Coalition Forces Launch Operation in Eastern Afghanistan
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 23, 2003 Coalition and Afghan militia forces launched Operation Unified Resolve with a series of movements throughout the eastern province of Nangarhar, June 18, Combined Joint Task Force 180 officials said today.
The operation is concentrated around Jalalabad with about 500 American service members, mostly from the 82nd Airborne Division, participating.
The troopers, part of Task Force Devil, are working with two companies of local Afghan militia to kill or capture or deny sanctuary to anti-coalition forces.
Jalalabad is a strategic city located on the main route between the Afghan capital Kabul and the Pakistani city of Peshawar. The area was a stronghold of the Taliban, and al Qaeda maintained a large presence in the area.
On June 21, elements of the force launched an air assault to position forces along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Those troops blocked crossing points along the border while other forces conducted operations further west. The operation will continue "until the coalition meets all operational objectives," said CJTF 180 spokesman Army Sgt. Maj. Harrison Sarles.
Sarles said Operation Unified Resolve was planned and executed in cooperation with the Afghan national government and provincial officials.
Anti-coalition forces have launched uncoordinated attacks against coalition forces in the area. These mostly consist of rocket attacks, bobby traps and planting mines. CJTF 180 officials attribute much of the unrest to a group headed by Gulbaddin Hekmatyar.
Hekmatyar leads the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan, a fundamentalist faction of the mujahideen. In the early 1990s, Hekmatyar served as prime minister of Afghanistan. He was the man most responsible for the fighting that left Kabul in ruins. News reports said that Hekmatyar has formed an anti-coalition alliance with Taliban leader Muhammad Omar and the remnants of the al Qaeda group in the country.
In addition to combat operations, coalition forces continue to provide humanitarian aid to the people of the region. U.S. and coalition civil affairs teams are traveling with the combat forces to assess the needs of the local populations.
Provincial reconstruction teams are also working to rebuild the nation. Three so far are in Gardez, Bamiyan and Kunduz. The British will sponsor a team that should be up and in July, officials said. Plans are to establish four more teams. Each team has between 50 and 60 service members assigned. The teams assess area needs for wells, schools, roads, irrigation systems and medical clinics.