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DOD News Briefing with Col. Kandarian and Col. Murtaza via Teleconference from Afghanistan

Presenters: Commander, Regional Command South’s Task Force Strike and 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Col. Arthur Kandarian, and Commander, 3rd Brigade, 205th Corps, Afghan Col. Ghalum Murtaza Sarwari
April 14, 2011

[Colonel Murtaza's remarks are provided through an interpreter – there was some difficulty hearing the interpreted remarks, which explains the multiple (inaudible) sections.]

                 COL. DAVID LAPAN (deputy assistant secretary of defense for media operations):  Good morning here at the Pentagon, and good afternoon in Afghanistan.  I'd like to welcome to the Pentagon Briefing Room for the first time U.S. Army Colonel Art Kandarian, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.  In May of last year, his unit, known in Regional Command South as Combined Task Force Strike, assumed responsibility for Maiwand, Zhari and Arghandab districts in Kandahar province. 

                 Since that time, they have adjusted their operational area to focus on Maiwand and Zhari districts, also known as the homeland of the Taliban. 

                 Joining him at Kandahar Airfield today is his counterpart, Afghan Army Colonel Ghalum Murtaza Sarwari, if I pronounced that correctly. Colonel Murtaza is a 1986 graduate of the Afghan Military University, and in 2003 he entered the newly established Afghan National Army.  In September of 2010, he assumed command of 3rd Brigade, 205th Corps. Both of our speakers will make some opening remarks and then will take your questions. 

                 And with that, gentlemen, I will turn things over to you. 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  Good morning.  Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.  Today, Colonel Murtaza and I will speak to you about the actions and accomplishments of Combined Task Force Strike, the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division Air Assault, and the 3rd Brigade, 205th Hero Corps Afghan National Army. 

                 This year, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team began when our regiment was formed as the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment on March 2nd, 1942.  The brigade first entered combat in World War II on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and fought in Normandy and then Bastogne.  The Strike brigade has since deployed to the Republic of Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, the Sinai, Kosovo and three tours to Iraq.   

                 I'm extremely proud of the progress Combined Task Force Strike, along with our brothers from 3rd Brigade, 205th Afghan National Army Corps, has made over the past year.  Our primary mission is to partner with Afghan National Security Forces and local government to defeat the insurgency in Zhari and Maiwand in order to secure the people, ensure the Afghan freedom of movement on Highway 1, and improve governance and development throughout our area of operations.  We deployed to Afghanistan in May 2010, and began combat operations shortly afterwards, and have been responsible for key portions of Kandahar province. 

                 When we came into the region 10 months ago, the insurgents could go where they wanted, intimidate who and when they wanted, and basically had unfettered control of Highway 1.  Now it is possible for the Afghans and the Afghan government leaders to drive without fear from Kandahar City on Highway 1 and through our area of responsibility.  In coordination with district government, we have built roads for Afghans to bring their crops to market and to get to the bazaars, and we've improved irrigation for the farmers.  We have fought shoulder to shoulder with our Afghan National Security Force partners, the 3rd Brigade, 205th Afghan National Army Corps since they were formed last June. 

                 Colonel Murtaza is my brother and our brigades are partnered.  We have fought together, lived together and served together ever since. And we have made progress with the Afghan people by jointly clearing insurgent safe areas, destroying their caches and taking away their freedom of movement.  This was accomplished through fighting, clearing, holding and securing this key terrain. 

                 With the increased security, it's not uncommon for farmers to come up to our partner patrols and thank them for removing the insurgents so they can farm their land for the first time in many years.  The people here are starting to see their government perform for them as they see improved security and see shuras, or local town council meetings, held at the district center and in the villages.   

                 Last summer, there were just a handful of Afghan army soldiers, and there was little, if any, district government.  And the insurgents would not allow village shuras to exist.  District development assemblies have been formed with representatives from all villages and tribes in the districts.  The people know their local leaders are meeting at the district center to represent them and discuss their issues.  Combined Task Force Strike, with our Afghan partners, have made progress this year.  But there is still more to do. 

                 I want to thank the incredible support of the American people and the great support we have received from our families and friends of Strike, the 101st Airborne and Fort Campbell.  Thank you. 

                 Now I'd like to turn the mic over to my brother Colonel Ghalum Murtaza Sarwari, commander of 3rd Brigade 205th, who has a few opening remarks.  And then we will take your questions. 

                 COL. MURTAZA:  In the name of the God and the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon you as well. 

