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Afghan Army Secures Ghabi Khail

GHABI KHAIL, Afghanistan – Just days ago, insurgents actively threatened and coerced Ghabi Khail villagers and attempted to bend them to their will.

Today, the same civilians live securely and rush to buy minutes for their cell phones, thanks to Operation Ghormah II.

The Afghan National Security Forces, with support from ISAF, designed and developed the operation that began Dec. 10. The plan consists of Afghan and international forces cordoning off the village to prevent the enemy from entering or leaving.

"This is tough, but the people demanded it and the governor asked for help," explained Afghan National Army Col. Safai Mirwais. "We had a lot of problems in this area with the Taliban and we had to provide good security for these people.

"Fortunately, the operation is going well and we’re seeing a lot of progress," he said.

The ANA attributes progress to the six weeks of planning and rehearsals conducted prior to the operation. Afghan and U.S. forces spent time refining the plan, mentoring each other and training together.

"The Afghans developed and designed the plan," said Army Maj. Thomas Laybourn, operations officer. "This is an Afghan-led operation."

The operation included securing the entire village of Ghabi Khail. The village, located in west Paktika province, is home to approximately 2,000 Afghans. On the morning of Dec. 11, approximately 600 soldiers, 60 percent of whom were ANSF, established the perimeter cordon.

Mirwais said they took small arms and RPG fire in the beginning when they arranged the cordon and expected the work of securing the village to be more challenging.

"The fighting tapered off to nothing," Laybourn said.

On the northern portion of the cordon, Army Capt. Shilo Crane, and his men mentored and stood guard with the ANSF. Early in the operation they took RPG fire.

"They hit us pretty hard in the beginning," he said. "But now they’ve slipped away and are just harassing us with small arms fire."

The local population embraced the soldiers with warmth and gratitude.

"They’ve been cooking for our soldiers every meal and even invited us into their homes."

Abdul Wadood, a shopkeeper in the bazaar, explained, "The government is good here because they are providing security for the people."

According to a 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment soldier, when the Taliban controlled the village, they didn’t allow the use of cell phones, shut off the nearby tower and the local shops, and stopped selling cell phone minutes. Since the cell phone tower is on again, there has been a massive rush to purchase minutes.

"This operation is going well and it’s working," said Afghan Unit Police Provincial Deputy Commander Col. Mermear Khan. "The cordon has been effective and my men feel good."

News spreads fast in Afghanistan, especially when cell phones are so accessible and in Ghabi Khail, the news of a safe place, is no different.

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