Tabasum Sharqi (left) opens a book she received for graduating at the top of her Fatima Girls High School class at a ceremony held at the Kunar Department of Women’s (click for more)
Soldiers from the Polish Army and the Texas National Guard Agribusiness Development Team-IV check their shot grouping during qualification on the Polish AK-74 5.56 mm Mini-Beryl short assault rifle Feb. (click for more)
U.S. Army Soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, play an impromptu game of volleyball against a team (click for more)
Dr. Mehirulla Muslim, the Nurgaram District subgovernor, addresses an audience of teachers, government officials and citizens during a ceremony to celebrate a completed solar panel electricity project Feb. 21 in (click for more)
U.S. Army Spc. Raheem Stewart, an automations specialist with TF Phoenix, steps along the rafters of the building his team helped wire for communications. Stewart, from Dallas, was one of (click for more)
An Afghan National Army soldier from Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 201st Infantry Regiment, searches a pile of rocks in the courtyard of a high-value target home outside the village of (click for more)
U.S. Army Capt. Nicole Zupka of Fair Lawn, N.J., a battlewatch captain with Combined Joint Task Force-Paladin, helps an Afghan child with her writing skills during female engagement team training (click for more)
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers move through Kharwar District to prevent the Taliban’s freedom of movement Feb. 12. U.S. and Afghan soldiers braved more than 3 feet (click for more)
Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team II members, U.S. Army Spc. Justin Allen (left), a London, Ky., native, and U.S. Army Sgt. Nicholas Combs, a Corbin, Ky., native, get to know a (click for more)
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – On March 4, the Soldiers of Company B, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, part of the Iowa National Guard’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, took indirect fire for their first time in nearly two years on Forward Operating Base Torkham Gate.
On March 13, U.S. Army Capt. Kevin Hrodey, Co. B’s commander from Pleasant Hill, Iowa, investigated the attack on a joint patrol through Wardachi, with his company’s Soldiers and members of the Afghan National Directorate of Security.
The patrol was significant, Hrodey said, because it was the first time his unit patrolled exclusively with members of the NDS, the Afghan’s intelligence agency. They led the mission once the forces arrived in the village, Hrodey said.
“I wanted to go in and conduct an atmospheric with the NDS and find out what was really going on in that village,” Hrodey said. “Every time we’ve dealt with the village in the past, we’ve come across a very poor bunch of families in there. They say they’re not getting supported by their government, that politicians come by and ask them for their money and promise to help them with projects and then leave and don’t come back, and they don’t know whether the politicians won the election or not.”
What Hrodey and his men found was something of a boomtown in Wardachi.
“In the last two months, the town has basically ... tripled in size,” Staff Sgt. Jason Timler, an infantry squad leader with Co. B from Waterloo, Iowa, said.
Timler said there has been a large influx of refugees from Pakistan who set up camp on the open land surrounding Wardachi. In fact, there is a whole sub-village, Woch Ghrawakay, with 200 to 300 people who were not there on the company’s last patrol through Wardachi a month ago.
The people in Woch Ghrawakay claim they were forced to desert their homes by the military in Pakistan, and have crossed the border and established a village on unoccupied land in Afghanistan.
The company also found a couple large stockades of various supplies, basically outdoor warehouses, in Wardachi. The Soldiers found supplies such as medical and cooking items in caves, and they ensured there was nothing harmful or illegal in the supplies.
With the amount of smuggling that occurs around Wardachi, there is a high likelihood that many of the goods stored there were illegally smuggled into the village. In fact, some of the children said they are paid a minimal wage to smuggle carts or donkeys of goods back and forth across the passes around Torkham Gate from Afghanistan to Pakistan and vice versa.
Timler said this is a way of life for many villagers along the border.
“A lot of that stuff may not be to harm coalition forces at all, it’s just, that’s money,” Timler, 25, a veteran of two prior deployments, said. “They don’t come out and say ‘I hate Americans so I’m going to smuggle this through,’ it’s just, ‘I need money to feed a family.’”
While the Soldiers said they are concerned with illegal smuggling, the NDS takes the lead on the investigation and handling of the smuggling, Timler said.
“We’re worried about everything illegal, some things more than others,” Timler said.
He said the Soldiers found a lot of car parts which they showed to the NDS.
“They take care of it from there,” Timler said.
There are still many poor villagers throughout Wardachi, but Hrodey and his men also noticed some elaborate construction that cannot be accomplished cheaply in the village. There was even a backhoe in the village.
“We wanted to see who’s funding it, because they told us they’re not getting any funding from the government, and then all of a sudden there’s an economic boom in the village, it’s thriving right around the time we get attacked,” Hrodey said.
On March 5, some of the company’s Soldiers went to Wardachi and found where they believe the mortars were fired from and searched around the FOB looking for impact sites.
This time around, Timler and his squad spoke with some of the locals, who confirmed much of what the Soldiers suspected about the attack.
The villagers showed the typical Afghan hospitality to Hrodey and his Soldiers, giving them tea and even cooking them lunch. Hrodey said that just because the attack originated from near the village, it does not mean the people there are bad people.
“If the person you’re talking to is not a bad guy, but has been coerced or threatened at one point, if you go in and treat them like they’re a real person and not a suspect, you’re more likely to get some information about what’s going on,” Hrodey said.
But there is definitely a lot occurring n Wardachi, which is why Co. B checked it out with the NDS.
“There had been no attacks on the FOB for two years, and then out of the blue two weeks ago we got hit with three mortars,” Hrodey said. “The fact that it came ... from that direction, we had to find out what’s going on there. There’s a lot going on in that village. They say they need more help, and we don’t want them to be influenced by the wrong people.”
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