On 20 December 2015, the Helmand provincial deputy governor warned the province was on the verge of collapse to the Taliban unless reinforcements arrived urgently. Helmand is a major poppy-producing Afghan region and a traditional Taliban heartland. The 215th Corps, which is responsible for security in Helmand, is well known as the weakest of Afghanistan's six Corps commands. Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said 22 December 2015 reinforcements had been sent to Helmand and confirmed the arrival of British military advisers, adding Afghan forces needed to strengthen their capacity and improve coordination.
The Afghan National Army is divided into one division and six regional corps: 111th Capital Division, 201st Corps, 203rd Corps, 205th Corps, 207th Corps, 209th Corps, and 215th Corps. In December 2009 the Afghan government has approved a new corps of the Afghan National Army — Corps 215 Maiwand — to be based in the Helmand capital of Lashkar Gah where the first fresh US troops were expected to arrive. The Afghans vowed to deploy 5,000 members of the new Afghan army corps to Helmand, to be partnered by British and later by US troops in 2010.
By 2015 there were more than 18,000 Soldiers with the 215th Corps throughout Regional Command Southwest. Public perceptions of the ANA vary across the corps with the highest level of public confidence in the 111th Capital Division and the lowest in the Afghan National Army (ANA) 215th Corps.
The December 2015 report "Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan" described efforts to enhance security and stability in Afghanistan from June 1 through November 30, 2015. December 2015 marked nearly one year into United States Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A) Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led Resolute Support (RS) mission focused on developing Afghan institutional capacity to enhance security and stability across Afghanistan.
The Advise and Assist Directorate is currently composed of two subordinate regional Advise and Assist Cells: AAC-Southwest (AAC-SW) and AAC-Southeast (AAC-SE). AAC-SW is responsible for functionally based security force assistance to the ANA 215th Corps (responsible for Helmand and Nimroz provinces) and associated regional ANP agencies.
Operations in other regions in response to insurgent violence also exposed deficiencies in ANDSF operational capabilities. Leadership challenges in the ANA 215th Corps responsible for Helmand prompted several changes within both the ANA and ANP leadership in the region and heavy losses sustained throughout the fighting season required reinforcements from neighboring ANA corps. Setbacks in Musa Qalah district in Helmand caused the ANDSF to suspend offensive operations, detracted from the momentum of counter-offensives elsewhere in the region, and highlighted ANDSF gaps in aerial fires. In order to avoid detrimental strategic effects to the campaign, the Commander, USFOR-A has the authority to provide in-extremis kinetic support to the ANDSF under limited circumstances at his discretion. This most prominently occurred during operations to retake contested areas in and around the Musa Qalah district center in August 2015.
The Afghan government is increasingly taking proactive measures to address leadership and accountability. For instance, after a poor performance amidst persistent violence in Helmand over the summer of 2015, several changes were made within the ANA 215th Corps and in October 2015 President Ghani appointed 61 officers to senior positions in the MoD and 22 general officers within the MoI.
These and other leadership changes throughout 2015 have been mostly positive, though the lack of depth in the ANA leadership cadre has at times led to ineffective officers being transitioned from one position to another. This lack of institutional capacity is also evident in the early advancement of officers; one of the reasons cited for the ANA 215th Corps weak performance relative to other corps was the inexperience of the corps commander.
One hundred Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers joined the newly-formed 215th Maiwand Corps in Helmand Province following a 16 June 2010 graduation ceremony at the Joint Security Academy Shorabak on Camp Leatherneck. The basic warrior course graduates are the first soldiers to receive training at Camp Leatherneck since the 215th Corps' activation 01 April 2010.
ANA instructors taught basic soldiering skills as well as tactical and patrol skills during the eight-week course. The soldiers also completed 260 hours of combat integration, to include a final exercise where they went on combat patrols with the U.S. Marine Corps' 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion.
Soldiers with the 215th Corps, Afghan National Army, conducted a capabilities exercise, May 15, 2014. The exercise was designed to showcase the 215th Corps' proficiency in multiple areas and to demonstrate to local leaders ANA progress in the transition toward full security responsibility. Helmand provincial Governor Naeem Baloch, Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps Commander Maj. Gen. Sayed Malouk, and Regional Command (Southwest) Commander Brig. Gen. Daniel D. Yoo gathered in Garm Ser district for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of a new ANA base, 01 September 2014.
New Camp Garm Ser is an ANA base in southern Helmand province and will be used to support the requirements of 1st Brigade, 215th Corps, for operating in the region. The base was contracted through the United States Army Corps of Engineers and funded through Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan.
New Camp Garm Ser is a brigade-sized base capable of supporting more than 5,000 ANA troops. The base consists of 53 barracks, 12 classroom facilities, two dining facilities, a fire station, a fitness center and a Morale, Welfare and Recreation facility. It will be used for the soldiers of 1st Brigade, 215th Corps, to operate out of for years to come. New Camp Garm Ser, which took approximately 32 months to construct, will be operated entirely by Afghan forces as a southern post for security operations in Helmand province.
A few dozen Taliban fighters overran the Bastion- Leatherneck- Shorabak complex in late November 2014, sustaining the attack for days before the 215th Corps could force them out. A spokesman for the provincial governor told media outlets that five ANA soldiers and 26 insurgents were killed in the fighting, while the New York Times reported that as many as 14 soldiers were killed.
Maj. Gen. Sayed Malouk, an officer groomed and mentored for years by Marine officials in Helmand, was dismissed 05 December 2014 by the ANA 215th Corps in the wake of a temporary Taliban infiltration into its headquarters in November 2014.
Marine Brig. Gen. Daniel Yoo, who commanded Marines in Afghanistan until they departed the country in October, told Marine Corps Times the leadership shuffle was actually a planned move as Malouk had commanded the 215th Corps in Helmand for about five years. Yoo said. "I've seen in my different rotations a lot of leaders in Afghanistan, and Malouk was not one of the bad ones."
In Malouk's place was Brig. Gen. Dadan Lawang, former commander for the 4th Brigade of the ANA 201st Corps, headquartered near Kabul and responsible for much of eastern Afghanistan. Lawang also previously led the ANA's special operations command.
In late July 2015, the Resolute Support Advise and Assist Directorate deployed a small team to a remote region of Afghanistan on a straight-forward advising mission. Within 48-hours, the focus of their engagement with the Afghanistan National Army’s 215th Corps shifted. Heavy fighting broke out in Now Zad district, north of the 215th Corps’ headquarters. U.S. Air Force Col. Donald Holloway, Resolute Support Advise Assist Cell (RS AAC) – Southwest team lead, rallied the AAC contingent and quickly made their way to the Corps’ tactical operation center. As the 215th Corps shifted into high gear to engage reinforcements in support of the area of operation, the AAC-SW’s advising and planning effort transitioned to full-on warfighter functional support of the Afghan-led operation.
By 2015, the 215th Corps currently had more than 150 field medics serving throughout Helmand province. Starting in 2010, unit medics receive two months of formalized training in Kabul at the Armed Forces Academy of Medical Sciences before checking into their units. There, medics learn hands-on trauma care techniques for stabilizing casualties on the battlefield. Throughout much of Operation Enduring Freedom, the 215th Corps has relied on Coalition forces at Camp Bastion or surgeons in Kandahar or Kabul to perform major operations; however, this year the unit built a surgical ward on Camp Shorabak to treat their own casualties.
Since the US Marines turned over their Helmand headquarters, Camp Leatherneck, to 215th Corps troops on their departure in late October 2015, the region had been torn by fighting.
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