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American Forces Press Service

Afghan-Led Combined Force Arrests Suspected Taliban Leaders

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2007 – A combined Afghan element led by 203rd Commando Kandak conducted a series of raids throughout the Sabari district in Afghanistan’s Khowst province from Dec. 27-28.

The force consisted of Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and Afghan National Border Police. The operation was unprecedented in terms of successfully capturing multiple suspected insurgent commanders without the use of lethal force and the excellent cooperation between the Afghan ministries of Defense and Interior, U.S. officials said.

On the first night, the combined force acted on credible intelligence to search an area of known insurgent activity near Zambar village.

Northern Sabari district has been a main insurgent safe haven in Khowst province for some time, U.S. officials said. Insurgents have used the Zambar village area to provide command and control for insurgent activities and as a staging area for improvised-explosive-device production.

During the operation, the force arrested a suspected major insurgent facilitator primarily associated with the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan terrorist organization and believed to have ties to the Haqqani network terrorist group, the Taliban and al Qaeda. He is suspected of directing IED attacks, antagonizing feuding tribes in the area, and facilitating other insurgent activities.

“Capturing this terrorist should significantly improve the security situation in Sabari district,” said Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman. “His arrest will help stabilize the area by eliminating an antagonist causing tribal conflicts in the region. Additionally, the IED cell under him will no longer have his level of guidance, logistical support or discrete cover to conduct IED attacks.”

Afghan National Police forces assisted by the army’s 203rd Commandos also arrested a suspected deputy Taliban commander during the operation. Evidence points to him being involved in several direct attacks in the Sabari district, and he was implicated in destroying the Zambar village school. In addition, according to reports, he was responsible for a number of IED attacks that killed several Afghan National Police officers.

Several other insurgents were captured, including a suspected insurgent responsible for providing financial support to IED cells in the Sabari district. Another suspected insurgent was implicated in stealing from Afghan government employees, transporting weapons, assisting IED-placement facilitators, and delivering terrorizing “night letters” to intimidate local villagers.

Another man detained Dec. 27 was suspected of facilitating an unsuccessful suicide-bomb attack on the governor of Khowst province Aug. 22. He also is suspected of coordinating several insurgent activities and successful attacks against Afghan National Police units.

The last suspected insurgent detained Dec. 27 is believed to be directly involved in attacks on various schools, police checkpoints and Afghan officials.

Follow-on operations Dec. 28 included clearing the Makhtab bazaar area in Sabari district, suspected of functioning as a base of operations and center for insurgent activities. The commandos searched the bazaar for weapons caches and suspected insurgent activities, and Afghan National Police elements detained several individuals suspected of criminal activity.

One detainee captured by the commandos during that mission is suspected of identifying locations for IED emplacement along roadways throughout the province and conducting car-bomb attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

Another person detained is suspected of being a former terrorist commander and financier for insurgent activities throughout the Sabari district. Finally, another suspected insurgent was detained for his alleged involvement in an October attack on the Khulbesat police station, in which one police officer was killed and four were injured.

“Detaining these individuals will likely cause a significant disruption of insurgent activities in Sabari district,” Belcher said.

The combined Afghan force conducted the two-day operation without a shot being fired. The 203rd Commando commander said he was impressed with the skill, professionalism and discipline of his forces throughout all phases of the operation. “I thought their performance was outstanding,” he said. “Their movement and flow through the buildings and their tactical considerations while clearing the compounds were very impressive. I was also impressed with the professional manner in which they handled the detainees.”

Several suspected insurgents were detained in the operation, which will have a significant effect in reducing attacks against Afghan forces and civilians.

“The commandos have improved their flexibility in transitioning from an aggressive operation, such as a raid, to taking a civil-actions role of protecting the rights of detainees under the Afghan constitution,” Belcher said.

A commando platoon sergeant thought that the combined force performed well during the operation. “I think we did a good job, and the mission was successful,” he said. “We were on time; we successfully captured the insurgents; and we had a successful mission. I’m happy about that.”

The actions of the commando units involved in the operation impressed all involved.

“Taliban extremists’ tactics are to plan and launch attacks from civilian areas then retreat to civilian areas to hide,” Belcher said. “Conducting operations such as these in civilian areas requires extensive training and planning. The fact that commando-led forces were able to detain several suspected insurgents hiding in civilian areas without firing a shot shows tremendous development in their ability to conduct complex operations and will go a long way in enhancing security in the Sabari district and throughout Khowst province.”

(From a Combined Joint Task Force 82 news release.)

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