the 2nd Company, 2nd Kandak, ANA explosive ordinance disposal team destroyed it. The operation was historic because it was the first time an Afghan EOD unit was called on to destroy an IED without assistance from coalition forces. A U.S. Scout unit and an EOD unit from Forward Operating Base Gardez supervised the operation, but played no hand in it.

PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Signs of progress for the Afghan National Security Forces was made in the icy city of Gardez on Feb. 18 when an improvised explosive device was discovered by Afghan Uniformed Police and destroyed by an Afghan National Army explosive ordnance disposal unit on a muddy street near the wood market.

Improvised explosive devices being found and disposed of by EOD units is not a rare occurrence in this volatile region of the country. What was special about this particular operation was that no coalition forces played a hand in it.

“As far as we know, it’s unprecedented,” said 1st Lt. Clayton Smith, from Oxford, Maine, Scout Platoon leader for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, Task Force Spartan. “They are coordinating this whole thing.”

Smith’s Scout Platoon, along with an EOD squad from Task Force Paladin, joined Afghan forces to watch and assess only.

The IED was planted on a street frequently patrolled by the scout platoon, and in fact was part of the route for a joint U.S. and AUP presence patrol the day before.

“It was most likely targeted at dismounted troops since they have been coming through here,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Tom Maahs, of Maple Shade, N.J., a member of the Task Force Paladin EOD Team that was supervising the action.

Members of the local AUP had discovered the bag with wires coming out of it in a slushy culvert that morning. In a first for this region, and perhaps for the entire province, they did not call on U.S. forces stationed at Forward Operating Base Gardez just down the road to take care of the problem. Instead, they reached out to the newly graduated ANA EOD team stationed at FOB Lightning, which is also nearby.

With visibly excited U.S. soldiers and dozens of neighborhood children watching from behind AUP cordons, the ANA’s 2nd Company, 2nd Kandak EOD squad confidently approached the suspect bag, determined it to be an IED, planted their own explosives around it, cleared the area and signaled a two-minute warning to all the spectators.

Then, with a sharp “BAM!” the new Afghan EOD squad destroyed the IED.

“That was definitely an IED,” Maahs chuckled knowingly after the blast. “Probably 15 to 20 pounds of explosives in that bag.”

The significance of Afghan forces taking the lead on a mission like this was not lost on the soldiers from the Scout Platoon who will be overseeing this area of operation for the next eight months.

“If we weren’t there, it wouldn’t have made a difference,” said Smith. “That is what we’ve been working for, for 10 years.”

The mission was also significant in that it required great cooperation between the ANA and AUP, two organizations that have not worked well together in the past.

“When we heard there was an IED here we made ourselves ready in five minutes,” said ANA 1st Lt. Ali Ahmad, platoon commander for the 2nd Company, 2nd Kandak EOD team. “We came here and coordinated with the AUP commander, and then we blew it up.”

“We found the IED and decided to call in the ANA,” said AUP Senior Capt. Abdul Kardur. “They came in and blew it up and I felt really good about that, because it was a mission between two Afghan forces.”

That should be a common occurrence from now on, said Ahmad, “We train here, so whenever [the local AUP] have issues like this, we can help.”

“I am really proud today, for all the Afghan people, because we showed that we can work together and defeat these threats,” said Kardur.

“Today we proved that we can take care of business,” said Ahmad.

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