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Fighting Afghanistan's Taliban.

COMBINED Task Force Bayonet forces engaged Taliban forces in some of the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan this year, during a 20-day mission in northern Kandahar Province, said CTFB officials.

Led by the 3rd Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment, coalition forces kicked off the military operation known as Diablo Reach Back in the rugged, mountainous terrain of Shah Wali Kot district.

The coalition included soldiers and policemen from the Afghan National Army; Afghan National Police: the Romanian army, and U.S. forces from the 319th FA Regt.: 2nd Battalion, 504th Infantry Regt.; and the 173fd Airborne Brigade.

Diablo Reach Back was intended to clear the area of anti-coalition forces, so that the provincial government of Kandahar can establish a permanent presence and a good line of communication in the remote northern district, said LTC Bert Ges, commander of the 3rd Bn., 319th FA Regt., and Task Force Gundevil.

The Shah Wall Kot district is considered to be one of the last Taliban strongholds in Kandahar Province, but that may soon end, as the district residents' patience with anti-coalition forces grows thin, Ges said.

"For the most part, the people out here are tired of the Taliban," said Ges. "Because there is no government representation out here, the Taliban come out of the hills and take residents' food, beat and otherwise harass them, and then leave."

Ges said establishing security in the district is the first priority, but another is to strengthen the positions of the district leadership. Once this is done, reconstruction efforts can begin in the embattled region.

At the time this article was published, Ges planned to establish a satellite police station in Gumbad.

"Gumbad to me is key terrain," he said. "The people there support us. We've identified a building, and we want to rent it. We're going to put 20 to 40 ANP troops there and augment them with 16 to 40 Soldiers."

The collective group would work on building the area's infrastructure, first by establishing communications and then constructing a police substation, Ges said.

"I want to get some troops up there," said Ges. "I realize they may be living out of their vehicles for the first few weeks. But I want to get a foothold there and then expand from there. Every time we're in the village, the residents know that we can provide security. They see the helicopters and hear the artillery fire. But when we leave, they know the Taliban can return. That's why we want to show a permanent presence in Gumbad."

Security has been a challenge in the district. During Diablo Reach Back, Soldiers experienced minor engagements near the villages of Zamto Kalay and Chenartu. And Soldiers from Company D, 2nd Bn., 504th Inf. Regt., met heavier resistance near Takht Kalay and in the Gumbad valley.

"The enemy we're fighting now have been around for a while," said Ges. "They know how we fight, so we have to be very quick and aggressive. All of the operations that we have participated in during Diablo Reach Back have included ANA soldiers. They do the bulk of the fighting."

MAJ Kevin Bigelman, operations officer for the 3rd Bn., 319th FA Regt., said, "The ANA did a great job. They were well-equipped, well-led, and they did exactly what they were tasked to do, which was to clear the objective area and the surrounding towns."

Maintaining and improving relationships with the various village elders is essential to the success of future operations in the village, Ges said.

"We don't want to come into an area, clear it and then leave," said Ges. "We want to clear the area and then go right into a civil-affairs mode.

"What we have been doing during this operation is bringing the district chief and the district police chief with us to show them the conditions in the area and let them hear what the people are saying," said Ges. "We always end up with what is called a shura, a meeting with the village leaders and elders.

"And then we do a village assessment. We review all of the villagers' various issues and concerns, collect information about all the potential projects they'd like to have completed and take the information back to Kandahar, to the provincial headquarters, where Afghan officials review and prioritize the recommended projects," Ges said.

SSG Jacob Caldwell is assigned to the Combined Task Force Bayonet Public Affairs Office.
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Title Annotation:armed forces' military operations
Author:Caldwell, Jacob
Publication:Soldiers Magazine
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Words:733
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