                 And hello and good morning.  Thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak regarding the 3rd Brigade, 205th Corps, and the 2nd Brigade, the 2nd Strike Brigade, 101 Airborne Division.  And on 15th of April, 2010, these two brigades was formed.  And after the completion of their training, they have come to this area and to my work -- (inaudible) -- instructors here -- (inaudible) -- our partners in the brigade.  Then we have started the operation against the enemy and we have fought and they've been wounded. 

                 First of all, I would like to give you a brief explanation of what are the enemies of the country, insurgents and al-Qaeda are the enemy of the people and the government of Afghanistan.  And they are stopping Afghanistan from the development. And with the 205th Corps and the 2nd Strike Brigade, the 101 Airborne Division, together is this area -- (inaudible) -- have separated the local people from the insurgents and the Taliban and al-Qaeda.  We have defeated them, and they have ran away, escaped towards Pakistan.  And the enemy has lost the ability to fight with the personnel of the 3rd Brigade and the 205th Corps and the personnel of the 2nd Strike Brigade. 

                 And at some of the points, there are limited numbers of the insurgents.  They're doing their activities, they're disrupting our personnel and security, and they're disrupting the local people and the freedom of the movement of the local people in that.  And they have -- also have their own shadow district governors.  Two times -- (inaudible) -- they have elected this, and the local people did not accept their strategy.  And then one of their district -- one of their shadow district governor was arrested, and another one did not come to their job again.  And the local people are supporting a lot -- (inaudible) -- a lot.  And wherever the insurgents are coming to the area, the local people are supporting to the ANA [Afghan National Army], government and ISAF and 2nd Brigade to be -- (inaudible) -- as a partner.  And all the time they're giving us information and intel reports about this -- (inaudible) -- and we could bring the security. 

                 We have brought the security for this area and we have hold the security so the people of this area -- (inaudible) -- so they will be able to go to their work, their properties, their gardens and their fields.  And so God may give us the power to do so. 

                 COL. LAPAN:  OK, thanks.  And Art, once we get into the question and answer, if you could have Colonel Murtaza maybe speak a little softer?  We're getting both his voice and the interpreter's voice at the same levels, and it's difficult to discern. 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  OK.  We'll do that. 

                 COL. LAPAN:  All right. 

                 Bob. 

                 Q:  Colonel Kandarian, this is Bob Burns from Associated Press. I was wondering to what extent has the Taliban returned after the winter season to challenge you in your area?  Returned from Pakistan, I mean. 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  Sorry, could you repeat that question?  I didn't catch the first part. 

                 Q:  Yeah, I was just wondering, you know, the talk earlier in the year about the prospect for a spring offensive by the Taliban, or return of the Taliban from Pakistan, to what extent has that -- how has that played out so far? 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  I still can't understand. 

                 COL. LAPAN:  What I hear is return of the Taliban -- (off mic). 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  OK, I -- I'm sorry, I -- can you -- all right, now I've got the first part.  Second part, please. 

                 COL. LAPAN:  OK, the -- again, has to do with the spring offensive, and essentially what you have seen in your area in terms of a return of the Taliban after the winter. 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  OK.  I've got it this time.  Thanks.  Sorry about that.  A little technical difficulties. 

                 Well, we've been here about 11 months, and we have made -- we've made a lot of progress.  We've made a lot of progress because we are currently, right now, in some decisive terrain, and we're holding in areas that about six months ago were really owned by the insurgents. 

                 So you know, if you're -- you know, I'm not going to predict on what may happen in the months ahead.  What I will tell you is that we are holding and securing in terrain that the insurgents have never lost in.  I think that's an important point.  Last summer, when we got here and we first started partnering together with the 3rd Brigade, 205th, it was a very lethal environment.  And then through our partnership, together we were able to increase security across -- just specifically in Zhari. 

                 And just to give you a vignette on that, we've since that time, in the last six months, we now have many partnered combined combat outposts and patrol bases, which, again, are in places that we know were past insurgent safe havens and where the insurgents had never lost in that terrain. 

                 Over. 

                 COL. LAPAN:  Tom. 

                 Q:  Colonel, Tom Bowman with NPR.  When I was there last fall, there was a suicide bomber in Senjaray that killed two 101st [Airborne] soldiers. And the folks at that time were saying that the suicide Taliban cell was operating out of Chaman, right across the border in Pakistan.  Are you still seeing that kind of thing going, where as you push out the Taliban, they're operating just across the border in Pakistan? 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  Tom, it's good to hear you. 

