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Afghan Airmen Qualify for Night Vision Flights

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force and ISAF Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2010 – Some Afghan air force members have qualified to fly helicopters using night vision goggles, military officials reported.

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, yesterday praised a group of Afghan airmen for completing their first flight in Afghanistan using night vision goggles during a ceremony held in the capital of Kabul.

The Afghan airmen flew their Mi-17 helicopter in blackout conditions to and from an austere, unlit landing zone during an Aug. 22 training mission.

“This mission represents another milestone in the growth and development of the Afghan national security forces,” Petraeus said. “The Afghan air force should be very proud of this accomplishment.”

The initial cadre of Afghan crews qualified to fly with night vision equipment will consist of four pilots and two flight engineers. The next phase of training will focus on night vision qualification for Afghan life-support technicians.

In other recent Afghanistan news, Afghan and coalition security forces conducted numerous missions across the country.

In Kabul province:

-- Afghan and coalition forces yesterday continued with an operation that began Aug. 21 to clear Kabul of insurgent fighters before the upcoming Afghan parliamentary elections. The combined force has killed more than 35 Taliban fighters and captured several key Taliban facilitators in recent days. The force also has recovered an assortment of bomb-making material including detonator cord, blasting caps, seven 82 mm mortar rounds, 24 anti-tank mines, about 50 rocket-propelled grenades, and an unknown amount of homemade explosives used to make roadside bombs and suicide vests.

In Paktika province:

-- An improvised explosion device in the Zarghun Shar district wounded seven civilians yesterday. The IED was planted in a wheelbarrow near a barbershop and was allegedly intended for the local Afghan uniformed police chief. Three of the seven were treated at an Afghan army aid station and the other four had minor wounds. The police chief was not injured.

In Kandahar province:

-- ISAF yesterday confirmed the capture of an improvised explosive device commander in Arghandab district during an Aug. 22 combined operation. The commander was detained along with five other suspected insurgents. His fighters are believed responsible for attacks in Kandahar City and Arghandab district. The security force targeted a series of compounds in the village of Mohammad Ya'qub Kalacheh in Arghandab district. They did not fire their weapons and they protected the women and children throughout the searches.

In Khost province:

-- A combined force yesterday detained several suspected insurgents in Khost province, including a Haqqani Network facilitator believed responsible for the movement of weapons and money from Pakistan into the Sabari district. The security force targeted a series of compounds north of Mamad Kala in Sabari district to search for the facilitator. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the compounds peacefully, and then secured the area. After questioning residents at the scene, the force identified and detained the facilitator along with two additional suspected insurgents. The security force discovered multiple weapons at the scene. They did not fire their weapons and they protected the women and children for the duration of the search.

In Helmand province:

-- ISAF yesterday confirmed the Aug. 20 capture of a Taliban follower believed to provide weapons, money, equipment, and IED materials to the group. Afghan and coalition forces went to a remote compound in the Lashkar Gah district to search for the man. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the compound peacefully, then secured the area. After questioning residents at the scene, the security force detained the man along with two additional suspected insurgents. The security force did not fire their weapons and they protected the women and children throughout the search.

In Parwan province:

-- The arrest of a villager by Afghan authorities reportedly sparked a demonstration in the Bagram district yesterday. A crowd of about 300 Afghan civilians surrounded a coalition patrol and began throwing rocks and using steel bars to strike coalition vehicles. After several attempts to stop the attack and disperse the crowd, coalition troops received small-arms fire directed at them. Coalition forces returned warning shots that impacted away from the crowd. There were no reports of Afghan civilian injuries.

In Badghis province:

-- Twenty-one former insurgents turned in their weapons to Afghan authorities in the capital of Qal'ah-ye Now on Aug. 22. Afghan officials issued each insurgent a reintegration certificate. Reintegration is an Afghan-led effort where low- to mid-level fighters can be welcomed back into their communities by renouncing violence against the Afghan government and international supporters. They can have no ties to al-Qaida, and must agree to an honest dialogue with Afghan officials. The insurgent leader, who operated in the Muqur area of Badghis, turned over a large number of rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and short-range radios.

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