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NATO: Trading Aid For InformationIn Afghanistan

ARSIC-N and ANA travel outside boundaries to deliver aid

Qaysar, Afghanistan - Humanitarian assistance operations are helping both the people of Afghanistan and coalition forces fight the global war on terror.

Under a strategy known as "information operations," coalition mentors assigned to Afghan Regional Security Integration Command - North are developing HA projects for even the most remote villages in the Hindu Kush Mountains.

During a recent mission in both Faryab and Badghis Provinces, known as "Operation Four Seasons," the Afghan National Army and their coalition mentors from ARSIC-N traveled beyond the edge of their boundaries and into that of the ARSIC-West domain to provide relief to the Afghan people.

In return for their generosity, the ANA asked the elders to provide them with assistance in tracking down anti-government forces.

The villages in receipt of the HA supplies are not chosen at random by any means. In fact, they are carefully selected by IO experts at ARSIC-N based on intelligence acquired from locally assigned Afghan National Security Forces, including the ANA and Afghan National Police in Ghowrmach and Qaysar.

During Operation Four Seasons, the ANA and ARSIC-N embedded training teams followed through with a promise of delivering HA to the towns of Khwaja Kinti and Karez, despite poor road conditions resulting from bad weather.

"The people in Khwaja Kinti saw us come in one day and promise to come back the next," said Army Maj. Joel Graham, ARSIC-N IO Officer. "And we did."

Following through with such a promise to return bearing gifts is what the ANA and coalition forces are becoming renowned for in the region, which cannot be said about resistance forces like the Taliban, who are simply in the business of taking from the locals.

That is where the IO challenge comes in. Carefully pinpointing a strategic location to deliver relief goes a long way in winning support from local villagers. According to Graham and his IO team, the area from Qaysar in Faryab Province to Tez Nawa, a remote village in Badghis Province, is a hotbed for Taliban activity, and thus a perfect place to conduct presence patrols and HA projects.

"That's where the insurgents have kind of built a stronghold," said Graham. "So we go there with the ANA and ANP to let the people know that if they support their government, their government will support them, and vice versa. That's kind of the goal we're working toward."

The HA mission, which coalition forces conduct with the ANA and ANP all over the country, would normally be carried out by non-government organizations such as: United States Agency for International Development and United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. However, due to some of the more volatile regions being the center of the IO campaign, these organizations cannot enter safely to conduct HA projects.

Thus, operations like December's 'Four Seasons' and 'Shaheen Sahara,' which was conducted by the ANSF and coalition forces in November, are pivotal in providing enough stability for outside organizations to enter safely.

"After Operation Shaheen Sahara and Operation Four Seasons, the situation is paving the way for all NGOs to come out and provide reconstruction in the Faryab and Badghis area," said Gen. Murad Ali, 209th ANA Corps commander. "So I would like to ensure the stability of those parts."

The Taliban increased their activities in the region last summer by blocking roads, inflicting damage to schools, and illegally taxing and harassing local villagers, which inspired the ANSF and ARSIC-N elements to act. The region however falls into the realm of ARSIC-W, who cannot effectively reach it due to poor weather conditions. So, ARSIC-N took the initiative.

"You would think, okay, it's too far out there for the west, and too far out there for the north to get to this forward operating region," said Army Col. Edward Daly, ARSIC-N commander. "Even though it's out of our boundary we said, 'we can get there. We'll go after the bad guys.' So we did that, and it's part of the effort to show the reach of the Afghan government and its support toward the people."

As Operation Four Seasons gathers strength from its success in the farthest reaches of ARSIC-N and Regional Command - North, the rewards of providing the assistance to the Afghan people is incalculable - contributing to the effectiveness of the IO campaign, and ultimately, the global war on terror.


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