                 Reference the question on suicide bombers.  Since that time when you were here, we have had a few attempts of suicide bombers, and I think that that's an indicator of -- I think that's an indicator of an insurgent that's trying to be pretty desperate. 

                 As far as where the insurgents are coming from, I'm mainly concerned with what the reactions are within Zhari and Maiwand districts. 

                 As I said, I think we’ve, together with the Afghan army -- and also, recently, Tom, since you were here last, the Afghan army and the police have been -- they've done four operations together, planning and partnering and actually executing them together.  So we're starting to see some intelligence gains through the Afghan National Security Forces that were not around during your last visit. 

                 Over. 

                 Q:  (Inaudible) -- do you still have the sense that they're operating right across the border?  Where did they go? 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  Can you repeat that, Tom?  Sorry. 

                 Q:  Where did the Taliban go?  As you push them out, where have they fled to?  Have they gone over to Pakistan?   

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  Well, I think what we're seeing -- I'm not certain -- well, I think we have made a significant impact in defeating the insurgents.  We've taken out a great deal of caches across Zhari and Maiwand, and we are seeing a great deal of local nationals that are providing local-national tips to our Afghan brothers and to our soldiers. 

                 So you know, I'm not going to predict or -- you know, where I think they are going to.  I will tell you that we have made some significant progress since your last -- since your last time here. And I believe that where we are right now and where the combat outposts are located, in some key terrain -- that is -- they -- that is just key locations, and I believe that now we'll start seeing people -- there's a lot more -- lot more village shuras occurring right now, as well as district governance, and I believe that that is -- (audio break) -- some positive signs of progress. 

                 Over. 

                 COL. LAPAN:  Al. 

                 Q:  Colonel, it's Al Pessin from Voice of America.  I want to try again on Bob Burns' question and ask a follow-up of my own.  I think Bob was not so much asking you to predict the future or the summer fighting, but just to find out whether so far you've seen any uptick in Taliban activity as the weather has gotten warmer. 

                 And along with that, my question is, what, if anything, you're seeing -- and I'm hoping that your colleague can also answer this -- what, if anything, are you seeing that gives you any confidence that the gains that you've made will stick, especially as we begin to thin out U.S. and ISAF forces in the coming months and years? 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  Okay, I'm going to start to answer that, and I'll hand the mic to Colonel Murtaza. 

                 Reference the first of your two-part question there on the uptick, we are fighting the insurgents together with our Afghan partners.  And we're fighting insurgents on our terms.  Whether we think -- the second part of your question, I think, had to do with -- what was it?  Could you repeat the second part?  I'm sorry.  I'm not blaming this on technical, I just have hard of hearing. 

                 Q:  Right.  Well, the first part was really whether you've seen any uptick in Taliban activity, which I'm not sure you addressed.  And the second part was, what if anything gives you confidence that the gains you've made will stick as U.S. and ISAF forces thin out in coming months and years? 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  Okay.  Thank you.  Sorry about that.  Well, I think there are -- I think that we are getting ready to hand our operation over to Combined Task Force Spartan right now.  And what we have built is -- I think what we have shown the people is we have built some pretty significant roads that are allowing these farmers and people to now get up to Highway 1.  I know that the people -- I mean, we now see women and children in the bazaars at Howz-e Madad. We've seen in the -- (inaudible) --, there's been an uptick in the amount of shops that are open.  In the Howz-e Madad bazaar, there's a furniture shop open right now.  Each day on Highway 1, you see children and women and people walking along Highway 1.  And those are just some things that just were not seen six, eight months ago. 

                 The amount of shuras and the village shuras that we are executing, very far south, specifically in Zhari district -- that was not occurring at all, because the insurgents prevented that from happening. 

                 So I think that those are some very good forward signs or some indicators of our progress.  Those combat outposts -- all of these and across Zhari, we employ a great deal of people for work.  And I think -- I think that's another good indicator.  The water right now is flowing.  You know, the irrigation, the canals and the culverts that we have put together with developmental projects, I think, is another point that has given these Afghans work and a sense of work and a sense of future. 

                 And I'll hand the mic over to Colonel Murtaza. 

                 COL. MURTAZA:  Agreeing with the Colonel Kandarian, 2nd Strike Brigade commander.  The activities of the enemy in this spring of this year, there has -- (inaudible) -- no -- our personnel are out there in outposts holding the place -- (inaudible) -- outposts and holding the places. And the enemy cannot show the kind of reaction to us because it's all of the hard work of the brigades that we have done -- (inaudible) -- and we have established in the last years of friendship . 

