ARCHIVED - Joint Task Force Afghanistan

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Joint Task Force Afghanistan comprised all Canadian Armed Forces assets deployed in southwest Asia on Operation ARGUS (September 2005-August 2008), Operation ARCHER (July 2005-August 2009) and Operation ATHENA (July 2003-December 2011). Its established strength was 2,830 personnel, of whom all but 15 to 25 were deployed on Operation ATHENA. The task force was periodically augmented by CAF personnel deployed temporarily on technical assistance visits and similar assignments, so the actual strength of the task force could be above establishment on any given day.

On 30 November 2010, when the last combat rotation of Operation ATHENA (Rotation 10) was fully deployed, Joint Task Force Afghanistan comprised the following units:

  • At Kandahar Airfield:
    • Joint Task Force Afghanistan Headquarters, which was also the headquarters of Task Force Kandahar
    • the Canadian contingent at COMKAF (Commander, Kandahar Airfield)
    • the Canadian contingent at ISAF Regional Command (South) Headquarters
    • Task Force Kandahar, part of ISAF RC (South)
    • the Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing
    • the National Support Element (NSE)
  • In Kabul:
    • the Canadian contingent at ISAF Headquarters
    • the military liaison staff at the Embassy of Canada
    • a detachment of the NSE

Headquarters units

Joint Task Force Afghanistan / Task Force Kandahar Headquarters

Task Force Commander: Brigadier-General Dean J. Milner

The headquarters unit of Joint Task Force Afghanistan had two functions:

In the Canadian Armed Forces chain of command, it was the coordinating link between the units of Joint Task Force Afghanistan and Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) Headquarters in Ottawa. It was also responsible for the delivery of logistics and administrative support to the units and personnel of Joint Task Force Afghanistan.

In the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) chain of command, it was the command and control headquarters of Task Force Kandahar, the brigade-level formation conducting the ISAF mission in Kandahar Province under ISAF Regional Command (South).

Joint Task Force Afghanistan / Task Force Kandahar Headquarters was located at Kandahar Airfield.

Canadian contingent, ISAF Headquarters

Located in downtown Kabul and comprising some 1,700 personnel from 42 nations, ISAF Headquarters is the unit responsible for operational command of the International Security Assistance Force, itself made up of five Regional Commands located across Afghanistan. Staff at ISAF Headquarters work with every level of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and its security agencies, and with all the international governmental and non-governmental organizations that support the Afghan government and assist with reconstruction, in particular the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

During Roto 10 of Operation ATHENA, about 60 Canadian Armed Forces members worked at ISAF Headquarters.

Canadian contingent, COMKAF

Commander, Kandahar Airfield (COMKAF) is the Base Commander and Senior Airport Authority at Kandahar Airfield, which was formally designed a NATO Air Point of Debarkation (APOD) on 31 July 2007. As Base Commander, COMKAF is responsible for housing, feeding and policing a coalition garrison of some 10,000 personnel. As Senior Airport Authority, COMKAF operates the airfield itself, which is both a civilian airport and a military airhead. Base support functions and airfield operations employ some 600 military personnel from across the NATO alliance and 1,000 civilians.

During Roto 10 of Operation ATHENA, COMKAF Headquarters included about 35 Canadian Armed Forces air personnel distributed through most of the staff branches.

Regional Command (South) Headquarters

Commander: Major-General James L. Terry

With about 35,000 troops from 17 nations, Regional Command (South) is the ISAF formation covering the provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul. In a transfer of command authority held at Kandahar Airfield on 3 November 2010, MGen James L. Terry of the U.S. Army and his staff replaced MGen Nick Carter of Britain and his staff, ending a five-year practice of rotating the command among Britain, Canada and the Netherlands.

Both the command and control headquarters and the forward support base of ISAF RC (South) are located at Kandahar Airfield. During Roto 10 of Operation ATHENA, MGen Terry's multinational headquarters staff includes about 165 Canadians.

Task Force Kandahar

Task Force Kandahar was the brigade-level formation conducting the ISAF mission in Kandahar Province under ISAF Regional Command (South). It comprised the Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams (OMLTs), a Canadian Armed Forces battle group (a land force formation comprising a full infantry battalion augmented by artillery, armour and engineers), three U.S. Army battalions, an engineer regiment and a signals squadron.

1 R22eR Battle Group

Commanding Officer: Lieutenant-Colonel Michel-Henri St-Louis
Regimental Sergeant-Major: Adjudant-chef ric Gravel

The 1st Battalion Royal 22e Rgiment (1 R22eR) Battle Group was the 10th Canadian battle group deployed (Rotation 10) in Kandahar Province to operate as part of the Multi-National Brigade in ISAF Regional Command (South). Like its predecessors, the 1 R22eR Battle Group was formed in Canada and prepared for its tour of duty through months of individual and collective training.

