2 SCOTS and Afghan troops have cleared and secured a town with no resistance, a sign seen by many to show the increasingly-weakened state of the Taliban insurgency in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
The insurgents had been terrorising the community of Sulemanshazi and using it as a base for their activities but fled without a fight on the arrival of British and Afghan forces.
Locals believe that the Taliban fighters were scared off by the presence of the Afghan and British troops and the force shown in previous strikes.
Now progress in the area is moving forward at a good pace, with soldiers from The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 SCOTS), supporting their Afghan counterparts in ensuring long-term security in the town, south of Babaji.
A new Afghan National Police checkpoint is up and running and a main road - known to the British as Route Ayrshire - has been cleared of IEDs and made more resistant to future ones being laid, making it safe for local people to use once again.
The operation came earlier this month when Afghan and British soldiers investigated suspected insurgent locations close to the Helmand River.
Searches were conducted but nothing was found, and locals suggested that earlier strikes, as well as a perception of the growing strength of the Afghan National Police (ANP) in the area, had scared insurgents away.
The police checkpoint was established in the aftermath, with the ANP selecting a location to provide permanent security and a visible government presence for the area. At the same time, the clearance of Route Ayrshire, for which soldiers from 2 SCOTS and the Afghan National Army worked in conjunction with the UK Counter-IED Task Force, began.
Now options for further development of Sulemanshazi are being considered, together with the local population, including further road improvements, the building of a school, and job creation and training schemes to boost the economy.
Captain James Collinge, 2 SCOTS, said:
Our hard work has paid dividends with more than 200 local people moving back into the area and a real sense of community spirit emerging. The insurgents are rapidly running out of safe havens and we are causing major disruption to their evil activities.
Second Lieutenant Matt Alder, also of 2 SCOTS, added:
The locals around the new checkpoint are exceptionally happy to have the ANP and us providing security in the area. We sit with them daily to discuss local issues and how we can best improve the future of the area.
“It has been unbelievably rewarding and I can’t wait to see the next phase of development here, which will bring even more happiness to the locals who have suffered so much in the past.”
The new police checkpoint did not go unappreciated. One local man in Sulemanshazi said:
This is great for the local area. It shows that the local police care about our security and are working hard to improve it. It is also nice to see that, more and more, Afghans instead of foreign faces are providing the security for our region.