Security and governance have been brought to a previously contested area east of Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, following the first operation in the district to have been entirely planned and led by the Afghan National Police (ANP).
Operation ZMARAY ATTAL 4 (Lion’s Hero 4) saw officers enter a Taliban-occupied area that has seen little presence in the past of the Afghan forces or authorities.
The operation was backed by troops from Delta Company, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (5 SCOTS), but the ANP’s conduct was so professional and competent that the British troops had little more to do than simply turn up and watch.
The operation was part of a wider ANP drive towards more expansive operations in the area, crushing insurgent havens and bringing security and governance for local people.
Op ZMARAY ATTAL 4 was launched on the back of information from locals, gathered by ANP patrols on and around Route 601, a key route enabling trade and movement between Helmand and neighbouring Kandahar province.
As a result of the intelligence, local police chief Colonel Sattar and his officers believed some of the compounds to the south of their Sakar Wala checkpoint may have been used by the Taliban to hide improvised explosive devices, weapons and narcotics. The ANP and 5 SCOTS forces set off in the early hours to investigate.
Led by Colonel Sattar and his 60 Afghan policemen, the UK presence on the patrol was minimal, with additional support available if required, but the 5 SCOTS troops took a back seat, allowing Colonel Sattar to direct his men alone. Two Warrior armoured fighting vehicles and a multiple of 12 men to support the ANP were all that was provided.
The operation passed without any contacts or major finds, with clear indications that the ANP’s highly visible patrols in the area, and growing support for the police amongst local people, have driven the insurgents from yet another population area.
There was, however, one find of note during the searches conducted - a sawn-off shotgun, which has been passed back to the forensic department at ANP headquarters for analysis.
The operation was hailed as a major success because, for D Company, it proved that their training and mentoring is achieving results. The ANP proved that they were capable of conducting cordon and search operations, using the cover of darkness to surround their objective and provide all-round defence, limiting the options of the insurgents to attack them.
Major Nick Wight-Boycott, Officer Commanding D Company, 5 SCOTS, said:
This operation was a significant landmark for the ANP - our sole input was to turn up. The Afghans are clearly putting into practice what we have been demonstrating to them over recent months. It is very satisfying to see Colonel Sattar and his men have the confidence to operate effectively.
Security in this area is now visible and the locals are happy to openly support the Government of Afghanistan, safe in the knowledge that they are protected from the Taliban by the ANP. Quite simply, the insurgents are running out of places to live and operate.
D Company, 5 SCOTS, are currently on a six-month tour of Afghanistan. They are part of Combined Force Lashkar Gah, partnered with the ANP, with responsibility for protecting the local population and ensuring that they have a responsible and accountable police force.
The 5 SCOTS troops also assist the ANP in gathering information on insurgents operating in the area and conducting operations to ensure that the Taliban are unable to hinder the locals’ daily lives.