Afghanistan — British and Afghan troops keep Helmand highway open

Sol­diers from the 1st Bat­tal­ion Scots Guards (1 SG) and The Roy­al Dra­goon Guards (RDG) have been work­ing joint­ly with Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces to keep traf­fic mov­ing along a key road in cen­tral Hel­mand.

 Soldiers on patrol along Route 601
Sol­diers on patrol along Route 601
Source: Cor­po­ral Bar­ry Lloyd RLC, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The key access road Route 601 is an impor­tant com­mu­ni­ca­tions route that con­nects Lashkar Gah in Hel­mand with the city of Kan­da­har to the east. The met­alled road is a key trans­port and com­mer­cial link for both local nation­als and ISAF and Afghan forces. 

Based in a patrol base (PB) halfway along the road the British sol­diers reg­u­lar­ly patrol both on foot and in Mas­tiff and Jack­al armoured vehi­cles to ensure that no impro­vised explo­sive devices or block­ages are present on the road or in the sur­round­ing area. 

Dai­ly checks include inspect­ing cul­verts along the route, set­ting up vehi­cle check­points to ensure that insur­gents are not using the road as a sup­ply route, and work­ing with the Afghan Nation­al Police (ANP) to deal with break­downs or the occa­sion­al road traf­fic accident. 

The PB com­man­der, Cap­tain Neil Gow, 1 SG, explained: 

“We do two things — foot patrols are for the imme­di­ate secu­ri­ty of the vicin­i­ty of where we are around the PB and for the local population. 

“It also allows us to build up as much infor­ma­tion as we can from the ground about what is going on… When we first moved here we had a lot of infor­ma­tion about where the prob­lems were, where the hot spots were. 

“By going out on the ground first­ly you can see what is going on, and sec­ond­ly it gives you a chance to see if things are improv­ing, or if things have changed for the better. 

“We also do delib­er­ate patrols up the road where we take our wag­ons, do cul­vert checks and speak to the ANP who are at dif­fer­ent check­points along the road. 

“By being here and hav­ing to do admin­is­tra­tion runs and just being around the area makes a dif­fer­ence… it acts as a deterrent.” 

In addi­tion to keep­ing the road open, the sol­diers have been work­ing with the local vil­lagers along Route 601 on rede­vel­op­ment projects. 

Troop­er Chris Gre­go­ry, RDG, said: 

“The Tal­iban weren’t inter­est­ed in the locals too much. We went down to see [the locals] and said we could offer projects where we pay them to work on their own fields to give them good water sup­plies so they can grow bet­ter crops and basi­cal­ly improve their stan­dard of living.” 

Although the new patrol base has only been estab­lished for a few months it is already mak­ing a dif­fer­ence to the com­mu­ni­ties that live along­side and use the road: 

“It’s been real­ly pos­i­tive around the imme­di­ate vicin­i­ty. It has made a big dif­fer­ence, you can tell, peo­ple come up to you and say since we’ve been here they’ve had no dra­ma with the Tal­iban,” said Cap­tain Gow. 

“Every­one along the 601, along the road, I’d say 200, maybe 500 metres either side of the road, seems to be very con­tent with us being here. 

“Clear­ly there are a few hot spots as you head fur­ther east, but it has been a warm and wel­come reception. 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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