Afghan National Police who are being mentored by Delta Company of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (5 SCOTS), have mounted an operation in which insurgent influence was crushed.
The 2nd Kandak (battalion) of Helmand’s Afghan National Police (ANP), made up of around 300 men and commanded by Colonel Abdul Sattar Noorzai, work alongside Delta Company, commanded by Major Nick Wight-Boycott. They provide security on Route 601, a key transit route for trade running east from Helmand’s provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.
The operation saw a surge into the contested area of Pupalzay Kalay, just north of Route 601.
A total of 400 ANP, led by Colonel Sattar, were supported by just 40 Delta Company soldiers in Jackal fire support vehicles and Warrior armoured personnel carriers. The police stormed in, with the soldiers of Delta Company following behind.
Clearing Taliban elements from the area in decisive fashion, they killed at least five of the hard line insurgent fighters who based themselves there.
Tragically, the fighting saw the 2nd Kandak take a casualty hit - two ANP patrolmen lost their lives in an IED explosion. However, despite this incident, the operation overall was hailed as a success by the police.
Planned, led and largely conducted by the ANP, with only minimal support from British forces, the operation illustrated the 2nd Kandak’s ability to carry out large counter-insurgent operations and - critically - showed the Taliban that there are a very small and decreasing number of places left in Helmand where they will find support or be safe from the stretch of governance and security.
The operation followed on from a ‘shura’, a traditional Afghan community meeting, which Colonel Sattar organised for those who live in the various settlements on Route 601 to discuss local issues.
Held in the newly-built police headquarters of the 2nd Kandak, located beside Delta Company’s base, Patrol Base Attal, the shura saw a record attendance of 260 local villagers.
Colonel Sattar - known to the locals as ‘Sattar Khan’ due to his respected status - delivered a stirring address calling on the locals to unite with the ANP and to drive out the remaining Taliban in the area.
Captain Tom Mobbs, Second-in-Command of Delta Company, said of the shura:
This operation was a great step forward for the 2nd Kandak. They left the insurgents in no doubt whatsoever that they are a force to be reckoned with.
Of course, we were deeply saddened to see two of our ANP colleagues fall victim to an IED - they know as well as we do the cost of this conflict but they also know what’s ultimately at stake and how vital it is that we prevail.
At the shura, it was great to see the locals so motivated about their own security. I get the sense that we have made real progress on Route 601. If the ANP and the locals join together as they discussed at this meeting it will become almost impossible for the insurgent to effectively target either the people or the road as they have in the past.
Following the public shura Colonel Sattar and sixteen of the most powerful village elders sat down privately to discuss local governance issues in depth.
The shura was publicised by the local radio station which Colonel Sattar uses daily to broadcast updates on security to the local community. This capability has brought real progress recently, as the comfort of hearing regularly from the local police commander and knowing that security is being provided has evidently increased the confidence of local villagers to reject the insurgency completely.
Later in the week Colonel Sattar brought a delegation of the elders from Route 601 to the Helmand Police Training Centre (HPTC) for the passing out parade of 200 new ANP recruits following eight weeks of intensive training at the centre, also run by troops from 5 SCOTS.
Colonel Sattar said of the recent events in his area:
The locals and elders support my police. I have many well-trained men coming from HPTC and we have shown the locals and the Taliban that we can provide the security required in this area to allow the road to be free of illegal taxation or violence.
Thirty of the new ANP recruits have been posted to the 2nd Kandak following the completion of their training, further strengthening Colonel Sattar’s force.
It has been found throughout 5 SCOTS’ time in Helmand that bringing community elders to the HPTC to see the professional and capable standard of the modern police recruit inspires them to further support the ANP, and has driven the force’s renaissance as it moves on from a negative past as a vilified and corrupt institution.