Troops uncover weapons in Afghanistan

AFGHAN troops backed by Australians have found more than 70 weapons caches in an operation that coalition commanders say demonstrates the growing competence of Afghan security forces.

The operation codenamed Sur Garabe was planned and led by the Afghan National Army (ANA), supported by Afghan National Police (ANP) and coalition forces, to evict insurgents from the West Dorafshan region of Oruzgan province.

A new patrol base was built at West Dorafshan as part of the clearance mission, which was launched on November 10.

The 300 Afghan soldiers backed by Australian mentors uncovered more than 70 weapons caches containing ammunition, rifles, machine guns and rocket launchers and even a 30mm automatic grenade launcher.

Also found were explosives and components for making improvised explosive devices.

US Army Colonel Jim Creighton, the commander of Combined Team Oruzgan, which includes Australian, US and Afghan forces, said the ANA and ANP had demonstrated they were on the way to becoming a capable and united security force.

In a major success, the ANA 4th Brigade was able to command and control all of its kandaks (battalions) throughout the operation.

“What you see is the Afghan police working hand in hand with the army,” he said in an Australian Defence Force statement.

“We saw the ANA 4th Brigade plan and control the operation.

“The engineer effort is Afghan-led, the artillery effort with their D30 artillery guns is Afghan-led, the initial clearance operation is led by the 3rd Kandak (battalion) of the 4th Brigade, and the supporting and blocking formations are led by 2nd Kandak.”

Patrol bases, which establish a permanent presence for security forces in insurgent dominated areas, have played a key role in the counter-insurgency strategy in Oruzgan, but in the past they’ve been constructed by Australian engineers.

Building the new Dorafshan outpost, ANA engineers worked round the clock to complete the base’s outer wall, then erected a guard tower within three days. Commander of the Australian Mentoring Task Force Lieutenant Colonel Darren Huxley said this new patrol base was more than just a permanent presence for the ANA.

It was a symbol for the Afghan people, he said. “This operation has shown us that the ANA is an increasingly capable force,” he said in a statement. “They can help their own people by clearing and securing areas and they can build patrol bases which allow them to remain in a permanent capacity and provide security for the local people.”

The patrol base will be home to ANA soldiers and a small number of Australian mentors.

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