The mission of the 1 R22eR Battle Group was to provide security through counter-insurgency operations throughout Panjwa'i District southwest of Kandahar City in partnership with the Afghan national security forces.

The 1 R22eR Battle Group comprised the following regimental sub-units:

  • From the 1st Battalion, Royal 22e Rgiment, in Valcartier, Quebec:
    • Battalion Headquarters (Command Company),
    • A Company,
    • B Company,
    • C Company, and
  • Administration Company;
  • Para Company from the 3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, in Valcartier;
  • X Battery from the 5e Regiment d'artillerie lgre du Canada in Valcartier;
  • From the 12e Regiment blind du Canada in Valcartier:
    • A Squadron (Reconnaissance), mounted in Coyote armoured reconnaissance vehicles,
    • C Squadron (Armour), mounted in Leopard C2 main battle tanks; and
    • 52 Field Squadron from 5 Combat Engineer Regiment in Valcartier.

U.S. Army units

The following units of the U.S. Army were deployed in Kandahar Province under Canadian operational control as part of Task Force Kandahar:

  • 1st Battalion of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (1-508 PIR, the "Red Devils"), part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82 Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, North Carolina;
  • 1st Squadron of the 71st Cavalry Regiment (1-71 Cav, the "Ghost Squadron"), part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, New York, and
  • 97th Military Police Battalion, from Fort Riley, Kansas.

Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams

Commander: Colonel Hercule Gosselin

From August 2006 to June 2010, Canadian Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams (OMLTs) worked with the 1st Brigade, 205 Corps, Afghan National Army (1/205 ANA), the ANA formation responsible for Kandahar Province.

In June 2010, the 1/205 consists of a brigade headquarters and seven units (called kandaks) about the size of a Canadian infantry battalion:

  • five infantry kandaks,
  • one combat support kandak made up of artillery, engineer and reconnaissance companies, and
  • one administrative kandak providing maintenance and communications services.

The OMLTs of Rotation 10, which arrived in November 2010, comprised about 200 experienced soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment in Valcartier, and Regular and Reserve Force units across Land Force Quebec Area.

Task Force Kandahar Engineer Regiment

Commander: Lieutenant-Colonel Mark Misener

Comprising all engineer assets in Task Force Kandahar not assigned to the Battle Group, the TFK Engineer Regiment was responsible for:

  • developing and implementing defences against explosive ordnance and improvised explosive devices;
  • planning and managing construction projects executed by Afghan contractors; and
  • all other construction and engineering work the task force required.

The TFK Engineer Regiment comprised the following sub-units:

  • Engineer Support Coordination Centre (regimental headquarters), made up of personnel from 2 Combat Engineer Regiment in Petawawa, Ontario
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal Squadron, made up of counter-IED experts primarily from 5 Combat Engineer Regiment in Valcartier;
  • Engineer Construction Squadron, made up of personnel from field and construction engineering squadrons across Canada; and
  • Engineer Support Squadron, made up of personnel from across Canada.

Task Force Kandahar Signals Squadron

Commander: Lieutenant-Colonel Chris McGuffin

The Task Force Kandahar Signals Squadron was responsible for the installation, operation and maintenance of tactical and strategic communications equipment throughout the TFK area of operations, and for support systems that combat improvised explosive devices.

The Task Force Kandahar Signals Squadron was made up of the following troops:

  • Headquarters Troop, comprising the squadron's command element, Operations staff, and integral headquarters support such as the quartermaster and the orderly room staff;
  • Communication and Information Systems Troop, to install, operate and maintain tactical command and control and counter-IED systems throughout the area of operations;
  • National Command Control Information Systems Troop, to provide strategic communications, national-level information systems and rear link-back to Canada; and
  • The Signals Support Coordination Centre, to advise the Task Force Commander on all aspects of communications and handle signals planning for Task Force Kandahar.

Civil-Military Co-operation assets

A specialty of the Reserve component of the Canadian Armed Forces, civil-military co-operation (CIMIC) is the military function that links the Task Force Commander to civilians in the TFK area of operations. CIMIC tasks range from liaison with international aid agencies and local government officials to consulting village elders about the needs of their communities and co-ordinating the distribution of humanitarian aid.

Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing

Commander: Colonel Al Meinzinger

The Joint Task Force Afghanistan Air Wing - known in Afghanistan as "Task Force Silver Dart" - comprised all Canadian Armed Forces air assets deployed in the southwest Asia theatre of operations. It stood up at Kandahar Airfield on 6 December 2008 with the 200 personnel deployed with the Tactical UAV Flight, the Tactical Aviation Unit and the Theatre Support Element, and grew to its established strength of 450 personnel with the acquisition of CH-147 Chinook D helicopters from the U.S. Army, and the deployment from Canada of CU-170 Heron UAVs and CH-146 Griffon helicopters.

The Air Wing's helicopters transported troops and cargo, thus reducing the requirement for ground convoys that exposed troops to ambushes, land mines and improvised explosive devices. Its Heron UAVs were leased as an interim measure to provide long-range, high-quality intelligence-gathering, reconnaissance and surveillance (ISR) capabilities in support of ground operations in Afghanistan while the project to acquire a long-term joint UAV continued in Canada.

The JTF-Afg Air Wing was made up of the following sub-units:

  • The Tactical Aviation Unit ('Task Force Canuck"), conducting personnel and cargo transport missions throughout the area of operations from Kandahar Airfield, with three CC-130 Hercules transport aircraft and crews from 8 Wing Trenton, Ontario;
  • The Canadian Helicopter Force Afghanistan ("Task Force Freedom"), operating from Kandahar Airfield, including:
    • Eight CH-146 Griffon utility transport tactical helicopters, with crews and ground staff from 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in the Edmonton garrison, to escort transport helicopters and ground convoys, and to conduct light transport missions,
    • Six CH-147 Chinook D medium to heavy-lift helicopters, with crews and ground staff from helicopter squadrons across Canada, to conduct personnel and cargo transport missions, and
    • Six Mi8 medium-lift helicopters chartered with their flight crews and ground staff from Sky Link Aviation of Toronto; and
    • The Canadian Heron UAV Detachment ("Task Force Erebus"), providing intelligence-gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) services in support of Task Force Kandahar and ISAF Regional Command (South), equipped with the CU-170 Heron UAV.

Military Police Company and the Police OMLT

The Military Police Company at Kandahar Airfield was made up of three platoons:

  • 1 Platoon, providing Military Police members to the Police OMLT;
  • 2 Platoon, providing policing and criminal investigation services to Joint Task Force Afghanistan; and
  • 3 Platoon, providing close protection for prominent individuals such as the Task Force Commander.

Personnel from the Military Police Company deployed from Military Police detachments across Canada.

The first Police OMLT (P-OMLT) was formed in August 2007 to advise, mentor and assist district-level leaders of the Afghan National Police, reinforce professional development efforts, and bring the ANP to a level of proficiency at which it could operate independently. By the end of Operation ATHENA, P-OMLT mentor teams were working throughout the Task Force Kandahar area of responsibility. The 60 personnel of the P-OMLT, who came from both the OMLT and the Military Police Company, worked with ANP checkpoints and patrols in the field.

Health Services Unit

Commander: Commander Peter Clifford

The Health Services Unit (HSU), with about 200 personnel, provided the Canadian manoeuvre units of Task Force Kandahar with medical staff for Unit Medical Aid Stations and medical technicians integrated into infantry, armour, artillery, and engineer units. At Kandahar Airfield, the HSU also operated a Role 1 primary-care clinic, and provided medical staff to the Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit (MMU), a fully functional field hospital.

The medical staff of the manoeuvre units and the Role 1 facility came from 5e Ambulance de campagne in Valcartier and from Regular and Reserve Force medical units across Canada.

As well as physicians, nurses and medical technicians to deliver patient services, the HSU included the following specialists:

  • Preventive medicine technicians, to monitor the quality of water, food, air, soil, and other potential sources of environmental threats to health, and provide services related to pest-control and prevention of infection;
  • The National Medical Liaison Officer, who tracked the progress of all Joint Task Force Afghanistan and Task Force Kandahar patients, including members of the U.S. units, who were admitted to the Role 3 MMU; and
  • The Bioscience Liaison Officer, who analyzed the performance of CAF personal protective equipment in cases of combat-related casualties as part of the Battle Injury Mitigation Program.

National Support Element

Commander: Lieutenant-Colonel Sbastien Bouchard

The National Support Element (NSE) delivered the full range of logistics and equipment maintenance services to units and personnel of Joint Task Force Afghanistan, and supported security, governance and development operations in Kandahar Province. Built on a large core of soldiers from the Valcartier garrison, especially 5 Canadian Service Battalion, the NSE also included Regular Force soldiers and civilians from across Canada, and a large Reserve component from Land Force Quebec Area, the "Army in Quebec."

Among its other duties, the NSE provided combat supplies and general and technical stores, movement and transportation support, vehicle and equipment maintenance, contracts management, convoy escorts, and security assistance to COMKAF.

The NSE consisted of the following sub-units:

  • NSE Headquarters;
  • Logistics Operations Centre;
  • Supply and Transportation Company;
  • Maintenance Company;
  • Force Protection and Camp Services Company;
  • Contracts Management Section;
  • Civilian employees of the Canadian Armed Forces Personnel Support Agency;
  • Private-sector civilian specialists deployed under the Canadian Armed Forces Contractor Augmentation Program; and
  • A Kabul detachment.
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