Afghan Army clears area of IEDs

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Afghan National Army's first major operation this spring has resulted in the clearance of improvised explosive devices from a 25-square-kilometre area and the recovery of three weapons caches.

Operation SHAFUQ (which means ‘dawn’ in Pashtu) is a large-scale Afghan National Army (ANA) operation to clear the Bowri Dashte area of Nad ‘Ali. The operation was conceived, planned and executed by the ANA, with on-the-ground advice provided by British soldiers.

More than 600 warriors from the ANA and 170 International Security Assistance Force advisors, including British soldiers from the Brigade Advisory Group, have been involved in the operation.

The ISAF advisors include soldiers from 3rd Battalion The Rifles and 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment.

The mission began with the clearance of an area known as the ‘Shark’s Fin’. Afghan Explosive Hazard Reduction Teams took the lead in defeating improvised explosive devices found with guidance and mentoring from UK specialists.

One of the Afghan soldiers involved was bomb disposal expert Sergeant Gulbuddin.

Corporal Neal Griffiths, from the Airborne Troop of 49 Squadron, 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), is in the team responsible for training ANA bomb disposal operators. He said:

Sergeant Gulbuddin is fearless, eager to learn, and the natural leader in the group. I’d definitely have him in the Airborne Troop!

Over the course of the operation, more than 25 square kilometres were cleared and three weapons caches recovered, including over 10 kilograms of high explosives. The soldiers involved walked 10 kilometres a day on average, carrying some 59kg.

Operation SHAFUQ is the Afghan Army’s first major mission of this spring and lays the foundations for suppressing insurgent attempts at mounting an offensive over the summer.

Brigadier Doug Chalmers, Commander Task Force Helmand, said:

The insurgency believed that they could operate throughout this area with impunity. The success of this operation clearly demonstrates that they cannot. Despite insurgent promises to defeat the Afghan National Security Forces, there was hardly a fight, a difference between word and deed noticed by those who live in the district.

Brigadier Sherin Shah, the men of 3/215 Brigade and the police worked closely to ensure the safety of the local people as they drove the insurgents from the area. Their approach and level of care is in stark contrast to the insurgent, who had relied on intimidation to dominate the local population.