UK Forces hand over control of key checkpoint to Afghan Police
The Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP) have taken over control of a Checkpoint in Helmand province from ISAF, in another step towards the Afghans taking responsibility for security.
For the last nine months, Checkpoint (CP) SHINGUL which is located in the Chah-e-Mirza District has been manned jointly by ISAF and Afghan policemen.
Since April, members of B Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles (2RGR) who are attached to 45 Commando Royal Marines, have been responsible for the CP and the development of the AUP who live and work there.
Over the last eight weeks, the Gurkhas have conducted over 100 partnered patrols with the AUP in the area – providing security and protection to the numerous villages nearby, deterring and preventing any insurgent activity in the area.
Numerous shuras and meetings with local nationals have confirmed that these patrols have made a significant impact; first against the insurgents who used to operate freely in the area; and second on the perceptions of the ability of Afghan forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) to provide security.
The improvements in security have been such that recently a decision was made by the Nad-e Ali (NDA) District Chief of Police, Lieutenant Colonel Shahdi Khan, and the Commanding Officer of Combined Force NDA South, Lieutenant Colonel Oliver Lee OBE, that the conditions were right for the AUP to take over completely.
The transfer of CP SHINGUL itself took place in a short ceremony attended by Lt Col Khan, the local AUP Commander Haji Lal Jan and the Officer Commanding B Coy, 2 RGR, Major James Murray. After a lunch of traditional Gurkha and Afghan food, the respective commanders formalised the hand-over with a hand-shake and the exchanging of gifts; the Gurkhas donating some hand-made furniture inscribed with kukris inscribed to the Afghans who in turn presented Maj Murray with a flag.
The AUP are delighted to have been given the opportunity to operate another CP on their own. DCOP, Lt Col Shahdi Khan, said:
“This is a good day for Nad-e-Ali and for the Afghan government. Security is improving all the time, and today the police are delighted to stand up and take control of this area without the direct assistance of our ISAF friends. We shall ensure that the needs of the people in this area come first and shall continue to provide security in this area to the best of our ability.”
Major Murray, OC B Coy, 2RGR, said:
“This is another example of progress in Nad-e-Ali. Across this district as a whole, the locals have decisively rejected the insurgent who less than one year ago moved in this area with relative impunity. This result has GIRoA, fronted by the AUP – rather than ISAF – reaching out to the communities of Chah-e-Mirza, and through professional conduct demonstrating a persistent security presence.”
The Gurkhas of B Coy will now move to another Checkpoint where they will continue to work alongside other units of AUP across the wider Chah-e-Mirza district. Major Murray added:
“The people here have tasted security and they like it – the bazaars are open, the local school is beginning to flourish and the main road is soon to be black-topped. These are real and tangible indicators that GIRoA’s reach is broadening and deepening and there is a real appetite for progress and to build on the gains already made. We will continue to support the AUP here for some time and will maintain our close relationship but we are confident that they can continue to build on this platform and take NDA forward.”
With more security checkpoints scheduled to be handed over in the near future, the footprint of ISAF forces will continue to reduce, leaving a greater Afghan security presence across the district.