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U.S. advisers strive for cooperation among Afghan units

Jun. 29, 2013 - 11:49AM   |  
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CAMP CLARK, AFGHANISTAN — With Afghan military and police now responsible for security in their country, U.S. Army advisers are encouraging the Afghans to share information in a combined effort to fight insurgents.

That’s no easy task in a country where security intelligence is passed by word-of-mouth rather than in written reports and military officials say there is a tendency to hold onto information rather than share it.

Lt. Col. Thomas Sutton, commander of the 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, is leading a security force assistance team in Khost Province that works with the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Uniformed Police, whose responsibilities and geographical areas sometime overlap.

With plans to pull most U.S. combat troops out of the country by the end of 2014, coalition forces have moved to an advisory role to help the Afghan security forces take over security after nearly 12 years of war in Afghanistan. The Taliban continues to launch attacks on Kabul and other parts of the country even as President Barack Obama tries to get the Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sit down to talk reconciliation with the Taliban.

Sutton said the Afghan military and police have a native understanding and awareness of the security concerns in their areas. But the challenge is getting all the agencies on the same page and working together to coordinate patrols, operations and planning.

“Believe it or not, they have very good intel,” Sutton said. “You wouldn’t think it because sometimes for them holding information is power. Sharing it is giving it away.”

The Afghan security forces don’t rely on data and intelligence reports like the coalition forces do when planning operations; their operations center is often just the commander working with multiple cell phones, Sutton said.

“They don’t have it written down and they don’t have these reports,” said Sutton, 41. “They don’t generate computer analysis.”

The advisers recently met with police chief in the Mandozai district of Khost province, Maj. Jaglan Babrak Wardak. The district is a stopping point for insurgent fighters on the main road heading into the provincial capital, Khost city. Their purpose was to share information with the police commander and ask him to attend weekly security meetings with other military and police officers to share information.

The Mandozai police had already shown their willingness to help their counterparts when an American platoon was attacked a few days earlier. 1st Lt. Brandon Scaturro, 24, thanked them for coming to the aid of his platoon.

“We have to join together,” said Wardak, the police commander, through a translator. Like many Afghan commanders, Wardak was often interrupted by his ringing cell phone during the meeting with the advisers.

Scaturro wanted to know where the Mandozai police patrolled and how they communicated with the police in the neighboring district. Scaturro asked the police commander about insurgents bedding down in the district and where they were making bombs.

Wardak said they were getting information about the enemy, but he told advisers that the police are often targeted with roadside bombs because they don’t have the capability to clear them, unlike their counterparts in the Afghan National Army, which has trained engineers and route clearance companies.

He also said that the local Afghans are at times resentful of the police because they are often checking people or searching homes.

At the weekly security meetings, an Afghan National Army reconnaissance company and two police districts each send their intelligence officers and discuss previous operations, security priorities in the area and planned operations, says U.S. Army Capt. Marc Dudek, who works with the advisory team.

“I think when they see other people wearing the uniform, it helps with the confidence,” said Dudek, a 29-year-old. “They are part of a team and they are working toward the same goal.”

Hall was in eastern Afghanistan with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.

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