British and Afghan forces target insurgency in Nahr-e Saraj

Sol­diers from 5th Bat­tal­ion The Rifles (5 RIFLES) have joined Afghan secu­ri­ty forces in an oper­a­tion to clear a key insur­gent ‘safe haven’ in Hel­mand province, Afghanistan.

British sol­diers from 5th Bat­tal­ion The Rifles sur­veil the area ahead from a shel­tered posi­tion [Pic­ture: Sergeant Mark Nes­bit, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge
British sol­diers in Husky vehi­cles cov­er ground dur­ing Oper­a­tion KAPCHA ZHRANDAGARAY in Helmand’s Nahr-e Saraj dis­trict [Pic­ture: Sergeant Mark Nes­bit, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Around one hun­dred British troops from 5 RIFLES teamed up with 200 war­riors from the 2nd Kan­dak of the Afghan Nation­al Army (ANA) and patrol­men from the Afghan Nation­al Police (ANP) to dri­ve the insur­gency from Kopak, in the Nahr-e Saraj dis­trict.

The dis­trict is one of three in Hel­mand where British troops are deployed, and the last where Task Force Hel­mand retains the lead for secu­ri­ty after the suc­cess­ful tran­si­tion of Nad ‘Ali and Lashkar Gah to Afghan con­trol.

Oper­a­tion KAPCHA ZHRANDAGARAY tar­get­ed a 16-square-kilo­me­tre area that has seen lit­tle influ­ence from the Afghan author­i­ties so far.

The clear­ance oper­a­tion saw Afghan bomb dis­pos­al experts dis­cov­er and destroy 10 impro­vised explo­sive devices (IEDs) and allowed engi­neers to build five new check­points for Afghan police to hold the ter­ri­to­ry.

The area was heav­i­ly fought over as recent­ly as last sum­mer — as fea­tured in the Chan­nel 5 tele­vi­sion pro­gramme ‘Roy­al Marines: Mis­sion Afghanistan’.

Lieu­tenant Colonel Tom Copinger-Symes, the Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of 5 RIFLES, said the insur­gency had been strong in the area just four months ago, with insur­gents reg­u­lar­ly fir­ing on troops and a high IED-threat tar­get­ing ISAF and Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces (ANSF).

But, as the num­ber of patrols with the ANA increased, insur­gent activ­i­ty fell away, and more areas have been hand­ed over to Afghan secu­ri­ty con­trol, bring­ing greater free­dom of move­ment.

Lt Col Copinger-Symes said the suc­cess of the oper­a­tion had seen Dis­trict Gov­er­nor Habibul­lah Khan vis­it the area for the first time and speak to local elders about the sup­port the Afghan Gov­ern­ment can pro­vide; a meet­ing seen as ‘ground­break­ing’ by Afghan offi­cials.

He said:

“Secu­ri­ty, sta­bil­i­ty, edu­ca­tion, com­merce and a nor­mal way of life are key to devel­op­ment, and this must be led by the Afghans them­selves. It is the right time to clear Kopak of insur­gents, led by the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces with Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force troops in sup­port, which allows the police to hold areas.

“The new check­points will allow more free­dom of move­ment for the locals, and, more impor­tant­ly, it will allow the Afghan Gov­ern­ment to con­nect with the peo­ple and iden­ti­fy require­ments for devel­op­ment. This will be the first step in cre­at­ing long-term Afghan secu­ri­ty in Kopak, both for now and for long after ISAF have left.”

Lieu­tenant Colonel Naza­mudin, the Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of the 2nd Kan­dak of the Afghan Nation­al Army, said:

“My war­riors are work­ing with the ANP and ISAF to cre­ate con­di­tions to allow check­points to be built around Kopak and for secu­ri­ty to return to this area. The police com­mis­sion­er will be in place and the local Afghans are very hap­py with our pres­ence.

“I have seen the changes over the years. The insur­gents are weak­ened, the ANSF are grow­ing stronger in pres­ence, and the peo­ple are more will­ing to engage and let us know what is going on.”

Major Matt Bak­er, Offi­cer Com­mand­ing D Com­pa­ny, 5 RIFLES, said there had been a lot of change in the area since Novem­ber last year:

“Progress since Novem­ber has seen the insur­gency defeat­ed in the Baba­ji area and we have denied the insur­gent an endur­ing pres­ence here,” he said.

“The win­ter has seen low crops in fields, mean­ing good vis­i­bil­i­ty for us to push out more patrols with the Afghans and inter­act with the local nation­als.

“The clear­ing of Kopak was not a real­is­tic event just a few months ago, but now we have actu­al­ly car­ried that out with the ANSF. It is a big step.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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