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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Operation Diablo Dragnet Links People to Government

18 July 07
By Army Sgt. Tony J. Spain
22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Paratroopers with 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, conducted air assault missions as part of Operation Diablo-Dragnet the end of June.

The operation involved three different units and the help of an Islamic Republic of Afghanistan official disrupting Taliban operations around the Maiwand District located on the Helmand and Kandahar province borders.

Mohammad Zarif, a member of the National Security Directorate for the Maiwand District, served as the eyes for the governor of Helmand province and reported directly to him about the situation in the area. His presence also helped international security assistance forces bring a familiar face to local Afghans.

“We prefer to have IRoA involvement in all of our operations, especially when we have such close and constant interaction with the local populace as we did during Operation Diablo Dragnet,” said Army Capt. Don L. Cantera, Company B, 1/508th PIR commander. “Fortunately, we had the assistance of the National Security Directorate to facilitate our search.”

Operations ran smoothly for the paratroopers as they moved through the small farming villages of De Kalakhan Kalay and Garm Abak Jonubi. Zarif led the way from building to building, knocking on doors declaring that the ISAF forces were there for their safety and not to be afraid.

“After the town was deemed ‘cleared’, several mini shuras were held with local elders,” said Army 1st Lt. Daniel Capello, fire support operator, Company C, 1/508th PIR. “They came with a look of uncertainty in their eyes, but after meeting with the professional paratroopers and Mohammad Zarif they left with smiles on their faces.”

Zarif helped explain to the elders the purpose of the paratroopers’ mission and explained as long as the Taliban was able to operate in the area they would not be safe.

“The new Afghan government and ISAF forces are here to support the Afghan people,” Zarif told them.

The local elders then began discussing issues that concerned them and what ISAF could do as a link between them and the government to bring resolution. Most of the villagers were concerned about security and the potential for development in their village, which lacks proper roads, schools and medical facilities.

“Zarif was a great help in communicating our intent to the people of Maku and in facilitating a security shura with the village elders,” said Cantera. “He was very knowledgeable about security in the Maiwand area and a direct link between the local populace, ISAF and IRoA.”

After the shura, local leaders promised ISAF they would elect a representative for the village to regularly meet with government officials in the district center.

“It’s pretty clear that the future of Afghanistan rests solely on the shoulders of the Afghans,” said Army 1st Lt. Adam Werhle, Co. C., 1/508th PIR. “We were initially skeptical of having the NSD representative with us on our operation, but he turned out to be a real asset almost immediately.”

Werhle noted the keys to success in Afghanistan will be getting government representatives out to meet the people, more Afghans involved in fighting the Taliban, and a well trained Afghan national army.

Photo - Paratroopers from 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, return from a patrol in the Maywand District on the border of Kandahar and Heldman provinces in Afghanistan June 29. Photo by Spc. Matthew Littel.

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