Australian army soldiers and Afghan National Security Forces worked side by side as they moved through historically Taliban-infested country during Operation Kalak Hode 5, a major clearance operation in the Khas Uruzgan district of the Uruzgan province.
Operations began Sept. 7 with a three-day push into an area known to be under heavy Taliban influence.
“The mission we are doing here is in support of the Afghan National Army 205th Corps so that the ANA can conduct a clearance of the province in order to enhance the stability of the region,” said Australian Sgt. Joel McMahon, second in command of a Mobile Advisory Group from Mentoring Team Charlie, 3rd Royal Australian Regiment Task Group, and a Wienaroo, Australia native.
The ANA led the whole way, supported by Australians with only occasional mentoring required.
“We want to let the insurgents know that we are here and are mentoring the ANA,” said Australian Pvt. Luke Maddison, a rifleman and linguist with 3RAR Task Group. “It also gives the ANA a chance to show the insurgents they are not scared of them and can do their job.”
During the operation, ANSF and Australian forces swept through the area clearing compounds, identifying enemy caches, and searching for insurgents in an area previously known for how dangerous it is.
“When we first came up here, we were told by other units and by the special forces that we would be in major contact situations with the enemy for hours. But since I have been here we haven’t seen anything,” said Maddison after being in the field for three days. “I honestly think they are scared of us.”
The ANSF showed their enthusiasm to be on the operation by blazing a trail through the area ahead of their Australian counterparts, clearing compounds and uncovering caches. But the real impact of the mission could be seen in the interaction with the locals.
“The ANSF have had such a positive influence in this area that the Taliban presence in the area has degraded,” McMahon said. “During the mission they cleared compounds and found caches, but more importantly, the local population was extremely happy to see them.”
The ANSF were as happy to be there as the locals were to see them.
“I really like my job and am very happy I came on this mission,’ said ANA 1st Lt. Rubashan, an engineering officer with 4th Brigade. “The Taliban are no good. They are my enemy and we are going to kill them.”
In addition to being a major sign that the Taliban has grown weak, the operation also held a strong historical significance to the Australians.
“This will be one of the last major operations where Australian Conventional Forces mentor ANSF at the company level,” McMahon said.
The shift from mentoring to advising is a victory for the ANSF and a sign that they are capable and ready to take on more responsibility.
“We are going from a mentoring stance where we work side by side with the ANA on the ground, to an effort that advises at the Kandak and brigade level,” McMahon said.
The successful mission in Khas Uruzgan shows that the ANSF are up to the challenge.
“They led, they came up with the plan, they implemented the plan and at the end of the operation they were very happy with themselves,” McMahon said.
“The ANA are here to do their job and when we leave they will be able to do everything without us,” Maddison said, We went this entire operation without taking contact and I’m happy with that because it shows that coalition and ANSF are here doing our jobs, and that the Taliban is running scared.”
Article by Spc. Nevada Jack Smith, 117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment