Afghan Security Forces learn to deal with blast aftermath

News and Press Release
Originally published
ISAF Joint Command Public Affairs

KABUL, Afghanistan - While makeshift bombs are one of the top killers of coalition forces in Afghanistan, the devices take a far greater toll on average Afghans.

In one incident in September, 30 Afghans died when the bus they were riding in struck a roadside bomb planted on a main road in Kandahar Province. Insurgents likely were not targeting the bus, but the devices are indiscriminate - many are triggered by vehicles rolling over them - and plentiful.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Sunday that his country's troops, which operate in the same region of the country, find an average of one such device every two hours.

That's why Afghan forces being trained to take over the security of their country are learning how to identify and counter makeshift bombs - known in military circles as "improvised explosive devices."

"Partnering and training Afghan National Security Forces enables Afghanistan to have the capability, so we can leave the country," said U.S. Army Col. Scott Henry, a Michigan native and chief of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command's Counter-IED branch.

In recent training scenarios, Henry's branch, along with the European Union Police, trained Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Directorate of Security personnel to control the scene after a blast.

"The key thing that we're getting here is interaction between ANSF. That's the most valuable part of the exercise - how they communicate together and deal with obstacles, such as people or the press," Canadian Navy Cmdr. Robert Watt, the IJC's counter-IED training chief, said.

Watt said controlling a scene and putting together a cordon seems simple but needs to be practiced.

After a real-world suicide car bomb struck an ISAF convoy in Kabul in August, Afghan police struggled to keep the press and passersby from wandering onto the scene.

The exercise included a similar incident, and as a surprise, secondary bombs were placed at the scene - a tactic the insurgency has started to use more frequently.

"One of the key things we try to do is bring recent incidents that we've picked up in the battlefield or city and tie and thread them in the entire event," Henry said.

With all scenarios and obstacles in place the three Afghan units worked together in conducting a post scene investigation, while trainers watched and assessed from the sidelines.

"It's good to get all the agencies talking," Henry said. "We've got a lot of experience on our side for controlling scenes, but it's important for them to do their investigations in incidents that don't involve us at all."

"The quicker we can get at this problem and give them the expertise to run their country, the better," Henry said.