The 12 MPs met Service personnel in a variety of different roles. The key part of their visit was a demonstration of the improving capability of the Afghan forces which British troops are involved in training and mentoring.
As such, the party of parliamentarians spent much time with the 1st Battalion Irish Guards based at Camp Shorabak, where they are responsible for advising and developing 3/215 Brigade of the Afghan National Army (ANA).
Here, they received an in-depth brief on the development, strategy, successes and difficulties of developing the ANA in Helmand from the unit’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Ghika.
Lt Col Ghika spoke about the successes of young ANA officers and the tactical development of the ANA infantry from kandak (battalion) to brigade level, as well as the ANA soldiers’ enthusiasm for Afghan-planned operations.
There was recognition of the different stages of development in different areas of the ANA and how this is being dealt with by the ANA’s senior officers and their advisors.
Lt Col Ghika said:
The success of the Irish Guards advisors is due to their diligent work and professionalism, and that is driven by their passion to see the Afghans succeed.
We have already begun to see the fruits of this hard work and commitment - including the recent successful completion of two brigade-level operations, planned and led by 3/215 Brigade, with ISAF involvement limited to only specialist capability provision.
The British politicians also met with Brigadier General Sherin Shah, the 3/215 Brigade Commander. Thankful of the British Army’s efforts and the commitment of the British people, General Shah invited the committee members to join him and inspect his newest soldiers, 200 of whom have recently arrived from Camp Hero, the Kandahar Military Training Centre, and are currently undertaking their Helmand-specific training.
With the ANA soldiers were their British Army advisors, including specialists from the Royal Engineers, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Royal Logistic Corps and the Adjutant General’s Corps.
Also during the course of their visit to Helmand, the parliamentary committee members met personnel from the Counter-IED Task Force, received a briefing from Commander Task Force Helmand, Brigadier James Chiswell, on the overall progress of the campaign, and met Helmand provincial governor Gulab Mangal.
They also chatted to several troops from all walks of military life, mixing with them at mealtimes in the cookhouses.
Brigadier Chiswell said:
It was a pleasure to welcome members of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee to Helmand and to have the opportunity to demonstrate to them the progress we are making, particularly in relation to our training and mentoring of the Afghan security forces.
I hope they found their visit valuable and that it has succeeded in informing them in their future work.
On conclusion of the Helmand stretch of their visit, the party travelled onward to the Afghan capital Kabul and undertook a series of military and civilian engagements there.