50 graduate Fatima Girls High School

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)

Polish and US Forces bond through weapons

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)

TF Duke Soldiers volley for peace

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)

Nurgaram District leaders electrify Nangaresh schools

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)

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KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Soldiers and U.S. Air Force Airmen attached to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, stand outside a bazaar being searched by elements of the Afghan National Security Forces in Khowst Province, Afghanistan, April 14. The ANSF took the lead in searching the area for insurgents in order to instill faith in their civilian countrymen. (Photo by U.S. Army Pfc. Donald Watkins, Task Force Duke Public Affairs)KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Recent joint operations in eastern Afghanistan involving U.S. Army Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, and the Afghan National Army’s 3rd Koy, 3rd Kandak, 1st Brigade, laid the groundwork for future missions in Afghanistan.

The recent success of Operation Maiwan in March resulted in the confiscation of large weapons caches and deprived insurgents of weaponry and supplies to use against coalition forces. That success carried over to the planning and execution of a follow-up mission, Operation Maiwan II, April 13 to 25.

According to U.S. Army Maj. Damon Harris, a native of Leland, Miss., and the brigade operations officer of the 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div., TF Duke, Operation Maiwan II had two main objectives: the interdiction of insurgents and the clearance along key routes through Paktya and Khowst Provinces.

The goal, said Harris, was to not only establish long-term security along Route Alaska with the new Afghan Border Police’s checkpoint, but to also increase security by reducing improvised explosive device threats.

“Route Alaska had been what we considered a ‘Tier 1’ site for IEDs,” said Harris, meaning it was considered a road that coalition forces were most likely to encounter an IED upon.

Resolution or improvement in the situation would come from those closest to the problem.

The Front Line

The Company B Soldiers of the 1st Bn., 26th Inf. Regt., also known as Viper Co., are three months into a year-long deployment. Assigned to the Saberi District of Khowst Province, their mission largely focuses on helping to keep the peace in the area through joint patrols with Afghan National Security Forces.

 In addition to the goals set up by Harris, the Vipers were to continue training with elements of the ANSF and interact with Afghan citizens to build trust, respect and friendships.

“If freedom of movement can increase, that will be huge, especially without any route clearance patrol being needed,” said U.S. Army Capt. Aaron Tapalman, commander of Viper Company and a native of West Alexandria, Ohio.

Building and permanently staffing the new Afghan Border Police checkpoints along Route Alaska will be one measure of success, he said.

More importantly, ensuring the various elements of the ANSF are mission-capable will continue to be a high priority during the operation.

“We’ve put a greater focus on training the Afghan National Army,” Tapalman said.

The People

Tapalman, along with two of his Viper Co. platoons and other attached Soldiers, found themselves in the village of Yaquabi, April 14, which until 2007 had been the district center.

In addition to meeting with the villagers in the Yaquabi bazaar, the ANSF and U.S. Army Soldiers also searched shops in the area.   

The ANSF led the searches to inspire trust and confidence in the villagers who saw their own countrymen taking the lead in the operation.

While the searches were being conducted in the bazaar, Viper Co. passed out candy to local children and passed out radios to gathered villagers.

The visit helped build the support and respect needed to garner information on insurgent activity, said Tapalman.

“We’re looking for that one win to build on,” said Tapalman, alluding to the ripple effect of citizens coming forward to inform ANSF or coalition forces of insurgent activity.

The Challenges

The following days of Operation Maiwan II, included joint searches of Kulats, or residential compounds, in the area.

In deference to the customs of the villagers, ANSF elements led the search of homes, while Viper Co. followed as observers.   

The security forces targeted Kulats known or suspected of being used to harbor insurgents or improvised explosive device factories.
The relative morning calm of April 15, was disturbed by the sound of an explosion. One Viper Co. platoon on patrol was struck by an IED, injuring three personnel.

All elements searching the Kulats immediately converged on the area of the explosion and formed a security perimeter around the site.

A medevac helicopter evacuated the casualties for further medical treatment, and the Viper platoons maintained their security perimeter until an explosive ordnance disposal team completed their investigation of the site. Ultimately, the wounded were treated for minor injuries and returned to duty shortly thereafter.

