News story

British forces push back Taliban in southern Nad 'Ali

The operation was undertaken by Combined Force Nad ‘Ali whose units include 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, the Royal Dragoon…

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

The operation was undertaken by Combined Force Nad ‘Ali whose units include 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, the Royal Dragoon Guards, the Queen’s Royal Lancers, 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, 21 Engineer Regiment, the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Task Force and the Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan). Afghan security forces also took part in Operation TOR MAHKE ZI, or ‘BLACK PUSH FORWARD’, that took over a week to complete.

Royal Engineers supported the infantry operations too by building the new bases. See Related News.

Commanding Officer of Combined Force Nad ‘Ali, Lieutenant Colonel Frazer Lawrence, said:

There are three small population centres down on the southern patrol baseline. At the moment, the patrol bases are right in the population centres. If the insurgent attacks the patrol bases it means the local population could get caught up in the fighting. That is the last thing that we want to happen.

So the purpose of this operation has been to push the patrol bases further out to increase the security footprint, and to provide a buffer zone between the patrol bases and the local population, so that should fighting occur, the locals are not caught up in it.

The operation saw three new patrol bases taken over by British and Afghan forces. These were then used as footholds to provide protection from insurgents whilst Army bomb disposal experts cleared roads running into the new locations of IEDs.

At the same time, ground-holding patrols repelled insurgents on the right and left of the new routes, who were attempting to disrupt the operation.

The operation began with a move by the Brigade Reconnaissance Force in Jackal vehicles to pull insurgents away from the intended new patrol base areas. This was followed by a push at dawn by infantry troops to seize the new patrol base locations and establish hasty defensive positions to repel any Taliban attacks until the new compounds had been cleared of possible improvised explosive devices.

The move saw soldiers from the Queen’s Royal Lancers and 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment deploying on the ground carrying in excess of 120lbs (54kg) of kit, with each man carrying a minimum of six litres of water. Temperatures during the day rose to 45 degrees Celsius.

Trooper Wayne Ayres from the Queen’s Royal Lancers said:

We got up before first light, about two in the morning, and got ready to move out to secure a compound. We tabbed out at about fiveish with a lot of kit, a hell of a lot of kit, the bags were really heavy. It took about an hour-and-a-half, maybe two, to get here and we dug shallow trenches [shell scrapes] to fortify our position and secure it for the engineers to come and check the compound over.

Digging in was hard at first because the ground is baked, but once you got about a foot into it it was a bit softer. But working in this heat with all the kit on is difficult. We had to swap every ten minutes to rotate through the jobs because it was so hard, really hot and sweaty.

Multiple Commander Captain Edward Plunkett, Queen’s Royal Lancers, commented:

What we’re doing here is securing this facility [the compound], our future home for the next five months anyway. This is going to be the southern-most patrol base of this area. We’ll be the most southern call sign, effectively on the forward line of enemy troops.

Firefights with insurgent forces involving small arms and rocket-propelled grenades occurred frequently during the course of the operation:

We got contacted from the south west, from two firing positions simultaneously. By then we had finished our shell scrapes and took cover. At the same time we had our eyes in the sky and an attack helicopter covering us,” said Captain Plunkett.

At the same time, Army bomb disposal experts cleared over 2,500 metres of road, identifying and defusing six IEDs.

Gurkha Royal Engineer Searcher Corporal Ashok Limbu of 36 Engineer Regiment said:

After I found the device I told my Section Commander what I had found and then we confirmed with the Royal Engineer Search Advisor how we were going to deal with it. We then extracted back from the device so we were safe from any possible blast to wait for the Ammunition Technical Officer to come and deal with it.

Army Bomb Disposal Officer Captain Ciaron Dyer commented on one of the devices he had to clear:

I investigated the IED and removed several components including the main charge. The road itself was too narrow for me to blow it in situ because we wanted to use the road the following day. So I pulled it [the device] out of the ground, had another look at it, took some more photos, and blew it by the side of the road.

Once the new compounds had been secured, Sappers from 21 Engineer Regiment moved in to build defensive fortifications and sangars (sentry towers).

Sergeant Mattie Samson, 1st Armoured Engineer Squadron, said:

The operation went blindingly to start with and took less time than expected to complete. We had to adapt our original plan a couple of times, but we have built a strong defensive position. All the lads worked really well, labouring through the night to get the job completed.

The push further south in the Nad ‘Ali district continues the efforts made by British forces during Operation MOSHTARAK earlier in the year to increase the military footprint in the area and improve the lives of the local nationals by increasing freedom of movement and ultimately allowing economic development to take place and undermine the insurgency.

The aim now is to hold this ground and start reconstruction and development projects in the region:

The next step is to focus on the three communities, make sure governance has improved in these areas, improve reconstruction, and to get these population centres secure,” said Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence.

Published 7 June 2010