RAF Regiment leads operation against Taliban bomb-makers

Mem­bers of the RAF Reg­i­ment have found and destroyed a large cache of Tal­iban IED-mak­ing equip­ment in an oper­a­tion con­duct­ed along­side Afghan and US forces.

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Mem­bers of II Squadron RAF Reg­i­ment and the US Marine Corps board a US Osprey air­craft at Camp Bas­tion in Hel­mand province [Pic­ture: Cor­po­ral Andy Ben­son RAF, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge
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Mem­bers of II Squadron RAF Reg­i­ment and the US Marine Corps exit a US Osprey air­craft dur­ing Oper­a­tion DISHATA PASHA [Pic­ture: Cor­po­ral Andy Ben­son RAF, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Oper­a­tion DISHATA PASHA (Pash­tu for ‘back­foot’) was launched at dawn on Mon­day 6 Feb­ru­ary 2012, with RAF Reg­i­ment troops from II Squadron. The force also includ­ed war­riors from the Afghan Army’s 3rd Brigade of 215 Corps, and US Marines from II Marine Expe­di­tionary Force.

The troops deployed by US Osprey air­craft, with its unique tilt-rotor capa­bil­i­ty, and the oper­a­tion result­ed in the find­ing and destruc­tion of a sus­pect­ed insur­gent IED cache close to Bas­tion Air­field in Hel­mand province. They also acquired a wealth of intel­li­gence despite com­ing under fire sev­er­al times.

The oper­a­tion took place in the dashte (or desert) south of Bas­tion Air­field, whose pro­tec­tion is the task of II Squadron, oper­at­ing as part of 3 RAF Force Pro­tec­tion Wing.

The dashte is a sparse land­scape of rolling fields and scrub dot­ted with com­pounds and is increas­ing­ly being used as a har­bour­ing area by Tal­iban forces who have come under pres­sure else­where as a result of suc­cess­ful coali­tion oper­a­tions.

In this ‘bed-down’ loca­tion the insur­gents have min­gled with the local pop­u­la­tion, some of whom have Tal­iban sym­pa­thies, and their pres­ence has seen attempts to increase pop­py pro­duc­tion in the area to fund their sum­mer cam­paign.

Because of the sparse agri­cul­tur­al cov­er in the area dur­ing the win­ter, the insur­gents have based them­selves in com­pounds to fire on ISAF foot patrols. The string of IEDs that had been sown across approach­es to the area, togeth­er with their ‘stand-off and shoot’ tac­tics, was meant to stop ISAF forces from get­ting near.

Squadron Leader Jules Weekes, Offi­cer Com­mand­ing II Squadron RAF Reg­i­ment, said:

“There is a cer­tain dynam­ic to Tal­iban activ­i­ties in this area. They oper­ate in small teams of five or six, trav­el­ling by motor­bike as their pre­ferred guer­ril­la tac­tic. Part of this oper­a­tion is to find out how ‘he’ does busi­ness.”

Sev­er­al sus­pect com­pounds were tar­get­ed by the oper­a­tion which saw the Ospreys land troops at two sep­a­rate land­ing zones, either side of the wide Chah-e Anjir wadi.

The dis­mount­ed troops — sup­port­ed by a num­ber of II Squadron Ridg­back and Jack­al armoured patrol vehi­cles and a spe­cial­ist US Marine IED-clear­ance team — did not go unchal­lenged.

A num­ber of small arms attacks were beat­en off by the ground troops and heav­ier attacks were dealt with by Apache and Cobra gun­ships. One US Marines patrol, tem­porar­i­ly pinned down by heavy small arms fire, was sup­port­ed by a show of force from an F-18 which was suf­fi­cient to deter the insur­gents.

As well as gain­ing vital intel­li­gence the oper­a­tion found a sub­stan­tial IED cache in a com­pound, which con­tained a vari­ety of bomb-mak­ing equip­ment, mines and sev­er­al com­plete IEDs which were ready to be used against ISAF forces.

Wing Com­man­der Jason Sut­ton, the Com­man­der of 3 RAF Force Pro­tec­tion Wing, said:

“The open approach­es to this area mean that it is hard to gain the ele­ment of sur­prise. How­ev­er, by using the Ospreys to approach rapid­ly from an unex­pect­ed direc­tion, the oper­a­tion man­aged to achieve it.

“The RAF Regiment’s role is to defend air bases and those who oper­ate from them, but the old adage of attack being the best form of defence remains as true today as ever. Tar­get­ing the insur­gents and their sup­ply net­works takes the ini­tia­tive away from them so that we can dic­tate the terms of the fight.

“It dis­rupts the insur­gents’ attempts to attack Bas­tion and its vital air oper­a­tions, denies them free­dom of move­ment, and sup­ports the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces as togeth­er we work to pro­tect the pop­u­la­tion who live around the base.”

II Sqn RAF Reg­i­ment is a para­chute-capa­ble RAF infantry unit, which fights on the ground to main­tain con­trol of the air, and spe­cialis­es in the pro­tec­tion of air bases and air oper­a­tions.

The RAF Reg­i­ment is ful­ly a part of the RAF and their organ­i­sa­tion, equip­ment and train­ing are designed specif­i­cal­ly for their tasks. The RAF Reg­i­ment, formed in 1942, is 70 years old this year and has been deployed on oper­a­tions con­tin­u­ous­ly through­out this time. The nick­name for RAF Reg­i­ment per­son­nel is ‘Rock Apes’.

The role of RAF Force Pro­tec­tion Wings is to pro­vide com­mand and con­trol of ground force pro­tec­tion at air bases in order to ensure air oper­a­tions can con­tin­ue unhin­dered.

The Wings typ­i­cal­ly pro­vide on-base secu­ri­ty oper­a­tions deliv­ered by the RAF Police, and off-base oper­a­tions deliv­ered by RAF Reg­i­ment squadrons, who oper­ate in the large ground defence areas around bases.

No 3 Wing pro­vides force pro­tec­tion for Bas­tion Air­field and Camp Bas­tion, work­ing in con­junc­tion with the US Marines who are tasked with pro­tect­ing the adja­cent Camp Leath­er­neck.

As well as hav­ing under its com­mand II Squadron RAF Reg­i­ment and No 2 (Tac­ti­cal) RAF Police Squadron, 3 Wing also includes an attached Roy­al Artillery ele­ment and a detach­ment of Ton­gan Defence Force per­son­nel, who work with the RAF Police to pro­vide perime­ter and entry point secu­ri­ty, and on oth­er oper­a­tions at Bas­tion Air­field and Camp Bas­tion.

3rd Brigade, 215 Corps, of the Afghan Nation­al Army, is based at Camp Shorabak, adja­cent to Bas­tion, and is sup­port­ed by UK troops from Task Force Hel­mand and Bas­tion.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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