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Fort Drum brigade commander encouraged by work of Afghan soldiers, security forces


Early into his soldiers’ deployment, the effectiveness and activity of Afghan security forces has “pleasantly surprised” the commander of the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

The biggest difference, according to Col. Samuel E. Whitehurst, is the outcome when insurgents take on the Afghan forces.

“What we’re seeing now when they’re getting in contact with the police or army, they’re (the insurgents) usually the guys getting the worst of the fight,” he said.

About 2,000 brigade soldiers are distributed through the Wardak, Logar, Paktiya, Khost, Ghazni and Paktika provinces, advising and training the Afghan military and police units.

“That’s as close as we’re getting to the fight as this point,” Col. Whitehurst said.

With some of the first troops leaving Fort Drum in September, the full brigade has been operational in the country for about 60 days.

Among the highlights Col. Whitehurst pointed out was a recently completed operation by the Afghan National Army’s 203rd Corps across the southeastern part of the country. The large-scale operation was considered unique not only because of its size, but because it was launched during the harsh winter season when activity usually slows to a halt.

“It’s not just the first time we’ve seen it; we think it’s the first time the enemy has seen that,” Col. Whitehurst said. “It not only speaks to their ability, but it speaks to their confidence.”

One reason for the boosted confidence, Col. Whitehurst said, was the collaboration between police and military elements when dealing with insurgent threats.

Among the improvements Col. Whitehurst hoped to see in the next few months from the Afghans were their logistics and planning, along with their use of artillery.

The brigade’s operations in Paktika Province have been particularly special to the commander, who first served there in 2005.

Among the improvements Col. Whitehurst noted were increased road infrastructure, which helped grow several towns across the province, and the rising use of common items such as cellphones.

“I think it’s nothing close to what it was nine, ten years ago,” he said.

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