The commander of the 10th Mountain Divisions 2nd Brigade Combat Team said his soldiers Afghan counterparts in Paktika Province are showing consistent improvement in their combined operations.
As one example, Col. Dennis S. Sullivan, the brigades commander, pointed out a combined operation at the start of July in the provinces Omna and Charbaran districts planned by Afghan security forces.
It was almost really two separate operations that really complemented each other, he said. The operations led to the killing of the Omna Districts insurgent leader, the commander said. The recent operation, and seven similar brigade-level operations in the last few months, showed him that Afghan forces had improved.
Each time we go out, they get better at it and get more precision at it, Col. Sullivan said. He singled out the Afghan militarys engineering and reconnaissance work as excelling in recent months.
The commander on Thursday updated the Times about progress in the province during the past three months. The approximately 1,500 to 2,000 soldiers from the brigade are about two-thirds of the way through their nine-month deployment.
Theres a lot of fighting left to go, Col. Sullivan said in a telephone interview. We have to stay focused on them.
The 2nd BCT soldiers are spread around the eastern province in a security force aid-and-assist-team role similar to that of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, which operates in Ghazni Province.
Col. Sullivan also said the provincial government is performing well without military or State Department intervention.
In addition to supporting its Afghan counterparts, the brigade helped the command of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which last week received orders to deploy to Afghanistan this fall. The brigades command group visited the province at the end of June to observe conditions on the ground.
Theyre on the right flight path to get ready, Col. Sullivan said.
The commander also took questions about a June 8 incident at Zarghun Shahr in which a man in an Afghan uniform shot and killed two soldiers, Lt. Cols. Todd J. Clark and Jaimie Leonard, and a contractor, Joseph Morabito.
Col. Sullivan said as news came in on the three, whom he said he knew personally, he went from praying for their safety to sorrow and sadness when he learned of their deaths.
Theres many emotions that you feel there, he said.
Col. Sullivan said he had feelings of guilt for the death of Col. Clark, for whom he had specifically asked on the mission because of his knowledge of running advisory teams, including a pair of masters theses on the subject.
I knew the talent he had, Col. Sullivan said. Thats why I reached out to him.
The commander said he viewed the attack as an isolated incident.
We cant tarnish the great work and partnerships and capabilities of the Afghan security forces, Col. Sullivan said. That would be what the enemy would want, driving a wedge between the Americans and the Afghan forces we work with every day.
In addition to Col. Clark and Col. Leonard, the brigade has seen the deaths of Spc. Javier Sanchez Jr., who died June 23 of injuries suffered from an improvised explosive device during a mounted patrol, and Pfc. Mariano M. Raymundo, whose June 1 death is still under investigation.
With approximately 90 days left in the deployment, Col. Sullivan broke down his brigades goals in two parts: making a final push to support its Afghan partners, and moving its coverage area to a singular regional location.
Were doing all we can to get them ready, Col. Sullivan said.