Result for Royal Irish as Afghans show strength
British troops operating in southern Nad-e Ali – one of the most contested areas of Helmand province – are celebrating a key achievement, after seeing the Afghan soldiers they train conduct their first major operation independently.
After more than five months of operating alongside the 4th Tolay, 3/215 Brigade Afghan National Army, troops from 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment (1 R IRISH) had the pride of seeing their Afghan warriors successfully plan and execute a company-level operation for the first time. Operation TORA GHAR 15 saw the unit clear a route of improvised explosive devices and cause serious disruption to insurgent activity in Zangal Kalay.
Having already carried out smaller section-level patrols in support of British-led operations, this was a big, if natural, step forward for the Afghan warriors. It saw the Afghan troops storm into what was once a hotbed of insurgent activity. The ANA’s counter-IED specialists cleared a high-threat route, setting up fire support positions for the rest of the company to apprehend insurgents and search suspicious compounds.
The company commander, Captain Mustamand, briefed and led his troops throughout, translating the meticulous planning into results. Soldiers from C Company, 1 R IRISH, played a supporting role by temporarily manning checkpoints in order to free up ANA manpower, but played no part in the actual operation.
The main object of Op TORA GHAR 15 was to increase the confidence that local people have in the ANA and demonstrate to those involved in insurgent activity that the ANA now dominate the area. In this respect it was a total success, with Capt Mustamand having command and control of the situation throughout, whilst his warriors gained further strength and confidence in their abilities.
While there is still more work to be carried out on the development of the ANA men, the Royal Irish troops are confident that their recent successes have demonstrated good progress.
Captain Mustamand, Commander of 4th Tolay, 3/215 Brigade ANA, said:
“My men have developed real confidence working alongside the Royal Irish soldiers. They have learnt the skills necessary to operate independently, including IED detection, first aid and patrolling tactics.
“Now we have the opportunity to operate independent of ISAF, it was an honour for me to lead my warriors on our first tolay [company] level operation. We knew that ISAF could bring reinforcements or helicopters if we needed them, but I am proud to say that we completed the operation unaided.”
Major Alistair Harbison, officer commanding C Company, 1 R IRISH, said:
“The ANA have come on leaps and bounds in our area over the last five months. There was a time when they were reluctant to even go out of the gate unless we had our troops on the ground too, but it’s hard to believe that now.
“This inaugural company-level operation was a massive bound forward in our particular part of Helmand province – it has given the tolay commander increased faith in his planning, briefing and implementation skills, as well as giving his warriors further confidence and assurance in their abilities.
“The locals much prefer to see the ANA providing security than ISAF troops and it has given them the confidence to lead normal lives again – the shops are reopening and parents are sending their children to school, which is hugely encouraging. The increasing independence of the ANA also means I have been able to free up my soldiers for other areas.
“This all builds on the momentum of gradual transfer of responsibility for routine patrols and security in the population centres. This is a strong signal to the insurgents and ordinary people alike that the Afghan security forces are in charge and effectively protecting the population from threats and intimidation.”