                 Zhari and Maiwand, this area was that -- after the Taliban -- after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan -- (inaudible) -- Taliban and the terrorists were still existing in this -- the vicinity of -- (inaudible).  They used to have the power, and they used to show their power in these villages.  In the last few years, the people of this area, they were totally under the intimidation of the Taliban and the control of the Taliban. 

                 The hard work of the 24 hours of the 3rd Brigade and the 2nd Strike Brigade, they could -- they brought the security and assured the local people that the government of Afghanistan is securing -- (inaudible) -- and they're providing the economical -- providing the work for them so that they increase the economy.  The 2nd Strike Brigade mentioned an area -- (inaudible) -- development projects have been applied and are ongoing, and there are lots of canals that have been cleared so they -- (inaudible) -- so they can have better water for irrigation. 

                 (Inaudible) -- by using the -- (inaudible) -- we have given this water to the local people, to mosque.  And we have built -- (inaudible) -- the school can be built and so the local people can take their children to the school and also they can take their kids and sick people to the closest -- (inaudible) -- and also to resolving their issues so they can come to the different -- (inaudible).   

                 In the whole village there was only one district governor. There was no staff in their behalf of the legal office there, and we have attorneys, security attorneys there.  And we have a staff of the district governor and -- (inaudible) -- the whole district.  Day by day it is getting better and they are getting more training now.  Now through the -- (inaudible) -- they're coming -- they're getting through point to the area.  And it's done now in the same way to the old -- (inaudible).  We put watchtowers and checkpoints in isolated areas and handed over to the police, and the police are now existing amongst the local people.   

                 And they are all assured that all this hard work they have some and what we have established as the combat outpost in the Zhari and the Maiwand district -- (inaudible) -- the soldiers and the recognition of pulling all together.  They will be here for the future and they will not allow the enemy to come into this area we have cleared.   

                 And, of course, obviously -- (inaudible) -- 2nd Strike Brigade has worked very hard and shoulder to shoulder with the Afghan National Army.  They have -- (inaudible) -- and also they have trained up the Afghan National Army, and the 3rd Brigade is only eight months old and they did not have the capability to fight theirself and to fight for the operation.  And they have learned it from the experience of the -- (inaudible) -- 2nd Strike Brigade. 

                 COL. LAPAN:  Mike. 

                 Q:  Colonel, it's Mike Evans from The London Times here.  There's been some evidence reported in the last week or so that more al-Qaeda fighters have been returning to eastern Afghanistan.  Is there any evidence that you've seen that there is any increase in al-Qaeda or foreign fighters in your area of operation? 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  I believe the question was in reference to have I seen an increase in -- have we seen an increase in out-of-area fighters. (Pause.)  No. 

                 Q:  Thank you, Colonel.  (Laughs.)  Appreciate that succinct response. 

                 Q:  Hello, Colonel.  It's Sara Carter with the Washington Examiner.  I was in Maiwand in 2008, and I've spent some time in that region even after that.  I've been talking to troops on the ground there this year.  And they've been complaining about the fact that every detainee they seem to capture, they have to kick back out into the streets only to watch them try to attack them again.  They've also had a number of complaints regarding Afghan National Army troops that they say are not -- that they're not following the rules.  Basically, they're shaking down villagers, there have been a lot of problems with them out in the southern region.  And I was wondering if you had anything to say about that and if the commander for the Afghan National Army would talk about that. 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  Well, I'll start off by saying that what we have seen here, as Colonel Murtaza mentioned, you know, now we have a district government, we have a district governor, we have a district development assembly shura.  That did not exist about -- less than five months ago.  We also have national prosecutors as well as an investigator who work here at the district center and they work hand in hand with the Afghan National Police.   

                 At least in Zhari, this has been very big.  This has actually -- these are -- well, one's a – they’re both lawyers, and they actually issue detention or warrants for the Afghan National Police. 

                 And we've seen an increase in arrests.  And those that are detained by either Afghan police or Afghan army are now going through the district.  They're seen by these prosecutors initially to clear them, and then they are continuing on the province level.  So I think that's -- I think that's a very good sign, and that is just as the increase in rule of law really -- is down specifically here in the Zhari district. 

                 I'll hand this to Colonel Murtaza. 

