Since responsibility for security in the town of Lashkar Gah was taken over by Afghan forces last week, soldiers from The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS), alongside Afghan security forces, have been further strengthening security on the outskirts of the district.
In these areas, new police stations have been established and training is ongoing to establish Afghan Local Police (ALP) units. The ALP have been recruited from the community, and people who join have a vested interest in keeping their communities secure.
And the Afghan National Army (ANA) and 4 SCOTS are stepping up patrols to protect key routes into Lashkar Gah city.
Highlander Mark Mackenzie, said:
We are the first point of defence leading into Lashkar Gah city, so we have to prevent the insurgents from passing through our area of operation to keep the Afghans safe. We have the checkpoints to try and stop the insurgents from using the roads to move around in our area of operation.
Patrols are nothing new to the Highlanders. Since arriving in Lashkar Gah in March 2011, 4 SCOTS has conducted daily patrols through local villages and farmland alongside its partner Afghan police units.
Highlander Lee Mortimer-Rees said:
We take out the local police and uniform police on our patrols and to checkpoints. We try to only provide security while they conduct the actual searches of persons and vehicles. Our goal is to teach them what to look for during patrols and at checkpoints while we just make sure they stay safe while they do their job.
In addition to using its patrols to mentor local security forces, the Battalion also reaches out to the local populace.
Sergeant Finn Beary said:
We do our patrols to not only stop the insurgents, but to show the Afghan people that things are safe, and we are here to protect them. We talk to the locals and ask them if everything in their area is OK, along with asking if they need any help from us.
Although insurgent activity in the immediate area has increased recently, the growth in Afghan police forces and stations means there are now more occupied checkpoints in the area to assist in developing security:
The goal now is to get the area to a state where [the Afghans] can police themselves with little or no help from us,” said Sgt Beary.