Nearly 1,000 British and Afghan soldiers and Afghan Police have taken part in a major operation to clear insurgents from a crucial area of Helmand province.
Operation ZAMESTANI PEEROZI, or ‘WINTER SUCCESS’, was planned by Afghan National Army staff and was led by Brigadier General Sherin Shah, commander of the 3rd Brigade of 215 Corps.
It saw more than 280 British troops join forces with 550 warriors from the Afghan National Army (ANA) and patrolmen from the Afghan Uniformed Police in the area where the boundaries of Nad ‘Ali, Nahr-e Saraj, and Lashkar Gah districts meet.
Troops from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mentored and advised Afghan soldiers and headquarters staff through the operation, which cleared insurgents from between three major routes that run through the area before building new checkpoints to increase security.
Soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Rifles, 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment, 5th Battalion The Rifles, and The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, were among those who joined the operation, alongside Estonian forces.
Afghan engineers were mentored by sappers from 35 and 38 Engineer Regiments as they tackled the complex work of building new checkpoints.
The soldiers on the ground were also boosted by the capabilities of specialists such as Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) teams and intelligence and surveillance capabilities.
Afghan police reported finding one cache of 27 IEDs, while in a separate find, Afghan warriors discovered a haul of 64 pressure plates, six bags of explosives,14 controllers to remotely detonate explosives, and other components for making roadside bombs.
Lieutenant Colonel Bill Wright is the commanding officer of 2nd Battalion the Rifles. The Regiment forms the Brigade Advisory Group, which directly mentors Brigadier General Sherin Shah’s 3/215 Brigade. He said:
The operation went very well and the ANSF did exactly what they set out to do.
While insurgents do not live in these areas, they do use them to transit through. The goal of this operation is to dominate the routes that they use.
The new checkpoints will mean the security forces can dominate the area and stop insurgents coming here to influence the local communities.
Captain Richie Griffiths, who advises an Afghan engineering ‘tolay’ or company of around 100 men, said:
The ANA engineers are proficient at most things, and they are very quick to learn even the more complicated tasks, such as siting and levelling sangar sentry towers.
They are pretty much self-sufficient. All the plant equipment and tools are their own - we are here with nothing but advice, where it is needed. We embedded really well with the Afghan engineers - we ate with them, and worked with them through it all.
Brigadier General Sherin Shah said:
The ANSF is ready to provide security for the people of this area. My message to those who are fighting against our Government is to come and join the peace process, as this can be the only solution.
Brigadier Patrick Sanders, the commander of the British-led Task Force Helmand, said the operation was a vital step in helping to secure the area of northern Nad ‘Ali district. He added:
This was a major operation planned and led by Afghan forces to take on the insurgency, with Task Force Helmand very much in a supporting role to mentor and advise our Afghan partners.
Afghan security forces are significantly increasing pressure on the insurgents operating throughout this area.
This operation will reduce the ability of insurgents to mount attacks on ISAF forces and Afghan forces, it will increase security for the local population, and pave the way for the Afghan National Security Forces to take on responsibility in these areas.