Senior enlisted Afghan National Army soldiers with 215th Corps discuss force protection procedures with U.S. Marines assigned to Task Force Southwest at Camp Nolay, Afghanistan, in preparation for Operation Maiwand Nine, an operation designed to clear Taliban presence in the Sangin district and promote security in Central Helmand province. (Photo by OR-5 Lucas Hopkins)
The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in Helmand province are maintaining a high offensive tempo throughout this winter with multiple, simultaneous operations during Operation Maiwand Nine.
The Afghan National Army 215th Corps, 505th Zone National Police and the National Directorate of Security are working in unison to continue expanding security in districts surrounding Lashkar Gah and in the Sangin district.
"The confluence of three efforts -- Maiwand offensive operations, targeted operations by Afghan special operations kandaks and airstrikes in northern and southern Helmand have had profound effects in pressuring the Taliban in Helmand province,” said Brig. Gen. Roger Turner Jr., commanding general of Task Force Southwest.
Soldiers with 2nd Brigade of 215th Corps are reinforcing areas along Route 611, a highway connecting Kajaki to Highway 1, also known as the "Ring Road.” Several ANA camps are located along the southern portion of the route before it crosses through the Sangin District center, which makes clearing Taliban fighters from the area a priority for both Afghan forces and local residents.
"There are two different aims we have for Maiwand Nine. One is to continue expanding security for the people of Sangin district,” said ANA Col. Abdul Wahid, the commanding officer of 2nd Brigade. "The second is that elections will be conducted next year and we need the people to be able to go to the polling centers to participate in elections free of pressure from the enemy.”
During planning, Maiwand Nine’s original focus was to be solely on Sangin but the performance of ANDSF leadership and soldiers suggested that more could be gained by conducting additional offensive operations in Central Helmand.
"The operations in other areas outside of Sangin are really meant to create additional pressure on the enemy, so that they have to fight on more than just one front,” said U.S. Marine Col. Matthew Grosz, the senior advisor to ANA 215th Corps. "It also allows the Task Force to target enemy forces in district centers closer to Central Helmand and Lashkar Gah.”
The 1st Brigade of 215th Corps recently completed a two-day clearing operation in Garmser district, while police and security forces are assisting 3rd Brigade soldiers during offensive missions against the Taliban in Nad’Ali district and in Gereshk. Although these operations are important to the overall security situation in the province, the primary focus of effort for Maiwand Nine remains in Sangin with 2nd Brigade.
In May of 2017, the Task Force provided advisory support to the brigade headquarters at Camp Nolay, assisting their partners during clearing operations in the area and helping advise about maintenance, force protection and administration throughout the brigade. On Nov. 30, Task Force and 215th Corps key leaders collaborated with 2nd Brigade again in preparation for Maiwand Nine, and remarked on the significant progress within the unit following the train, advise, assist support.
"When we went back, the brigade headquarters… looked like there was a lot more of system in place to establish discipline, maintenance was being conducted, it [just] had a different feel to it,” said Grosz. "The security situation has changed a lot, just along Route 611… back in May, one of the objectives was to open up that route, and it’s open now.”
Local workers were also building communication towers and power lines outside of the camp. According to Wahid, 2nd Brigade has executed smaller operations over the past several months in an effort to gain momentum against the Taliban.
"The enemy now no longer has the same capabilities they did in the beginning of the year. These operations are helping the people facing pressure from the enemy to gain peace and prosperity,” said Wahid.
Afghan Air Force assets have also played a significant role during Maiwand Nine in the Sangin area.
"They integrated A-29 [aircraft] into a strike where they destroyed a defensive fighting position in a trench network, from which they used to receive frequent attacks on their convoys along Route 611. They also used their MD-530 aircraft to destroy communication towers the Taliban have been using,” said Grosz.
Throughout Helmand province, the ANDSF will continue attacking and destroying Taliban strongholds while promoting security and stability for the region’s populace through persistent offensive pressure.
"The support continues to give the 215th Corps and other security forces confidence,” said Grosz. "One, it boosts their morale, and two, it shows them that when they conduct offensive operations instead of remaining in a static defensive posture, they achieve very good effects against the enemy. And the enemy doesn’t want to fight them because they know they’re overmatched.”