British experts teach Afghan soldiers counter-IED techniques

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

Afghan National Army (ANA) engineers are improving their counter-improvised explosive device abilities with the help of training from British Army experts.

ANA engineers with the 1st Kandak, 215 Maiwand Corps, have been conducting counter-IED training at Forward Operating Base Shawqat in Nad ‘Ali - developing what is an essential skill set for troops operating in Helmand province, which suffers from a high level of IED incidents.

Sergeant Mark Foskett, an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technician who is mentoring the ANA team, said the engineers stay busy either combing the local area for explosives or responding to IED incidents in the field. Their operational tempo has slowed down due to the recent Eid holiday, but his team is making every effort not to squander the little free time they currently have.

Sergeant Foskett said:

When we’re back here on camp, we carry out continuous training. We’re setting up scenarios for them to clear, and we’re also giving them the lead to set up their own training.

Sergeant Foskett has given the Afghan engineers a more active role in the planning portion of the exercises in an effort to continually make their EOD team increasingly self-sufficient during every practical application session. Instead of planning the training scenarios himself, he turns the reins over to Sergeant Hassibullah, the ANA’s EOD team leader.

After establishing the notional terrain, population and local compounds present during the scenario, Sergeant Hassibullah shares his plan of action with his advisors and fellow troops by using a makeshift terrain model. Once all are agreed that he has a solid plan, the engineers don their gear and ready their bomb-detection tools.

Although the scenario starts slowly, due to the cautious minesweeping carried out by the team’s point man, the stress levels quickly ramp up once a potential bomb threat comes into play.

Sergeant Hassibullah explained after a recent exercise:

One of my corporals called back during the sweep to inform me he came across a potential IED threat. Once the threat had been established, I went to the front of the patrol and found the IED myself.

Sergeant Hassibullah was able to carefully uncover the hidden explosive charge after his point man uncovered a suspicious wire slightly protruding from the ground. In lieu of safely detonating the mine, the team leader explained to his British mentors exactly how he would destroy the bomb had this been a real incident.

Sergeant Foskett said:

Their performance was pretty good, and they’re right back up to where we expect them. I’m very proud of them. This training highlights just what they can do.

They’re extremely keen to learn. They’re always asking questions and wanting to know more about IEDs. They always want to improve themselves. They always want to know better techniques. They think of themselves as having a fighting role - it’s the biggest threat out there and they want to be dealing with it.

Sergeant Hassibullah is also satisfied with the outcome of the training scenarios, and attributes most of his team’s success to the dedicated mentorship of the British EOD advisors. He said:

The training here is really useful for us whenever we go into the field. When we first started working here, we knew very little about combating IEDs. Now it seems as if we know everything there is to know about dealing with mines. After all, this is our country and we are the future of our country. If we don’t protect it, who will?