                 COL. MURTAZA:  Thanks for your question -- the answering and agreeing according -- agreeing with Colonel Kandarian's answer.  Your visit, as you mentioned, in 2008 -- (inaudible) -- at those times.  At that time only one brigade was -- (inaudible) -- Kandahar province. (Inaudible) -- one kandak was deployed in -- (inaudible) -- in the Maiwand district.  At that -- (inaudible) – whole brigade was formed -- (inaudible) -- it's been only eight months -- (inaudible) -- partner with the 502nd Strike Brigade.  Shoulder to shoulder, they're connecting -- (inaudible) -- operations and they're planning for the operations.  And day by day, our personnel are getting more training. And also they're getting good experience from their partners. Training and experience, once you get these two together, that can make a gentleman. 

                 And on this -- (inaudible) -- they're hopeful that the enemy of Afghanistan from this area -- they have been defeated, and they will always be defeated.  (Inaudible) -- of the government in this area will last forever.  They are also wishing that -- (inaudible) -- national police trained in this area -- (inaudible) -- 3rd Brigade 205th Corps -- (inaudible).  So they will get -- they will pull out their personnel from here and they will get ready for their operation in -- (inaudible) -- district and in different districts where we will get ordered to go -- (inaudible).  And also the internal -- (inaudible) -- we will hand them over to the police.  And they're waiting for this day that we will have good, trained and professional and -- (inaudible) -- police in this area.  Thank you. 

                 Q:  Good morning, Colonel.  Larry Shaughnessy from CNN.  You mentioned that Combined Task Force Strike is about to be replaced by Combined Task Force Spartan.  Is that going to be a one-on-one replacement?  Will Spartan have as many service members from U.S. and ISAF as your unit does now?  If not, can you elaborate on why? 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  Combined Task Force Spartan will assume authority here in the next few days from Combined Task Force Strike. They're an equal size and capability as the Strike Brigade. 

                 Q:  Colonel, thank you.  This is Raghubir Goyal for India Globe and Asia Today.  (Pause.)  Raghubir Goyal, India Globe and Asia Today. Thank you for this -- for having -- my question is that you mentioned that as far as these al-Qaeda and Talibans are concerned, first, according to reports, you captured them, then released them all.  You drive them back across the border into Pakistan, but then they keep coming back.  How can you solve this problem permanently?   

                 And also, at the same time, how President Karzai is holding this problem as far as terrorism is concerned; and finally, as far as when the Afghan National Army will be ready on their own to take the -- or handle the problem?  Thank you. 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  OK, that's about a four-part question. 

                 What I -- what I'll try to -- what I think you're asking -- well, I'm trying to figure out what you're asking, to be honest.  But as far as -- I mean, I keep talking about the progress that we've made while partnered here in Zhari and Maiwand.  And I think that's very important, because we are currently -- we have taken back terrain that the insurgents have never lost in. 

                 And I would tell you this vignette.  How this will hold is this is a -- this is a mission all about the security of the people, and the people are seeing now security in places that they had never seen. They are seeing their Afghan army in places that they have never been. Just recently, about 10 days ago, Colonel Murtaza and I were at combat outpost.  We went down there, we were visiting our soldiers.  And some of the soldiers that -- one of my company commanders there had mentioned that the locals in this area that the combat outpost was located at had come up and, in their interaction with the Afghans, were surprised that the Afghan soldiers were Muslim.  They had never -- they had never seen Afghan army soldiers this far south.  And so now they see that and they're having interaction with the Afghan army -- again, in places that they hadn't seen. 

                 And these are visual symbols, also.  There are Afghan national flags on these combat outposts.  This is where locals are now coming to conduct shuras, and to discuss security and to discuss development, irrigation and canals.  And I think that those are good points. 

                 I travel with Colonel Murtaza many times a week, and we -- he talks to his soldiers; I talk to mine; and then we both discuss before and after these trips.  I think -- I'm 48 years old, and I tell my soldiers that if I'm a 48-year-old man and I've lived in Zhari my entire life, I've had a pretty rough life:  When I was 15 (years old) to 25 years old, I was helping my uncles, my dad, my grandfather, fight the Russians.  And then, as I started a family here in Zhari, in my 30 (years old) to 37 years old in my life in Zhari, I saw the Taliban begin, I saw insurgents and I saw a lot of evil. 

