Bill Ardolino, from the indispensable Long War Journal, is in Afghanistan and sat down with the man responsible for the area in the East infested with members of the Haqqani Network.
"Enemy number one" is the Haqqani Network, according to Major General Daniel Allyn, Commanding General of the First Cavalry Division and Combined Joint-Task Force 1 in Bagram, the headquarters component of RC East. But Allyn is quick to point out that the Haqqanis constitute only one particularly dangerous element in a kaleidoscope of ideological insurgents and criminal enterprises causing insecurity in his AO. He counts eight main ideological insurgent groups, among them the Haqqanis, the Taliban centered around Highway 1 (a main supply artery), and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-i-Islami faction. Augmenting these destabilizing elements are four principal "criminal enterprise networks" engaged in hijacking supplies, taxing civilians, illicit drugs, or merely insurgency-for-hire.
This reporter sat down with Major General Allyn for an interview about the trajectory of RC East, the nature of the insurgency, and the execution of his mission. A West Point graduate and Silver Star awardee with commands ranging from infantry to mechanized warfare, many of them in combat zones, Allyn describes his current assignment as one of the most "complex" in his military career.
The Long War Journal: Can you describe to me your area of operations and your mission, from a high-level perspective?
[Major General Allyn conducted an extensive briefing of multiple aspects of RC East, much of it summarized above, before turning to his definition of the mission.]
Major General Daniel Allyn: In terms of what our mission is, I like to spell it out in really four things we must do to achieve the mission we've been given from COM ISAF and COM IJC: first and foremost, we've got to expand the Kabul security Zone, generally defined by [an oblong circle surrounding] the Kabul Bowl. We've expanded this ... probably 30 kilometers down into central Logar and central-eastern Wardak from 1 June to 1 August, basically. So our purpose is to expand the Kabul Security Zone to encompass the majority of Logar, the majority of eastern Wardak, and down as far south as Ghazni City.
In order to accomplish this mission, we must concurrently win the border fight with our Afghan security partners along the border with Pakistan. As I mentioned, the border runs 450 kilometers, we're frankly focused on about the southern 375, in terms of the main crossing points that the insurgents attempt to use. And we have an "attack zone in-depth" that runs from the border all the way to the edge of the Kabul Security Zone, and the purpose is to interdict insurgent infiltration that is trying to get into and disrupt the Kabul Security Zone. It's the number two mission, but it is of equal priority with the first [mission], because you can't [expand security around Kabul] without concurrently [interdicting the border]. Because of the terrain, everything feeds into Wardak and Logar. And one of the reasons that we're having a tough fight in central Logar and Wardak is because that's where they're all trying to get. So one of the metrics of success is are we able to defeat them in Wardak and Logar and prevent them from having any effects in Kabul. [The two provinces are] something of a catcher's mitt in terms of preventing them from getting to their goal [in Kabul].