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Afghan National Army Lieutenant Displays Leadership

By Staff Sgt. Kelly McCargo, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, May 26, 2004 – Very little was routine for the first of 16 Afghan National Army battalions to be operationally fielded throughout southern Afghanistan during the unit's recent 52-day "force presence" patrol.

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When his patrol came under attack, Afghan National Army 2nd Lt. Nasir Ahamd charged after the enemy without his weapon, encouraging his soldiers to press the assault. Marine Corps photo
  

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The 1st Commando Battalion of the 3rd Brigade Quick Reaction Force was attacked on three separate occasions, and on the morning of March 13, an ANA second lieutenant showed his coalition force allies what the ANA is capable of doing.

"Second Lieutenant Nasir Ahamd is a young and aggressive lieutenant from Panshir, and like many soldiers, he joined the army out of patriotism and love for his country," said Marine Capt. Eric Hansen, embedded Marine combat trainer. "Lieutenant Nasir volunteered for the Commando Battalion after graduating the Officers Course at the Kabul Military Training Center. He was flown to Kandahar to join our battalion as we were conducting our missions."

With little formality or fanfare, the 21-year-old officer was assigned to 3rd Company as platoon leader for the 3rd platoon. That same morning, the company was given a mission to establish a blocking position in the Bari Samighar region to prevent enemy forces from escaping the coalition's main attack force in an attack that would be conducted later that day, said Hansen.

"We were stationed at Shygeen (in) the Zabul province, and at 3 a.m. our mission started," said Nasir through an interpreter. "At 6 a.m., we started our trip through the valley; there were about eight ANA soldiers including myself, and six American soldiers from the Special Forces.

"After walking for a while, we saw a place that seemed like a lurking place for the Taliban," he continued. "Two people came out, and as they saw us, they ran. We called out to them to 'stop and surrender' and they didn't reply."

Unsure at the time if the two men were hostile insurgents, Nasir told his men to hold their fire. His team cautiously advanced with the intent of capturing the men.

"We didn't think anyone else was there, so we started getting closer and then people started shooting at us," Nasir said. He and his team quickly pulled back and took cover from the hail of gunfire that confirmed the Taliban's identity.

"I (lined) my soldiers across the valley, and we returned fire," he said. "We fired six (rocket-propelled grenades) into the compound, but the Taliban still resisted." In the valley below, 20 Taliban insurgents could be seen attempting to reorganize, said Hansen.

Without hesitation, Nasir led his team down the steep ridgeline in pursuit of the enemy. "At the bottom of the slope, Lieutenant Nasir was confronted by a smaller group of Taliban armed with AK-47s and an RPG 7," Hansen said. "Nasir shot one of them, and the others started running up the next hill."

Nasir charged after them, shouting encouragement to his men, heedless of the enemy fire around him, and his men followed, Hansen said.

The assault was going according to the officer's textbook until Nasir's weapon became inoperable, Nasir said.

"When my weapon stopped firing, I became very surprised, then upset," he said. "I asked myself, 'What do I do now?' There were no interpreters to explain this situation to the Americans."

So Nasir said he took the only acceptable course for an officer -- to continue to lead his men forward.

"We continued going, and when we came within 10 meters of the Taliban, a Special Forces soldier saw me without a weapon, and he gave me a gun," he said with a relieved sigh. "Finally, I became equipped again."

The enemy ran further into the valley to regroup, but the ANA soldiers still pursued them up the rocky hillside. "A Taliban (insurgent) popped up from the rocks and sighted in on the ANA soldiers, but again Nasir was faster," said Hansen.

And more accurate. Nasir killed the enemy insurgent with the borrowed 9 mm pistol. He continued the chase up and down the ridgelines, hunting down the enemy, Hansen said. "When I conquered the enemy, I took his weapon," said Nasir.

Never giving up or slowing the attack, Nasir pressed until the evening, denying the insurgents an opportunity to regroup or outflank his men, Hansen said.

"At 4 p.m., our operation was finished," Nasir said. "My companion soldiers were very brave and energetic, and they are very eager to bring peace and stability to the area to Afghanistan." The day ended with three dead Taliban fighters and five prisoners. The company confiscated several AK-47s, RPGs and a motorcycle.

"Nasir's leadership and bravery under fire greatly inspired his men, and it contributed to the success of the Commando Battalion and the entire Afghan National Army," Hansen said. "He's one of the many incredible young men serving to protect and defend Afghanistan."

A career soldier who supports 10 family members, Nasir said he wants eventually to become a high-ranking officer in the ANA.

"One day I want the ANA to become very powerful -- a strong army able to defend every province in the country and not allow any foreign invaders to use our country again," Nasir said.

(Army Staff Sgt. Kelly McCargo is assigned to the Office of Military Cooperation, Afghanistan.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA recent Afghan National Army force presence patrol in Kandahar exposed the ANA to the Afghan citizens for the first time. Embedded U.S. Marine trainers said the Afghan public was "very excited" to see the ANA soldiers. Marine Corps photo  
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