Afghanistan — British trained Afghan soldiers lead operation into Taliban stronghold

Five hun­dred Afghan troops, trained by the British Army, led an oper­a­tion into a Tal­iban strong­hold last Sun­day, 11 July 2010, to rein­state gov­ern­ment author­i­ty and bring secu­ri­ty to the area.

Mem­bers of 1st Bat­tlion The Roy­al Scot­tish Bor­der­ers (The Roy­al Reg­i­ment of Scot­land) and mem­bers of the Afghan Nation­al Army patrolling into Yakchal, south­east of Gereshk
Source: Cor­po­ral Paul Ran­dall, Min­istry of Defence, UK
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The oper­a­tion, known as Op OMID DO (HOPE 2), was the cul­mi­na­tion of weeks of plan­ning by Colonel Sheren Shah, the Com­man­der of the 3rd Kan­dak (Brigade), and his staff based in Camp Shorabak in the Hel­mand desert near Camp Bas­tion.

It was one of the first major oper­a­tions entire­ly planned and exe­cut­ed under Afghan Nation­al Army (ANA) com­mand.

The Afghan troops involved have been trained and men­tored by a team from The Roy­al Scots Bor­der­ers, 1st Bat­tal­ion The Roy­al Reg­i­ment of Scot­land (1SCOTS), com­mand­ed by Lieu­tenant Colonel Char­lie Her­bert.

Lt Col Her­bert said:

“This oper­a­tion was planned by the Brigade Com­man­der him­self and his staff. He is rel­a­tive­ly expe­ri­enced down here — he was the Exec­u­tive Offi­cer to the last Brigade Com­man­der — so he under­stands Hel­mand quite well.

“His brigade head­quar­ters staff are brand new, they only arrived in Hel­mand in Feb­ru­ary and March. They have been form­ing up over the last six months learn­ing their jobs, learn­ing their role.

A soldier from 1st Battlion The Royal Scottish Borderers (The Royal Regiment of Scotland) using his radio during Operation OMID DO
A sol­dier from 1st Bat­tlion The Roy­al Scot­tish Bor­der­ers (The Roy­al Reg­i­ment of Scot­land) using his radio dur­ing Oper­a­tion OMID DO
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
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“So they have tak­en this prob­lem through, we took them through some basic plan­ning process­es, taught them how to devel­op a plan, they decid­ed that they want­ed to do it in this area, they then took that plan with a lit­tle bit of men­tor sup­port from us turned it into a work­able and exe­cutable plan.”

See Relat­ed Links to watch Lt Col Her­bert talk about Oper­a­tion OMID DO on our YouTube chan­nel.

The oper­a­tion began at 0100hrs on 11 July 2010 with the ANA force lead­ing the con­voy out of their camp to move east through Gereshk to a check point on the out­skirts of a vil­lage called Yakchal.

By 1800hrs Afghan recon­nais­sance teams and mil­i­tary engi­neers were mov­ing for­ward towards anoth­er vil­lage, Safi­an, bridg­ing the wider drainage ditch­es that crossed the area.

The going was slow, with the troops scan­ning the ground for impro­vised explo­sive devices (IEDs) placed by the insur­gents. The whole area was thought to be dom­i­nat­ed by the Tal­iban, but in the swel­ter­ing heat of the first morn­ing there was no con­tact with the ene­my.

Reach­ing the first com­pounds, Afghan troops talked with the local res­i­dents, and sup­port­ive locals brought milk and water out for the sol­diers to drink.

As the day went on there were spo­radic inci­dents of small arms fire and one unit came under attack from rock­et-pro­pelled grenade (RPG) fire.

See Relat­ed Links to watch a spe­cial video report on Oper­a­tion OMID DO.

Sergeant Rah­man from the 3rd Kan­dak, 3rd Brigade Afghan Nation­al Army explained:

Colonel Sheren Shan Koradi briefs his soldiers before Operation OMID DO
Colonel Sheren Shan Kora­di briefs his sol­diers before Oper­a­tion OMID DO
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

“We deal with insur­gents fir­ing at us near­ly every day; so we weren’t afraid by this sit­u­a­tion in Yakchal.

