News story

British and Afghan forces bring security to Nahr-e Saraj

Progress towards greater security has moved apace in the Nahr-e Saraj area of Helmand province thanks to the combined efforts of British and Afghan forces.

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B Company, 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (1 PWRR), serving as part of Combined Force Nahr-e Saraj (South), have been working closely with the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) during their tour, to bring about a significant improvement in the security of their area of operations.

When B Company arrived in Nahr-e Saraj in October 2011, they came under regular attack from the insurgents while out on patrol. But by working with Afghan forces on relentless patrolling, and the establishment of two new checkpoints, they have been able to significantly reduce the insurgency in the area.

Royal Marines Captain Luke Wheeler, is the Company Second-in-Command. The 25-year-old officer said:

Relentless patrolling in dangerous ground has actually reduced the threat. The deterrent we provide, and the relationships we have built with the local people, have meant that it has become more and more difficult for the insurgents.

Due to the hard work of B Company Group, the locals now enjoy a sense of freedom and safety that they have not experienced for years.

This increase in security has allowed B Company to achieve one of their greatest successes on their tour, the opening of the Khorgajat village school. This has been attempted during previous tours, but could not be achieved due to the security situation.

Captain Wheeler said:

A few weeks after the opening of the school, we counted over 140 excited children running through the gates to learn to read and write. We believe strongly that education is vital in building the future of Afghanistan.

During the tour, members of B Company 1 PWRR and the ANSF also conducted a number of daring helicopter raids, south of the Helmand River, to show the insurgents that their former heartlands will no longer be safe havens.

Another notable success includes the development of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) in the area. The ALP is an Afghan-led scheme to recruit villagers into a community police force which provides security for local villages.

During their time B company have also uncovered 30 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the majority of which have been removed from the ground, making the area safer, not only for ISAF forces, but for the local people, who face the indiscriminate threat of IEDs on a daily basis.

Major Ross Noott, the Officer Commanding B Company 1 PWRR, said:

The change we have been able to effect in our area since deployment in October has been truly remarkable.

The early months of the tour were characterised by daily gun battles with the insurgents and heavy seeding of IEDs, the local population had no access to education or government services such as healthcare, and local politicians were unable to connect with the people due to the pervading insurgent threat.

Now, thanks to the enormous hard work, suffering and sacrifice of the men of B Company and the heroism of the local people in taking a stand against the insurgents by joining the Afghan Local Police detachment B Company raised, the situation could not look more different.

The Khorgajat school now provides education, people enjoy safe access to the government clinic in Paind Kalay, and the District Community Council members are now regularly seen in the villages.

As important as the battles we have won, have been the relationships we have formed with the local people, convincing them that a better future exists for them and their children.

B Company 1 PWRR will hand over their area of responsibility to A Company, The 3rd Battalion The Rifles, in April.

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Published 29 March 2012