Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Troop C, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, and their Afghan National Army and police counterparts visited the remote village of Kwajangur for the first time June 6.
The visit to the village, the largest and easternmost in the district, was intended to assess the area’s needs and talk with the village elder about a proposed road-improvement project. However, shortly after landing, the mission objective changed.
Upon hearing reports of insurgents moving through the village with weapons, the U.S. and Afghan Soldiers quickly conducted a patrol of the area.
Led by the ANA, they dispersed and began knocking on doors, questioning local villagers who were nearby and investigating a small storage building where an insurgent had been seen earlier.
Inside, the dark, dusty building, called a qulat, was filled with farming tools and hay. Searching further, they found a machine gun hidden in a blanket under the hay pile, evidence enough to continue the search. In another adjacent storage qulat, an AK-47 was found the same way, wrapped in a blanket and under a hay pile, with a box of ammunition and a magazine.
Troop C commander, U.S. Army Capt. Chris Shepherd of Houston, was happy with the quick and motivated response by the ANA and the ANP.
“They’ve always been the lead since we’ve been here,” said Shepherd. “When we had to shift into searching for weapons or personnel they’re pretty good.”
After the search concluded and the weapons were confiscated, the mission returned to its original objective. Shepherd met with the village elder in a field surrounded by villagers and kids who were anxious to hear what the American commander had to say. The focus of the discussion was a proposed road-improvement project that will run through Kwajangur to the Kherwar district center as well as getting the villagers to ensure local security for the workers on the project.
“Security has to come first and it has to come from villages actually taking responsibility for it, because we can’t be everywhere at once,” said Shepherd.
After some talking, the villagers and village elder finally agreed to provide local security for the project.
“The biggest success story was securing the agreement on the road,” said Shepherd.
With violence increasing in the area, the presence of armed insurgents was no surprise, but the success of the overall mission and the cooperation of the local villagers were unanticipated.
“A lot of towns have been threatened not to interact with any coalition force or government group,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Timothy Miller, of Dunkirk, Md., information operations officer for Troop C. “Some villages we go into are ghost towns and we have to knock on the door to actually talk to somebody.”
However, throughout the soldiers’ visit, the town was bustling with activity. Farmers tended their fields and villagers walked around, talking to the troops of the ANA and ANP.
Afghan Army Sgt. Sejad Atal, a squad sergeant for 2nd Company, 1st Kandak, 4th brigade, Afghan National Army, agreed with Shepherd and was happy with how the mission went and proud of how well his troops performed.
“I’m very happy that we got the weapons of people who are against the government,” he said. “The guys did a very good job.”