Security Forces Assistance ends for Afghan Army tolais in Helmand province; engineer tolai stands on their own
By Gunnery Sgt. Joshua Higgins
| II Marine Expeditionary Force | June 12, 2013
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan --
The last of the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps tolais, or companies, will conduct operations without direct Coalition Security Forces Assistance support after a lift-off ceremony June 5, here.
Royal Army soldiers with the British Army’s 4 Rifles, Brigade Advisory Group, Kandak Advisor Team 40, held the ceremony to signify the end of hands-on support to Engineering Tolai, 4th Combat Support Kandak, 3rd Brigade, 215th Corps. All SFA provided to units within the 215th Corps is now conducted only at the kandak, or battalion, level or higher.
The lift-off is part of a Regional Command (Southwest) plan to move toward SFA at the brigade level or higher by the end of 2013.
Royal Engineers Capt. Selwyn Fisher, an engineer from 22 Engineer Regiment serving with Kandak Advisor Team 40, said the tolai has been ready to stand on their own for some time and the ceremony only made it official.
“(The Afghan engineers) have made a lot of progress since we arrived here but they have taken it upon themselves to be more independent to conduct their own operations,” said Fisher.
The tolai is responsible for engineering, and in some cases security, throughout an area approximately 25 square kilometers in size and lies about five kilometers northeast of Lashkar Gah. The soldiers’ capabilities include route clearance and construction and building security structures such as checkpoints and watchtowers. The engineers’ most recent project involved stripping out a checkpoint and improving it, building new HESCO walls and two new watchtowers.
The engineers’ abilities stem from many years of training with Coalition Forces. The adviser teams’ roles throughout the years have been to advise the tolai on all engineering aspects in terms of operational preparation and support and planning, said Fisher, whose team has also been teaching the soldiers tactics such as map reading and improvised explosive device detection.
“The (engineer) training has been very useful for us and is very important,” said ANA Capt. Mirza Mohammad, commander of the tolai, of the support Fisher and other advisers have provided since the tolai formed six years ago. “I’m very proud of my men” for their accomplishments, he said.
Mohammad said thanks to the continued partnership with Coalition Forces and the support of his ANA superiors, the tolai is about 99 percent self-sufficient. But the area in which he and his soldiers will need continued support is logistics and resources. The tolai has relied on Coalition support for building materials and equipment maintenance.
“I have a lot of confidence in the tolai’s skillset and capability, but the area we need to focus on now is their resources chain,” said Fisher. “We’ll advise and prompt them so they can start doing that on their own, too.”
Brigadier Gen. George W. Smith, deputy commander Security Forces Assistance, RC (Southwest), addressed the importance of continued logistical support to Afghan National Security Forces in a recent letter to adviser teams.
“I believe one of the absolute keys to guarantee ANSF success this fighting season is ensuring they maintain logistics over-match against the insurgency,” he wrote. “This will likely be the single-most important factor in demonstrating our commitment to the ANSF.”