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U.S., Afghan forces hold former insurgent havens
Key areas of Afghanistan’s
Kandahar province in recent months have become free of insurgent
control for the first time, a U.S. commander there said today.
“We’re holding in areas that about six months ago
were really owned by the insurgents,” said Army Col. Arthur
Kandarian, commander of the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd
Brigade Combat Team. “We’re holding and securing
in terrain that the insurgents had never lost in.”
Kandarian and Col. Ghalum Murtaza Sarwari, commander of the
Afghan army’s 3rd Brigade, 205th Corps, briefed Pentagon
reporters today from Kandahar Airfield. Their troops are responsible
for Kandahar’s Maywand, Zhari and Arghandab districts.
Kandarian said when his troops arrived in their Regional Command
South area of responsibility 10 months ago, “insurgents
could go where they wanted, intimidate who and when they wanted,
and basically had unfettered control of Highway 1,” the
road that links population centers in Afghanistan.
Since then, he said, the two partner brigades have fought shoulder
to shoulder, cleared insurgents and destroyed weapons caches.
He added his troops have built numerous combat outposts in former
“With the increased security, it’s not uncommon
for farmers to come up to our partnered patrols and thank them
for removing the insurgents, so they can farm their land for
the first time in many years,” he said.
Kandarian said that at age 48, if he had been born in Zhari,
he’d have fought the Russians from age 15 to 25, and seen
the Taliban, insurgents and “a lot of evil” from
age 30 to 37. Now, he said, Zhari residents see partnered patrols,
Afghan soldiers farther south than they’ve ever been, more
bazaars and roads, and Afghan police and soldiers running Highway
1 checkpoints together.
Sarwari, speaking through a translator, said that as his brigade’s
soldiers gain training and experience, they are learning to plan
and execute operations independently.
Education among the Afghan people in the region, the Afghan
commander said, is essential to extending government’s
reach and solidifying security gains.
“Day by day, they will realize the system of the government
of Afghanistan, and they will start to recognize the Afghan National
Army,” he said.
The army, drawn from all of the nation’s provinces and
tribes, gives the local people an example of Afghan unity, Sarwari
“They are ready to send their … young men to join
the army and Afghan National Police, and … Afghan local
police [for] their villages,” he said.
Sarwari said he is confident that while Afghanistan has a young
army, it will improve its equipment and technology and gain armored
vehicle, artillery and aviation capabilities with the help of
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and U.S.
“We will form a really good army, which will … conduct
all the operations against the enemies of Afghanistan,” he
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