Friday, October 23, 2009
In Afghan languages a kandak is a battalion. I can remember visiting a base outside of our area and talking to a someone who during our conversation remarked to me, "Oh, you're with 3rd Kdk? Is that an infantry battalion?" I was a little taken aback by the question and almost remarked in Colonel Jessup from A Few Good Men fashion "Is there any other kind?" But I caught myself, as I remembered that there are indeed other types of kandaks out there, just like in our military. The ANA do have tanks, artillery, Afghan Commandos, and other types of units, to include aviation.
We had a small detachment of ANA artillery soldiers at one of our bases, complete with two D30 122 mm howitzers. In the month I spent at that base, we never once fired those guns...and not for lack of enemy contact. We were firing mortars from the base nearly daily. It was a little tough for the ANA to get into the act of firing those indirect fire assets when they needed the approval of the Kandak Commander, located some 25 km away, in order to fire. Real time comms are easy to achieve out there with cell phones, and that's what the ANA use for much of their communication. Nonetheless, having to route permission to shoot through someone miles down the road, obviously does not make for efficient and timely fire support.
The ANA did apparently fire the D30's from time to time though. Since the ANA has very few people who can read maps and do whatever geometry is done to get artillery rounds on target, they simply direct fire the guns. And since most of the targets are up above them in that particular place, the technique works pretty well. The US forces would somehow mark a target with machine guns or mortars, and the ANA would be instructed to hit those impacts, which they evidently did pretty well. Unfortunately, I never witnessed it.
As for other types of battalions, we knew a few ETTs who got attached to a tank battalion. The tanks they have are Soviet-style like the artillery. They, not surprisingly, did not use their tanks very often given the logistical difficulties in supporting tanks. The ANA have commandos trained by our Special Forces, and having seen them in action as the opposition in a game of military-style paintball, I'd say they're pretty good - not light years better than regular ANA infantry, but certainly more aggressive and better trained. As for Afghan aviation, that was not something we ever saw, though they do have a few helicopters starting to fly around. I look forward to more of those ANA helos getting out there as I know it will be a big source of pride for the ANA to fly in their own equipment with their fellow countrymen at the helm.