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ISAF Jobs Vital to Afghanistan Security

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 1, 2005 – Keeping the relative peace here in the Afghan capital is a full-time job for the servicemembers of NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
1st Cpl. Frederic Foroughi, with the French 35th Mechanized Infantry Regiment, carries several weapons as he stands watch with his fellow soldiers atop a hill in Afghanistan. They are responsible for deterring attacks against the Kabul International Airport. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The soldiers of France's 35th Mechanized Infantry Regiment do their part willingly.

First Lt. Francois Boche's squad is responsible for a patrol just outside Kabul International Airport. They are on watch to make sure that the airport's north, east and west borders are safe from terrorists, whose goal is to shoot down an aircraft on approach or about to take off. The job is far from glamorous, but as part of ISAF, members of the French regiment deal with the heat, the dust and other challenges to protect the airport.

ISAF, working closely with the Afghan ministries, authorities, local communities and the coalition forces of Operation Enduring Freedom, carries out regular patrols in its areas of operation, currently the northern and western portions of the country. ISAF also has command of provincial reconstruction teams in those areas.

One specific concern for Boche's squad is MANPADS, or man portable air defense systems.

Boche and his squad are responsible for an area with a radius of about three miles to the north, east and west of the airport. "(This) is bigger than the range of most anti-aircraft missiles," the lieutenant said. "We think we have very good observation."

What terrorist activity within their area they spot is usually early in the morning or at the end of the day. "(It's) very early in the morning when the first aircraft takes off," Boche said, standing at an observation post atop a hill. "That's why we're here before the first aircraft takes off." Or it could be at night, when the last plane takes off or lands, he said.

Boche and his men have a great spot to watch for terrorists with MANPADS, as well as an excellent view of a village where dormant terrorist cells appear to be regrouping. They watch Tarakel, a village of 10,000 to 20,000 people, very carefully. "We think they'll be more active closer to the elections (in September)," he said.

Making things more interesting is a series of tunnels created by resistance fighters during the Russian War. The French soldiers are certain the terrorists are using the tunnels to hide weapons.

While the three rotating patrols serve to bolster security, they also foster good will, the 35th MIR's commanding officer said.

"We have contact with the population," said J.B. Vouillioux. "We have very good relations with the Afghan people (and) we are very interested in the reparation of the nation."

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