The 203rd Corps, Afghan National Army (ANA), under the command of Major General Khaliq, conducted a joint operation named Operation Sham Shad recently with the Polish Battle Group and the Sharana Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). Operation Sham Shad was conceived by MG Khaliq and executed by the 2nd Brigade, 203rd Corps, ANA and aforementioned Coalition Forces in Western Paktika Province.
The goal of the operation was to separate the enemy from the local populace of the Khels region, including the districts of Sharana, Yousef Khel, Yaya Khel, Khary Kot, Jani Khel, Kushamond, and Dila. 2nd Brigade, 203rd was successful with this separation, which enabled the Sharana PRT and the Polish Battle Group to initiate meetings with key leaders and elders including the Sub-Governor of Yousef Khel and the elders from 5 major sub-tribes. This key leader meeting was followed the next day by a district shura, hosted by Governor Khpalwak. Over 200 people from the Sulimankhel tribe attended the ceremony held in the district center. Governor Khpalwak explained to the people of Yousef Khel that if anyone takes action against the government of Afghanistan or against coalition forces, they are going to be arrested, questioned and held in custody.
He encouraged the Sulimankhel tribesmen to become united and do their best to bring more stability to the region. He also reminded them of the achievements and abilities of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, while highlighting that the insurgents bring despair and destruction to good people.
Members of the Provincial and District government and the district tribes participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the recently completed Yousef Khel district center.
A medical engagement, led by ANA doctors, provided treatment to over 150 patients
Humanitarian aid was distributed to the 5 area sub-tribes. HA consisted of provisions to assist the populace through the colder months of winter and included: boots, blankets, stoves, kettles, school supplies, bags of rice, beans, and flour. Additionally, 5 cultural center refurbishment kits were provided to the area mullahs.
The next major shura was in Jani Khel which was attended by over 500 local citizens. The Paktika Chief of Police led the shura and compelled the citizens to assist the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in the separation of the enemy. At the end of the Shura, many of the villagers personally thanked General Mullah Khel as well as other members of the provincial leadership for the projects that were provided. The following quick impact projects were started: a new kitchen for the District Center, 10 wells throughout the district, wood for heating the District Center and Mosque, and Bazaar area cleaning. Projects asked for by the head shura leader were a permanent clinic structure, refurbishment of the multi-purpose center, and solar lights for the new DC.
The final phase of the operation moved to the Kushamond district. Quick impact projects were discussed and the following projects were identified: Bazaar area cleaning, and karez cleaning. These projects were selected because they will immediately employ area villagers. Additionally, two days of medical engagements provided treatment for over 500 people and more than 600 animals. There was some initial hesitancy by the populace to support the medical engagement but the populace soon determined that they could not receive this type of care from the Taliban who had previously controlled the area.
By the end of the operation, more than 1,000 men, women and children had received medical treatment. All engagements were held at local medical facilities (2 at the Yousef Khel BHC and 2 at the Kushamond BHC) and were conducted with the assistance of the local medical providers and with ANA medical providers taking the lead. Additionally, over 600 animals were treated in veterinary operations. The 4 medical engagement operations conducted during OPN Sham Shad enabled the continued development of the medical specialists in Paktika and the 2nd BDE/203d Corps. Finally, the offer of additional medical training was well received, with doctors in Kushamond, Janikhel, and Yousef Khel expressing a desire to attend the Coalition’s 2-week medical training course at the Bagram Airfield Hospital as well as in conjunction with the Sharana PRT for other training.
By the end of the operation, more than 20 shuras had been held in the Khels region. The overall assessment of these shuras is positive. The local populace within the Khels region is receptive to the Government of the Islamic Rebublic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) presence, however, they continue to voice concerns about the presence of Taliban in the area, particularly in Kushamond and Dila districts. Additionally, the local populace expressed concern about the inability of ISAF/ANSF to remain in the area of operation after the operation is over.
Operation Sham Shad offered continued opportunities for the 2nd Brigade of the 203d Corps to broaden their tactical abilities. The planning for this operation was initiated 3 days after the completion of Operation Attal and the Brigade Combined Arms Rehearsal was conducted 3 days after that. Of note, the CAR was the most comprehensive and most well coordinated to date – clearly an indicator of a growing capacity and the retention of skills acquired through experience
Operation Sham Shad also afforded the 203d Corps Headquarters several opportunities to continue their development. While simultaneously tracking the operations of the 2nd BDE, the Corps primary staff planned the 203d Corps spring campaign plan which plans operations throughout RC-East through August 2008 to specifically achieve the following effects:
- Connect GIRoA to the people through key leader meetings and Shuras
- Meet the initial needs of the people through medical engagements and humanitarian assistance distribution
- The planning conference also determined the enduring force laydown of the 203d Corps as they add the 3rd Brigade
Throughout the course of the operation, there was only one injury, which was non-battle related.
Operation Sham Shad highlighted the growing capabilities of the 203d Corps (ANA). This was the first operation conducted with only ANA artillery supporting the maneuver forces. While indirect fires were not employed during this operation, the ANA successfully demonstrated the growing capacity to fight as a combined arms team through their planning for and positioning of their artillery to support maneuver operations. During the operation, the ANA were able to conduct a practice live fire resulting in the first rounds impacting within 200 meters of the target and subsequent adjustments impacting less than 20 meters from the target.
The lasting effects from this operation will be very difficult if not impossible to be reversed by any insurgent or anti-Coalition activity. Some of the achieved effects on the populace of the Khels are:
- Population actively rejects groups that threaten civic institutions and economic activity
- Government legitimacy recognized throughout the area of operation
- Trust and faith gained in government institutions by the populace
- The populace demonstrates a desire for participation in the political processe
- Balance and cooperation demonstrated between government and traditional authorities for dispute resolution
- Access to basic services increased and systems established to preserve the service