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BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Based on the success of Operation Jaeza, Regional Command East is running a second installment of the promotion campaign, encouraging local Afghans to use community safety call-in lines to report on weapons, improvised explosive devices, and criminals in exchange for rewards.
The goal of the program is to provide security to the people of Afghanistan by cutting down the amount of IEDs on the roadways, IED facilitators, key insurgent leaders and their weapons storage areas.
“Through concerted information efforts, the local population is being asked to identify IEDs, weapons caches, and individuals involved with manufacturing and distributing IED making materials in exchange for monetary or in-kind reward payments,” said Chief Warrant Officer Steve Mehl, Information Operations chief, Regional Command East.
Lt. Col. Steve Manber, director, Information Operations, RC-East, stated even though the Rewards Program is being advertised, he encourages the local population to call into the local observation command and control post when they have information.
“If you don’t have a phone and you see a policeman, give him the information. You will still receive the rewards,” Manber said.
Since October 2009, RC-East has paid up to $230,000 in reward money to local citizens who provided information on IEDs, weapons caches, and high value insurgent leaders.
Over the past three months, RC-East received over 560 information tips and of those tips, there were ninety-nine reports of caches and eighteen reports of key insurgent leaders.
“If you see something or someone suspicious, report it. You can do this by calling your local provincial and district operational coordination centers or report incidents to any Afghan National Security Forces or International Security Forces representative,” Manber said.
Both Manber and Mehl stated that the identity of those who provide information will remain anonymous. Rewards can be paid either monetarily or through payment in kind. Monetary rewards may range from $50 US dollars up to $10 thousand US dollars depending on the information provided.
The 741st Explosive Ordnance Battalion currently oversees the collection and removal of IEDs and unexploded ordnance. They have teams spread out across RC-East working to reduce the amount of IEDs and UXOs, which pose a threat to the local population.
Last week, local nationals provided information that assisted with the recovery of a Manpad, which is an anti-aircraft weapon, in Parwan Province and received $1,200 US dollars, stated Master Sgt. Adam Matuska, 741st EOD Bn., operations noncommissioned officer.
“We’d really like to see the local population be able to take ownership of securing their country and to be able to safely travel the road which assists commerce,” Matuska said.
In 2009, over 850 local nationals were killed as a result of the 3,170 IED attacks. Both IEDs and UXOs place a serious risk to the local population and hinder their freedom of movement.
The 741st EOD Bn works daily to remove potential hazards caused by IEDs and UXOs.
According to Matsuka, insurgents want to target Coalition forces and Afghan National Security Forces with their IED attacks; however, recent polls show more civilians have been the victims of IEDs than military personnel.
Lt. Col. Brennan Philips, 741st EOD Bn said he is concerned for the local citizens’ safety. He said every time he has gone to visit the hospital on Bagram Airfield to visit his own soldiers, he sees an Afghan child who was hurt in an explosion either caused by IEDs or UXOs.
Both Philips and Matuska feel their efforts to clear the area of IEDs and UXOs can be successful if the rewards system is in place and the local population has a safe and reliable number to call and provide information.
“If they just take a stand, we can back them up,” Matuska stated. “If they would just give us a tip like ‘Hey we saw someone put an IED on the road’ we can come out and clear it.”
In the coming months, RC-East will continue to actively promote community safety lines through television, radio, and billboard advertisement. These messages are tailored to the local Afghan audience and emphasize the danger unexploded ordinance and IEDs pose to the people in the area.
“We consider the program to be a success. We have seen the local population turn in IEDs, rockets, grenades, ammunition, and lead us to key insurgent leaders,” said Manber.
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