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ANSF, TF Iron Soldiers hunt down, capture elusive Taliban commander

 

Written by U.S. Army 1st Lt. R. J. Peek
3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment

Fort Campbell KY, 101st Airborne Division Patch187th Infantry Regiment - Iron RakkasansPaktika Province, Afghanistan – After months of relentless pursuit and numerous combat operations, security forces in Ghazni Province finally tracked down and captured an elusive insurgent commander, responsible for dozens of attacks on coalition forces and local Afghans.

U.S. and Afghan security forces worked together in a joint operation and captured the Taliban commander, known only as Attullah, in the early morning hours of August 31st. The powerful leader was discovered cowering in the wall of a house.

Attullah has a long history of insurgency. He has conducted a variety of insurgent operations throughout Paktika Province, and is believed to be responsible for the attack that killed U.S. Army Sgt. Vincent Owens in March 2010.

Soldiers from Company C, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division patrol the Sharana Bazaar Aug. 21 st in West Paktika Province. The Rakkasan Soldiers are part of Task Force Iron who recently caught a Taliban commander responsible for dozens of attacks on coalition forces and local Afghans. (Photo by U.S. Army Spc. Lorenzo Ware, 982nd Combat Camera Co.)

Soldiers from Company C, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division patrol the Sharana Bazaar Aug. 21 st in West Paktika Province. The Rakkasan Soldiers are part of Task Force Iron who recently caught a Taliban commander responsible for dozens of attacks on coalition forces and local Afghans. (Photo by U.S. Army Spc. Lorenzo Ware, 982nd Combat Camera Co.)

Although Attullah commanded insurgent forces operating mostly in the Yosef Khel District of Paktika Province, he also conducted operations ranging from Zarghun Shar District to the Mata Khan District. 

Insurgents operating under his guidance often emplaced deadly improvised explosive devices, and conducted attacks with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, recoilless rifles, machine guns and AK-47 rifles.

His fighters were known to target district centers and bazaars, where his attacks killed and wounded dozens of local Afghans, including women and children.

“Task Force Iron Rakkasan has aggressively tracked the movements of Attullah since the battalion first assumed combat operations in West Paktika Province,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Marcus Smith, operations officer and native of Volant, PA, assigned to 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment. “On multiple occasions, our intelligence reports would pinpoint Attullah’s location, and we would immediately launch an air assault operation to catch him.”

Despite their best efforts, the determined Soldiers seemed to miss Attullah time after time.

After several weeks of pursuit, Attullah went into hiding in neighboring Pakistan, hoping U.S. forces would give up the hunt. 

Two rockets sit hidden in a stand of trees, poised to strike Forward Operating Base Sharana. The rockets were discovered and destroyed recently, and the man responsible, Taliban commander Attullah, was captured in a joint operation with Soldiers from Task Force Iron and Afghan security forces.  (U.S. Army courtesy photo)

Two rockets sit hidden in a stand of trees, poised to strike Forward Operating Base Sharana. The rockets were discovered and destroyed recently, and the man responsible, Taliban commander Attullah, was captured in a joint operation with Soldiers from Task Force Iron and Afghan security forces. (U.S. Army courtesy photo)

By mid-August, Attullah was back in Afghanistan and began rallying insurgents against the coalition forces once again. One of his first orders of business was planning a rocket attack on FOB Sharana. Fortunately, nearly 50 Afghan Uniform Police with the assistance of Soldiers from 3rd Bn, 187th Inf. Reg., thwarted the attack by locating and destroying the rockets.

After the planned attack on FOB Sharana, many concerned local Afghans came to Afghan National Security Forces to express their concerns over Attullah’s renewed presence and his leadership position in northern Paktika.

The hunt for Attullah was on again.

In the early morning hours of August 31st, U.S. forces received several reports of Attullah’s location.

Determined to net the slippery leader, TF Iron rapidly initiated an air assault operation, and mobilized ground forces and additional assets to ensure their success. 

As the Afghan and U.S. forces were thoroughly searching the targeted house, they found a clear tube protruding from one of the walls. When they pulled a pile of pillows away from the wall, they found Attullah cowering in a hole hidden in the wall. 

“It was a great feat to capture this volatile insurgent,” said Afghan Brig. Gen. Muhammad Yaseem, chief of the Afghan National Directorate of Security. “We will continue our operations against the remains of his insurgent cell as well as any insurgent that attempts to replace Attullah.”

Everyone on the operation seemed to breathe a sigh of relief at the news of Attullah’s capture.

“Attullah intentionally tried to hide from security forces and slip away like he had done many times before, but this time we prevailed,” said Smith.  “Security forces successfully removed a very dangerous insurgent from the battlefield and brought significant improvement to the security of Paktika Province and to the people who live and work here.”


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