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TF Duke, ANSF clear weapons caches

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The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, completed a major operation intended to severely degrade insurgent activity prior to the spring fighting season in eastern Afghanistan, March 20.

Operation Maiwan was conducted by TF Duke alongside their Afghan National Security Force partners in Khowst and Paktya provinces to recover and eliminate weapons caches across the two provinces, with the ultimate goal of increasing security and reinforcing the ANSF’s control over the area.

“We recovered an active cache, and also identified a method used by insurgents to mark caches,” said U.S. Army Capt. Aaron M. Tapalman, native of West Alexandria, Ohio, and commander of Viper Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT, 1st Infantry Division, TF Duke.

In all, during a six-day period, the American and Afghan soldiers successfully recovered more than 200 mortars, rockets, grenades, improvised explosive devices and land mines, multiple rocket launchers and suicide vests, more than 600 pounds of homemade explosives, thousands of machine gun rounds and dozens of AK47 rifles and similar firearms.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jesse Pearson, a native of Joliet, Ill., and commander of the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, noted that cache clearance operations was extremely successful in his battle space, and "clearly disrupted insurgents’ plans across Khowst province."

He added that feedback he’d received from district governors in both Jaji Maidan and Sabari District of Khowst revealed that the operation gave citizens of both areas hope, because "the level of violence [occurring during the operation] was notably reduced."

Khowst Governor Al-Jabbar Naeemi applauded the joint effort between the Afghan National Security Forces and the soldiers of TF Duke.

In a statement released by his office, Naeemi praised the citizens of Khowst who "cooperated in this effort because they want to live in peace."

He also made a call for reconciliation by insurgents to join the overall effort to bring peace and stability to the region.

Speaking from his past experience as a battalion commander in nearby Paktika province in 2006-2007, U.S. Army Col. Chris Toner, TF Duke commander and native of Topeka, Kan., said he’s never seen the amount of pressure put on the insurgency here that is being applied today.

“Our massing of effects is having a significant impact [on the insurgency],” said Toner of the density of forces in the region.

There was more to the operation than simply removing weapons from the battlefield, however.

This first large-scale, joint operation undertaken by TF Duke and the ANSF since TF Duke’s taking control in January was an opportunity for the two units to work closely toward a common goal.

“We got into areas we needed to go,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mark Borowski, a native of South Hadley, Mass., and commander of the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd BCT, 1st Infantry Division, TF Duke.

He went on to say the lessons learned working with his Afghan counterparts were just as important as the actual cache clearance itself.

"This was our first sustained operation with the ANSF and we certainly have learned from the experience," said Borowski.

Article by Staff Sgt. Ben Navratil, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division