What has been described as the most significant operation conducted yet by the Afghan National Army (ANA) in Helmand has now concluded, driving a wedge through the heart of Taliban operations in Gereshk.
Operation OMID CHAR (‘Hope Four’ in English) was planned and led by 3rd Brigade, 215 Corps of the ANA, and supported by British mentors from the 1st Battalion Irish Guards.
The focus of the operation was to build a better security posture and increase the presence and influence of the Afghan Government in the area; aims which have now been achieved.
The operation began with a push through the village of Saidan towards an area which had been designated for the construction of an ANA patrol base. Things started on a negative note when, on the first day, four Afghan soldiers were injured in an IED blast. But this setback was quickly overcome and, as the four-week operation continued, the pace of progress increased.
Captain Ashley Hough, a Royal Gurkha Rifles officer attached to the Irish Guards as part of the British mentoring team, explained:
The first day, we found a lot of improvised explosive devices going through Saidan and we had one IED strike. That didn’t slow us down too much though, and the ANA were actually excellent. We extracted the casualties and they carried straight on, so we were up onto the hill exactly as planned.
The Afghans also demonstrated their developing capabilities in the construction phase. Over the course of the operation, two groups of engineers, including Brits and Afghans, built a 100-man patrol base and two 15-man outposts, as well as improving 2km of road leading to the base.
Captain Hough added:
I see the next couple of months being spent getting to know the locals, getting to know the ground, understanding the dynamics of what’s going on here, where the Taliban are and how we can isolate them from the population.
ANA company commander, Captain Mohammad Tahir, said:
This is a very important security position for the Gereshk district. If we build a strong security presence in this region, we will be able to provide better security for the Gereshk district and stop the Taliban traffic through the area.
I think the future is very bright for us because of the continued support of the people in the area and because of the determination our soldiers are having in building security.
Planning is now underway for the next Afghan National Security Forces-led operation, which will reinforce and expand the Afghan security presence and take the development of the Afghan forces to the next level.