                 And now, in the last six months -- or really, six to eight months -- at least in Zhari, in this local level, now he is seeing combat outposts that have Afghan flags.  He's seeing partner patrols, seeing people that are -- can speak and understand.  He is seeing an increase in bazaars, some roads that we have established -- all in coordination with the district government.  He has seen a very significant increase in the Afghan National Police in Zhari, and he's starting to see Afghan army and Afghan police at checkpoints along Highway 1 together. 

                 Colonel Murtaza, do you want to add anything? 

                 COL. MURTAZA:  Thanks.  And on the path that I mentioned before, that this area for many years was under control of the Taliban.  And the rest of the people are here uneducated and their childrens are also uneducated.  And only one problem we have for the security of this area and for the government is uneducation, having no education amongst the people; that day by day they will realize the system of the government of Afghanistan and they will start to recognize the Afghan National Army. 

                 And the Afghan National Army, they have formed from the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, and they speak all different languages; different tribes.  And also, this has given something to think for the local people and it is something to interest, to join the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.  And also, from -- (inaudible) -- from so many village elders and so many different tribes, we have heard from them that they are ready to send their young childrens -- or their young men to join the army and Afghan National Police; and besides the Afghan National Police, to have Afghan Local Police from their villages, they're willing to form. 

                 (Inaudible) -- is an indicator of having better government and which was brought in very difficult work, hard work.   

                 Thanks.  If you have any other questions. 

                 COL. LAPAN:  Viola, last question. 

                 Q:  Colonel Murtaza, I wanted to ask you how well equipped is your force there in terms of the kind of weapons you need, the kind of vehicles you need, any sort of aircraft that you use, if at all, and if you could actually both speak to that and speak to any plans that you have in the next year to two years for increasing the amount of equipment or improving what you have for the Afghan forces. 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  Okay.  I believe you first asked and wanted to know if -- how well equipped my brigade was, and then I'll pass it to Colonel Murtaza so he can give you his version. 

                 When we first got here, we had -- it was very tough living conditions.  We had to do a great deal of building some of the forward operating bases we were in, and then also over the past 10, 11 months we've built numerous combat outposts.  So we've been very challenged with that. 

                 But we are -- we have been very well equipped.  We have everything that we need.  We have seen an increase in the equipment capabilities, vehicles, things to make my soldiers and Colonel Murtaza's soldiers effective and winning on the battlefield. 

                 We are also -- as I said, we're partnered.  So we live together. His office and mine are across the hall.  We live within very close proximity.  We have similar quarters.  Our soldiers at all the combat outposts are living in the same -- they're -- same type tents, same cots, areas; share many meals together. 

                 This brigade, as Colonel Murtaza said, has just formed.  I mean, it's 8 months old.  And I'm very proud of the fact that -- what we have done together in the fighting that we have accomplished and, more importantly, the security we've provided the Afghan people, with a very relatively young brigade from the Afghan army.  And we're also helping him in increasing, you know, logistics and equipment for his soldiers. 

                 And I'll let you -- I'll let him explain that and provide some more detail. 

                 Please. 

                 COL. MURTAZA:  Thanks.  About equipment and about your question as you asked, Afghan National Army, it's all -- it's a young army.  And the 3rd Brigade, that under command -- (inaudible) -- that's way younger.  It's only about 10 months old.   

                 We're all hopeful that by the -- by the time passes and they're getting more trained and professional.  (Inaudible) -- we will get more equipment and more -- we will get more technology.  So by using good armored vehicles and using the artilleries, using aviation, once we get equipped all these -- so we can support our personnel on operations, and using the help and the support of the ISAF, especially of U.S. Army, we're hopeful that we will have a -- they will -- they will form a really good army which will be able to conduct all the operations independently against the enemy of Afghanistan and enemy of the whole world's people.   

                 Thank you. 

                 COL. LAPAN:  Okay, gentlemen, I will send things back to you for any closing remarks you'd like to make. 

                 COL. KANDARIAN:  Well, thank everybody this morning for asking those questions and having Colonel Murtaza and I answer back. 

                 I want to thank again to the great family and supporters of the Strike Brigade, the 101st Airborne Division and folks back home at Fort Campbell.  It's been outstanding and -- as well as the citizens of America.  It's been my honor to serve with Colonel Murtaza and his brigade, and I'll hand the mic over to him.  Thank you. 

                 COL. MURTAZA:  Thanks that you have given us this opportunity to be able to talk of our hard work of our soldiers and the officers. And through you, we will -- through you, we will take this message to the whole American people.  Thank you.