“When we came under RPG fire, we spent some time find­ing out where it was com­ing from and engaged him. We were sup­port­ed by ISAF [Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force] Apache heli­copters — the rest of the insur­gents fled.”

The ANA and their ISAF part­ners spent the night in com­pounds in the Safi­an area before mov­ing fur­ther south the fol­low­ing morn­ing.

The main threat from the insur­gents by this stage in the oper­a­tion shift­ed to that of fresh­ly-emplaced IEDs, but the ANA were able to spot the recent­ly placed explo­sives and were able to deploy their own dis­pos­al teams to elim­i­nate the threat.

Reflect­ing on the suc­cess of the oper­a­tion, Lt Col Her­bert added:

OMID DO is a sig­nif­i­cant oper­a­tion. For the first time we have seen in cen­tral Hel­mand a tru­ly ANA-planned and ANA-led oper­a­tion where­by they real­ly are the sup­port­ed com­mand with ISAF work­ing in a sup­port­ing role.

“This was an oper­a­tion that was con­ceived by them, planned by them, exe­cut­ed by them with us very much in sup­port. So as we move towards a point where we trans­fer secu­ri­ty con­trol over to the Afghans, this is quite a sig­nif­i­cant moment along the way.

Afghan military engineers moving towards Safian to bridge the wider drainage ditches crossing the area
Afghan mil­i­tary engi­neers mov­ing towards Safi­an to bridge the wider drainage ditch­es cross­ing the area
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

“This has been a demand­ing oper­a­tion, 48 hours pret­ty much non-stop in swel­ter­ing con­di­tions. We’ve all felt it, and for those who think the ANA don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly have the appetite, this has proved them wrong.

“We’ve seen ANA com­man­ders with the will, mak­ing deci­sions in con­junc­tion with their men­tors, using their men­tors to pro­vide some advice and sup­port, and that has been encour­ag­ing to see, to help them learn.”

Major Gen­er­al Richard Mills, Com­man­der of the new­ly-formed Region­al Com­mand (South West), and Brigadier Richard Fel­ton, the British Com­man­der of Task Force Hel­mand, arrived in the area ear­ly on the sec­ond day of the oper­a­tion.

Met by Colonel Shah, they were briefed by ANA staff on the plan­ning for the oper­a­tion, the con­cept of oper­a­tions and were briefed on how the oper­a­tion had pro­gressed over the pre­vi­ous 36 hours.

They then moved to Safi­an — one of the main objec­tives of the oper­a­tion — where they were able to see for them­selves the progress that had been made and have a chat with one of the locals as well.

The oper­a­tion demon­strat­ed to the 3rd Brigade and to the local peo­ple of cen­tral Hel­mand that they are a cred­i­ble, capa­ble and con­fi­dent force and will be key play­ers in rid­ding the insur­gency from their coun­try.

An Afghan soldier deployed on Operation OMID DO
An Afghan sol­dier deployed on Oper­a­tion OMID DO
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

For the 1 SCOTS advi­sors, it was also an oppor­tu­ni­ty for them to see the results of the exten­sive train­ing that they had giv­en to the Brigade — at all lev­els.

The lead infantry com­pa­nies respond­ed effec­tive­ly and with restraint under fire; and the staff offi­cers showed a thor­ough under­stand­ing of oper­a­tional plan­ning and exe­cu­tion.

Oper­a­tion OMID DO con­clud­ed with a shu­ra which was well received by the locals who told the sol­diers their con­cerns. Lt Col Her­bert said:

“The fact the Shu­ra took place is real­ly sig­nif­i­cant. This was a real demon­stra­ble aspect — an Afghan oper­a­tion, deliv­ered by Afghans, putting an Afghan lead on the end.

“What we had was the Deputy Dis­trict Gov­er­nor, and the Deputy Provin­cial Gov­er­nor fly in. They led the shu­ra, they talked to all the locals about their prob­lems.

“They talked to them about how they accept ANA in the area. One of the key objec­tives here was to con­duct some gov­ern­ment out­reach. So it was great that we man­aged to do that and in some respects that is far more impor­tant than the tac­ti­cal effect which we had on the ground.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK