Artillerymen from the Afghan National Army Artillery Battery, 4th Kandak, 2nd Infantry Brigade, 203rd ANA Corps, fire the D-30 howitzer for the first time during a training exercise at Forward Operating Base Sharana on Feb. 9. U.S. Army photo/Spc. Zack Burke.
Under the auspices of a “howitzer donation program,” the NATO Headquarters Sarajevo Commander, US Army Brigadier General Gary Huffman, attended a ceremony on July 25 at which the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (AFBiH) prepared to ship the first eight of 60 pieces of heavy firepower — the 122-mm Howitzer D-30 platform — to the Afghan National Army (ANA). The obligation of these howitzers was established in October 2009, and all remaining artillery pieces are to be delivered by the end of 2011. In what is a recycling program of war material from one theater to another, NATO highlighted the transfer of artillery in a recent presser:
A team of United States contractors working with the BiH organization UNIS Group, joined forces with the AFBiH to completely restore and recondition sixty of the AFBiH’s 122-mm Howitzer D-30 weapons for donation to the ANA. This feat not only reduces BIH’s surplus ammunition stockpiles, but also bolsters the ANA’s ability to protect their nation and provide a safer and more secure future. Additionally, these weapons have been refurbished locally in BiH, which provides much needed jobs and economic stimulus.
While the arrival date of the recycled D-30’s remains unknown at the moment, it is likely the D-30’s will be divided among the ANA Training Command (ANATC) and its Afghan National Defense University (artillery school) which should come online in September, and among the various combat service support battalions [see The Long War Journal‘s Afghan Security Forces Order of Battle (OOB)]. The training cycle for the artillery school typically lasts 90 days, according to NATO, and auxiliary training on the D-30 system has been conducted throughout the eastern province of Paktika since earlier this year.
NATO’s announcement regarding the delivery of the D-30 howitzers is no doubt welcome news to the Afghan government and security forces positioned along the rugged border shared with Pakistan. Since late May, Pakistan has shelled eastern Afghan border towns located in Khost; Nangarhar (Ghowshta district – Allakhel, Tareli, and Lakarai villages); Paktia (Dand va Patan district); and Kunar (Shigal, Sarkanay, Khas Kunar (Shankor village), Naray (Sawh village), and Dangam districts). The New York Times reported on July 3 that Pakistani rocket and artillery shells have killed 42 Afghans and wounded 48 in three provinces of eastern Afghanistan since late May.
The Afghan Border Police Commander in charge of the eastern zone, Brigadier General Aminullah Amarkhel, resigned on June 30, saying he remained “extremely disillusioned by the government response” and NATO’s lack of acknowledgment of the situation. Prior to Amarkhel’s resignation, Brigadier General Ewaz Mohammad Naziri, the police chief of Kunar province, where over 520 Pakistani artillery shells struck in June alone, demanded that President Karzai allow him and his forces to respond militarily to the incoming artillery onslaught. Naziri said that 10 Afghan civilians were killed and two children were injured in a late night Pakistani artillery attack on June 20. Three days later, Afghan Border Police, without the permission of President Karzai, launched a series of nighttime attacks against Pakistani checkpoints that were established in the Ghowshta district of Nangarhar Province.
Pakistan has denied the allegations of recklessly shelling the Afghan frontier, claiming that a few errant shells might have landed in Afghan territory, but argued that Afghan militants have been rampaging garrison towns in northwestern Pakistan since May. General Amarkhel responded to Pakistan’s response regarding errant shells, telling The New York Times: “One or 2 or 10 rounds, yes that could be if they were chasing the Taliban…But how come 800 rounds? So it seems they are intentionally targeting our innocent people.”