Leaders from the Afghan 505th Zone National Police and the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps discuss current and future security operations together with U.S. Marine advisors from Task Force Southwest during a security shura at Bost Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 16, 2017. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces key leaders reviewed Maiwand 7, prepared for Maiwand 8, and discussed future operations. The goal is to increase stability throughout the province in preparation for upcoming elections in 2018. (Photo by Sergeant Justin Updegraff)
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Traditionally, given the unforgiving geography and weather of the region, the ‘Afghan fighting season’ trailed off in the winter, providing an opportunity for Taliban and other malign actors operating in Afghanistan to rest, recover and prepare to fight again in the spring.
As the Afghan military and police capabilities and capacity improve, however, the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) are able to continue offensive operations year-round. Recently, local forces expanded the security belt around Lashkar Gah to ensure their personnel have the supplies they need to remain operational further into the winter months.
During Maiwand 8, spanning Nov. 18-21, 2017, the ANDSF successfully conducted a clearance and resupply operation in Marjah. The numbered operations in Maiwand, led by the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps and the 505th Zone National Police, have been progressing all year, supported by the train, advise and assist team of U.S. Marines from Task Force Southwest. Although the Marines are not engaged in ground combat, they are still shoulder-to-shoulder with their ANDSF counterparts, providing mentorship and guidance, as well as air and intelligence assets.
"The purpose of Maiwand 8 was to conduct resupply operations for the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Civil Order Police kandaks within Marjah, (as well as) the deputy chief of police and his forces down in the district center,” said Maj. William Tomaszek, an advisor with Task Force Southwest. "All the forces can get their food, water, blankets, mattresses and winter uniforms so they can operate and be active out there.”
The planning phase was coordinated between the participating units, with security shuras held at the 505th Zone National Police headquarters and the 215th Corps headquarters.
"They spent a couple days up front loading supplies, but then they sent a unit out initially to clear the route and it took them just several hours,” said Tomaszek. "The force never took contact as they traveled along the route, clearing several IEDs and obstacles to get to Camp Bazaar, which is the location for one of the kandaks.
"Day one was a huge success for the ANDSF. Within three hours, they were at Camp Bazaar – a route that was highly contested when we first got here,” he added.
Coordination between all the units was paramount during Maiwand 8. The Operational Coordination Center – Provincial bridged that gap, tracking the locations of units, communicating with units, and providing air assets, if necessary.
"During Maiwand 8, the [Operational Coordination Center – Provincial] was focused on the coordination between the different entities,” said Capt. Matthew Somers, an advisor with Task Force Southwest. "Maiwand 8 was a large operation between multiple entities, including Afghan Border Police, ANCOP, Afghan National Police, National Directorate of Security, and the ANA.
"There was a lot of coordination to be able to use air assets from the ANA, and not just for the ANA,” said Somers. "There was a point we had an injured Afghan policemen and he was able to be evacuated to safety through the coordination that happened here at the OCC-P.”
Afghan National Army Brigadier General Ghani, executive officer, 215th Corps, went out to see his men during the operation and said that they detected and cleared more than 60 improvised explosive devices while clearing a route to Marjah.
"This operation was important because we repaired and opened up destroyed roads and bridges for the civilians to use again,” said Ghani. "We also showed the enemy that we are strong and can strike at any time. And, by delivering winter supplies, we’ve also improved the morale of personnel at the kandaks.”
According to Tomaszek, Maiwand 8 was a significant success from the initial clearance of the route to the follow-on convoy. It served as another demonstration of effective collaboration between the 505th Zone, the 215th Corps, and NDS forces. This collaboration will help the ANDSF sustain pressure, taking the fight to the enemy throughout the winter.