Task Force Raider commander meets with Afghan Uniformed Police
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan - The commanders of the 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, and the Hawaii Army National Guard Security Forces Assistance Team 21, met with the Qalat Reserve Kandak on Jan. 15. The meeting was held to coordinate a sustained independency plan for the QRK before the U.S. withdrawal in 2014.
The QRK, an Afghanistan Uniformed Police battalion, conducts basic counter-insurgency operations in Zabul province, but lacks the support systems needed to maintain themselves.
“They’ve been in the lead,” said the 1st ABCT commander, Col. James R. Crider. “Now we need to make them independent.”
The support systems they need range from the replenishing of ammunition to the maintenance of vehicles, he said.
Crider said advisers should focus on helping Afghan forces find a system that works for them. If they do not get the resources from their government, then they will not be ready to stop major insurgency-operations once coalition forces leave.
One system that SFAT 21 and the QRK set up was a vehicle-maintenance team composed of Afghans from Kandahar. The team will have the parts needed for some of the more complex repairs that are beyond the reach of QRK mechanics. The continuation of repair teams like these will be vital for the success of future QRK operations.
Despite lacking the parts to sustain all of their vehicles, policemen of the QRK remain motivated by other assistance and training they get from SFAT 21, such as medical and weapons training.
“They are always smiling and staying engaged in the training that we provide,” said Maj. Kevin Carbrey, commander of SFAT 21. “They know this will be their country when we leave.”
The First and Last Assistance Team for the Qalat Reserve Kandak
by Sgt. Lori Bilyou DVIDS January 19, 2013 (Click link for photos)
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan - “Hippos” is the name the 11 man Security Forces Assistance Team goes by when rolling off Forward Operating Base Lagman for a mission.
Assigned as advisors for the Qalat Reserve Kandak, an Afghan Uniformed Police battalion in Zabul province, SFAT 21, part of the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team with the Hawaii National Guard, has a huge task to accomplish.
Part of the enormity of the Hippos’ task lies in the fact that the Qalat Reserve Kandak is the largest police unit in the province with more than 700 policemen manning seven companies and 30 checkpoints spread over 50 miles of territory.
Another part of the task’s enormity is the fact that despite more than 10 years of U.S. presence in Afghanistan, it has only been in recent years that coalition forces have focused on training Afghan Security Forces to take over the security of Afghanistan. With the 2014 deadline for the coalition forces withdrawal looming, the 11-man SFAT 21 has become the Qalat Reserve Kandak’s first and last Assistance team.
“They’ve never had an advisor before but they are very receptive to us,” said Maj. Kevin Carbrey, the commander of SFAT 21.
But with less than a year left to work with the QRK, SFAT 21 had to decide where to focus their efforts and what training would produce the greatest sustainable results.
To understand the scope of possibilities and problems, the team had to first get to know the leadership of the QRK and begin building rapport with both the leaders and policemen who have never worked with American advisors before.
“The first few times we came out to visit the QRK headquarters, the Afghans just showed us how good things were. They didn’t want to look bad in our eyes,” said Capt. Trevor Mastromarino, the operations officer for SFAT 21. “It took many visits for them to begin to really tell us what was wrong and where they needed help.”
What the SFAT learned was that the QRK of more than 700 policemen had a variety of issues. They operated using a fleet of Ford Rangers in various degrees of disrepair, with cell phones as a primary means of communication, with a few trained medics but only one equipped ambulance, with about one magazine worth of ammunition per police officer, with a serious lack in weapons training and no explosives ordinance training to speak of.
And yet the SFAT also learned that, despite all the shortcomings, lack of training and equipment, the QRK also seemed to get the job done.
“Their ability to traditionally police as we would think of it, is not there,” Carbrey said, “But their ability to conduct counter-insurgency operations is robust.
“Their second and third companies act as quick response forces for the province. They’ve even offered us their help. They’ve said that if we ever need them we should just call and I have no doubt they’d be there 15 minutes before our own QRF.”
After getting to know the QRK better, SFAT 21 determined that helping the police force develop and improve its logistics and supply chains will be a main focus for the remainder of the time they are advising. Enabling the QRK to increase their ammunitions and repair their vehicles will be key to the force’s future sustainability.
Additionally, the team began teaching the police to recognize indicators of improvised explosive devices and is working to get at least 10 policemen special training in counter IED because the AUP are expected to take over the security of Highway 1 in their province by the summer of 2013.
“We’re trying to find and focus our training on the guys who are going to stay and protect this place after we leave,” Carbrey said. “They are attentive and highly motivated, knowing that when we leave, they are on their own.”