My co-blogger TSO is embedded with U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan. In his latest report, TSO sheds light on how the Afghan National Army is performing. Check out this true story.
We rolled into Nani (about 15 klicks south of FOB Ghazni) pretty heavy with 8 vehicles, a platoon of dismounts, and 70 Afghanistan National Army troops.
We pulled into a vehicle patrol base (a large oval) and the gunners immediately took up their security positions. (ie, we had 12-3 o’clock positions from the route of travel.)
That was when the Tali’s (Taliban) opened up on us with AK and RPK fire.
The Afghanistan National Army troops (ANA) jumped into a wadi and began returning fire, and one of our vehicles started pumping out 40mm rounds from the Mk19 (he would shoot 15 total.) Game on!
Now, I will finish that anecdote from earlier this week in a minute. First, I would call your attention to an article I originally saw in Stars and Stripes, but which I found on Military Times.
KABUL, Afghanistan — A new report Wednesday by a Kabul-based think tank accuses international forces of misleading the public by calling military operations “Afghan-led” even in cases where NATO or U.S. forces are the only troops on the ground.
The charge cuts to the heart of a public perception battle being waged in Afghanistan, where international troops are eager to showcase successes by Afghan forces and to downplay the role played by international soldiers as NATO draws down forces and hands over security to Afghan control.
The United States and other nations that make up the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have already started pulling out troops with the goal of putting Afghans in charge of countrywide security by the end of 2014. The alliance wants to show that Afghans are up to the task so that the country does not descend into civil strife after 10 years of a NATO-led war against Taliban and al-Qaida militants.
Well, I can’t speak for the rest of the ANA, and how commanders are utilising them, mentoring to them, training them and getting them in the fight, but I know what CPT Michael Stewart of Able Company 3-66 is doing with his counterpart in the ANA, “Captain Z.”
First, they moved two up-armoured Humvees with DShKs (a Soviet 12.7 mm heavy machine gun) mounted on the roof to a location between us and the bad guys, and were pouring fire into the area. Meanwhile, with a village to the east, the ANA commander, now covered by the mounted element sent his troops into the Qalats that were in a line running south, with the bulk of the Qalats and village centre to the east. As soon as the ANA got into a Qalat that had a roof capable of sustaining them which also afforded a clear field of fire on the area where we were shot from, the Commander ordered the vehicles forward.
And man did they go.
Some rounds tinged off the arse end of my vehicle as my camera rolled inside the vehicle, but any incoming rounds were drowned out by the acoustics of 70 ANA troops putting fire into the locations that the firing was coming from. It was probably 4-500 meters away, almost directly to our south. There was possibly another guy closer, but I have no clue, since (as stated) I was in the back of a vehicle. Before we could fully dismount and set up, the ANA were already gone.
So, the ANA has secured a line of Qalats running south and has set up fire to cover both to the East and South. Now the vehicles tear out parallel to this line of Qalats, and goes directly at the fire. The two chaps on top of the vehicles are playing dueling DShK’s with 5-7 round bursts. Honestly, it was a thing of beauty. Granted, the fire from the vehicles moving at probably 35mph across uneven terrain wasn’t effective. But damned if it didn’t get the bad guys moving out of the AO.
When I finally got up to the LOA (limit of advance) for the vehicles, you couldn’t have seen anything better. The vehicles were 50m apart from each other, facing the route of travel, and where they were supposed to be watching, and both vehicles were in perfect turret defiladed positions. From the other side of the qalat wall that they were up against, the only thing you could see would be two DShK’s about to tear you up. Neither vehicle could be seen. And the gunners were sitting back on the roofs, still behind their guns, and had to consist of 90% teeth, as they knew what they had just done was textbook, and they smiled away.
I’ll have video and such for you later, but when I read articles like the one above, all I can think is “That’s a different ANA than the one that is securing the villages around Andar.” I want to do a long post all about the ANA and their strengths and weaknesses, but I thought this deserved immediate attention.
I just spoke with CPT Stewart not 10 seconds ago and asked him how much guidance he gave the ANA during the TIC (troops in contact, acronym for small arms fire and other attacks) in Nani.
“**Laugh** None. Hell, I was still trying to figure out where it was coming from, and figure out who was on the ground when they were already done moving on them. I didn’t even have Comms (Communication) with them, so even if I wanted to, I couldn’t have said anything.” That would have been a ‘go’ on any MRE (Mission Rehearsal Exercise) I’ve ever seen. The React to Contact battle drill was fabulous. No OC (Observer/Controller who grades unit performance) could have found fault with them.”
Wish the Associated Press had been here, but I’m glad I got to see it. Will have video for you soon.
This time, I really am going silent as I have a longish patrol tomorrow, and then need to exfil back to KAF (Kandahar Airfield). If I get internet, I’ll update some other stuff.
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