The Aftermath

The ANSF and coalition forces held a shura, or meeting, with village representatives that afternoon at a nearby school to discuss local matters and the attack earlier that day.

ANA 1st Sgt. Raza Khan, 3rd Koy, 3rd Kandak 1st Brigade and Tapalman emphasized the reasons why coalition forces are in Yaquabi.

“We’re not here to stay forever, or turn you away from Islam,” said Tapalman, who was frequently interrupted by applause from the villagers.

Khan said he appreciated the chance his soldiers had to spend time among their own people.

"The Yaquabi Shura gave us the chance to connect with the elders and men of Yaquabi like we hadn't been able to in the past,” he said.

While the final measures of success for Operation Maiwan II have yet to be determined, Soldiers assigned to Viper Co. said they took satisfaction not only from long, hard days of patrolling and meeting the people in and around Yaquabi, but knowing they met some of their primary objectives.

U.S. Army Maj. Nate Tagg, a native of Butler, Pa., and the daytime chief of operations for TF Duke, watched the events of Operation Maiwan II unfold. He said he liked what he saw.

 “The ANSF was really taking the lead,” said Tagg.

The joint efforts led to the unit’s largest seizure of dangerous materials in months,” he added. “They confiscated more than 10 tons of ammonia nitrate and other materials and established a permanent checkpoint for Afghan Border Police.”

Harris said he also found much to be proud of.

“It (Operation Maiwan II) caused significant positive effects,” he said, citing the successful installation of ‘Salerno Boxes’ near culverts along Route Alaska. The boxes are designed to deny insurgents access to the culverts, where IEDs might be installed.

According to Harris, the checkpoint seemed to make the enemy re-evaluate Route Alaska as a thoroughfare.

“All accounts of the operation thus far have been extremely positive,” he said.  

KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan - A military policeman attached to 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, and his military working dog search a storage shed for illegal weapons in Khowst Province, Afghanistan, April 14. Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces conducted the searches a part of a brigade-wide operation called Maiwan II, intended to locate weapons caches and insurgents in Khowst Province, while also building rapport with the local populace. (Photo by U.S. Army Pfc. Donald Watkins, Task Force Duke Public Affairs)KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Soldiers and Marines attached to the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, provide security during a meeting between leaders of U.S. and Afghan forces and the local government in Khowst Province, Afghanistan, April 17. The meeting was a part of Operation Maiwan II, which was meant to clear the area of insurgents and build rapport between U.S. and Afghan National Security Forces and the local populace. (Photo by U.S. Army Pfc. Donald Watkins, Task Force Duke Public Affairs)


Last Updated on Thursday, 28 April 2011 03:15


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Coalition forces engage insurgents in Kapisa

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed seven insurgents in defensive operations in the Alah Say District, Kapisa Province, eastern Afghanistan, March 29.

Coalition forces and aircraft responded to an insurgent attack. Four insurgents were killed by air strike and three were killed by direct fire from coalition forces.

All rounds were reported safe and on target. There were no reports of injuries or damages to civilians in the area.

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Soldiers of the Afghan National Army’s 201st Corps, Afghan National Police’s 202nd Shamshod and the U.S. Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, TF Red Bulls, supported by the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Phoenix, conducted an air assault into the valley to remove enemy forces. Battle Group Richelieu, TF La Fayette, provided artillery support from Kapisa Province.

While conducting operations, the forces found multiple weapons caches including assorted rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, Russian rockets, materials to make homemade explosives, various other ordnances and communication equipment.  

While moving through the valley, unit leadership met with village elders to discuss the security situation and to allow them to give up insurgents still in the area.

The operation will assist the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in establishing the valley as a new district giving the Afghan people in the area freedom from the insurgency.   

President Hamid Karzai approved the creation of the additional district and hopes the new district will help improve the security of the area and support the reconstruction effort.

Mohammad Iqbal Azizi, Laghman Province governor, held a press conference March 7 announcing the establishment of a new district located in the valley.

ANSF, TF Bastogne continue operations in Kunar


KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and coalition troops from Task Force Bastogne continued operations in the Shigal District March 18 after clearing the village of Lawsin and the surrounding area.

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