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Arghandab River crossing in Afghanistan brings new hope to Mizan

September 28, 2012

By Sgt. Matt Young

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan (Sept. 28, 2012) -- Afghan National Army and International Security Assistance Forces teamed to clear the Mizan Bowl area of insurgents in early September during the military operation Kalak Hode 5.

This operation was planned and led by the Afghan National Army, or ANA, soldiers of the 6th Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 205th Corps, with Soldiers of Combined Task Force Arrowhead present every step of the way to provide over-watch and answer any requests from the ANA commander.

The Mizan Bowl consists of four villages: Popuzla Salam, Pota Kalah, Towlkai Salam and Rabajoy. The Taliban has historically had a strong presence in the Mizan district due to a lack of Afghan National Security Forces, known as ANSF.

The operation allowed the ANA to go on the offensive against the Taliban, said Capt. Brian Reiser, the commander of Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd infantry Division.

"The 6th Kandak commander, Lieutenant Colonel Ultafullah, has now been able to push his front line of troops down to the Arghandab River. That will allow him to hold the Mizan bowl and secure the area for the local populace," Reiser said.

The leader of Security Forces Assistance Team 42, Maj. Nathan Witlock, explained the importance of the river crossing. Team 42 reports to Combined Task Force Arrowhead.

"The crossing of the Arghandab and clearing of the Mizan bowl area was key to helping the villages and their inhabitants," Witlock said.

The river valley is the agricultural hub and economic hub for the Mizan district. Now that the Taliban presence has been pushed out, it's likely the villagers will prosper and enhance their way of living, task force leaders said.

"Since the start of Kalak Hode 5, the 6th Kandak commander has been able to orchestrate this entire operation basically by himself with very little need for ISAF support," Reiser said. "Ultafullah has not only been able to construct a new check point, but also clear out the Taliban throughout the Mizan bowl."

With KH5 complete, the ANSF control the most dominant terrain in the Mizan Valley. This promises to allow ANSF to deny the Taliban freedom of movement and provide security for nearby villages.

"With the Afghan Army's presence here, the Taliban doesn't have the freedom of movement they once had, being able to conduct their intimidation operations on the local villagers," Reiser said. "Now that the ANA are here, the Taliban have pushed across the Arghandab River and out of the villages in the Mizan district."

During Kalak Hode 5, Taliban forces attempted to disrupt ANA operations and deter security within the province. Taliban efforts were thwarted as the ANA used its newly-established positions to counter them and push them back across the Arghandab River and out of the neighboring towns. ISAF forces supported the ANA from over-watch positions as the ANA took the fight to the enemy.

The mission started with coalition vehicles loaded with enough food, water and ammunition to last the soldiers a week before the push north toward the Arghandab River began.

Upon completion of the mission, key leader engagements were conducted with local villagers. The local populace was very grateful for the presence of the security forces and the great job they did to bring peace back into their villages.

"This operation was huge. Ultafullah basically told the Taliban 'If I want to cross the river, I can, and it's not hard for me to do it and I will continue to do it,'" Reiser said.

Reiser said the operation was a success in every aspect ranging from the command-and-control to ground operations.

"The ANSF was spot on in conducting the Arghandab River crossing operation," Reiser said. "We [ISAF] basically stood by providing over-watch for their patrols. We had very little to do with the operations that were conducted, and I think that's the biggest thing. It shows that if we were not there, the ANSF could have still completed the mission at hand."

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