British soldiers and their partners in the Afghan National Police have re-established government control in an area of Helmand province previously under heavy Taliban influence following an operation which began with a helicopter insertion.
Operation ZMARAY KARGHA (‘Lion Falcon’ in English) saw soldiers from D Company of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (5 SCOTS), and members of the Afghan National Police (ANP) win over the local population and drive out insurgents in the area of Hoorzai.
The aim of the operation was to connect with the local population, taking advantage of British air insertion capabilities, but using the police as the ‘Afghan face’ of the operation. Locals had complained that the area had been heavily infiltrated by insurgents in the past and many considered it to be under the control of the insurgents.
The patrol was flown into the area by two Chinook helicopters which inserted the partnered forces just north of the Kosh Kawa River.
Upon landing, the patrol moved towards local compounds in the area where it was warmly greeted by a local farmer and his two sons. In a positive sign of local attitudes, the farmers offered the patrol ‘chai’ (local Afghan tea) and told them what they knew about the area.
From there the 5 SCOTS soldiers and the Afghan police moved on to the nearby village of Koshk Abeh.
Although the village at first appeared to be empty, when the police announced that they wished to have a ‘shura’ (a traditional Afghan meeting), locals soon appeared from all directions, eager to speak to the police and British troops.
As a result, the ANP were able to talk to many influential local elders, the mullah (the village’s religious leader) and the mirab (a local elder who is responsible for the distribution of water in the village).
Following the shura, the patrol headed north, back towards their home base, Patrol Base Attal. At this stage the insurgents, who up to now had laid low, finally decided to put up a fight, and the patrol came under long-range but ineffective fire.
It is believed that this exchange demonstrated to the locals that the insurgents were scared of the ANP and their ability to provide security. It also demonstrated to the people that through the concept of ‘tactical patience’, the ANP and ISAF are unwilling to get drawn into unnecessary fire fights which could potentially damage local buildings.
Major Nick Wight-Boycott, Officer Commanding D Company, 5 SCOTS, said:
This was a very successful operation. We used minimal force but achieved maximum effect, and the local population were impressed with the professionalism of the Afghan National Police.
The ANP were vital for this mission as they are the face of the Government and must be seen by the people as a force to protect them. It was quite clear, not only to us but also to the local people, that the insurgents considered the Afghan National Police as a force to be reckoned with and would rather flee than try to fight them.
One local man from the area said after the shura:
It was great to see the ANP and ISAF forces in the area. We hope to see them again in the future.