UK — Royal Marines protect Afghan people from Taliban intimidation

As the Roy­al Marines of 40 Com­man­do work hard to bring secu­ri­ty to the pop­u­la­tion of San­gin in Hel­mand province they are often tasked to pro­tect res­i­dents from Tal­iban intim­i­da­tion and attack.

Royal Marines on patrol in the Sangin area of Helmand province (stock image)
Roy­al Marines on patrol in the San­gin area of Hel­mand province (stock image)
Source: LA(Phot) Si Ethell, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

One method of intim­i­da­tion used by the insur­gents is the rais­ing of white flags — a prac­tice that has become syn­ony­mous with Tal­iban rule. They can strike fear into the local pop­u­la­tion and are used to tar­get Afghan and ISAF forces as they are often boo­by-trapped with impro­vised explo­sive devices (IEDs).

Marine Har­ri­son ‘Har­ry’ McGill, from 40 Com­man­do Roy­al Marines, was recent­ly tasked with remov­ing a flag. 

Marine McGill said: 

“We thought that we would go out that night and get it. We went through loads of mis­sion rehearsals. 

“To avoid endan­ger­ing our­selves we decid­ed to tie a rope around it and pull it down so that we were at a safe dis­tance from it in case there were any IEDs attached to it.” 

That night Marine McGill and his team went out on patrol in the area to reas­sure the locals that the Afghan Nation­al Army and ISAF forces were present and to have a look at the com­pound where the Tal­iban had raised the flag. 

After care­ful inspec­tion, and tak­ing all the nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions, Marine McGill explained: 

“We got the rope around it and start­ed pulling it down, but the rope snapped.” 

Unde­terred, and using their con­tin­gency plan, which involved care­ful­ly clear­ing the path to the flag of any poten­tial IEDs, they removed the flag post and flag from the com­pound and returned to their patrol base. 

Marine McGill and his patrol had giv­en a very clear mes­sage to the local peo­ple that ISAF and Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces were in charge of the area, not the insurgents. 

Sad­ly, the meth­ods used by the insur­gents to ter­rorise the pop­u­la­tion are often more dead­ly than white flags, as Lance Cor­po­ral Jonathan Rat­cliffe, a Com­man­do medic, found out when he was con­front­ed with a young Afghan girl who had been shot by the Taliban. 

The young girl had been shot in the arm as a result of insur­gent fire. Lance Cor­po­ral Rat­cliffe thought that the young girl was about six years old, the same age as his only son Bobby: 

“It was quite late in the evening, around dusk, when we heard gun­fire,” Lance Cor­po­ral Rat­cliffe explained. 

“The insur­gents were fir­ing rounds toward our patrol base. Once the dust set­tled, we moved swift­ly into posi­tion to pro­tect the base, but, as we were mov­ing, some locals came to the front of the base and the inter­preter told me that there was a lit­tle girl who had been shot in the incident.” 

On hear­ing the news Lance Cor­po­ral Rat­cliffe went to the front gate to help. He said: 

“I went out to see her. She was such a strong lit­tle girl and, unbe­liev­ably, was­n’t cry­ing. She had been shot in the arm, but luck­i­ly it had just grazed her, but it was quite deep and of con­cern to me. 

“I was wor­ried; it just would­n’t stop bleed­ing. I knew that I had to get her into the med­ical facil­i­ty we have in the base. So, the lit­tle girl, her uncle, broth­er, and some of the Afghan Nation­al Army sol­diers came into the small med­ical room at the heart of the base as I con­tin­ued to treat her. 

“I gave her lots of choco­late and fruit juice because she was so brave. It was amaz­ing. She did­n’t cry at all, even when I was clean­ing the wound and try­ing to make it stop bleed­ing. It took about 20 min­utes to stop, so then I then dressed her wound and put her arm in a sling.” 

The lit­tle girl had been look­ing after some of her family’s goats on one of the near­by fields when she was caught up in the insur­gents’ firing. 

In Afghanistan, and par­tic­u­lar­ly in the south­ern Green Zone where Lance Cor­po­ral Rat­cliffe is based, the chil­dren assist their rel­a­tives by tend­ing to their ani­mals and look­ing after the crops in the fields. Lance Cor­po­ral Rat­cliffe said: 

“Being out here in Afghanistan def­i­nite­ly makes you appre­ci­ate every­thing in the UK so much more. See­ing this young girl made me think of my boy, I miss him a lot.” 

How­ev­er, Lance Cor­po­ral Rat­cliffe said he can see the good he is doing in Afghanistan: 

“I have def­i­nite­ly enjoyed being a Marine so far and I find being a medic par­tic­u­lar­ly grat­i­fy­ing. It’s a good job, you def­i­nite­ly feel like you are doing some­thing positive.” 

Work­ing side by side with the Afghan Nation­al Army, the Roy­al Marines are work­ing to push away the insur­gents from the pop­u­la­tion cen­tres of San­gin and extend the reach of the Afghan Government. 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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