Wednesday, 18 May 2022
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22 Nov 09. This operation was designed to push back insurgents operating to the south of Sangin District Centre, expanding the area of security around Sangin DC and continuing to improve the quality of life for the locals. Pushing the insurgents and any fighting away from the urban centre and therefore away from the civilian population is sound counter-insurgency practice, protecting the people, bringing them security.

The mission for A and B Companies of 3 RIFLES, supported by Viking armoured vehicles from Egypt Squadron, 2 Royal Tank Regiment, and by Afghan National Army forces, was for each Company to clear, occupy and complete the initial build of a new Patrol Base (PB) each in the "Green Zone" to the south of Sangin DC. The "Green Zone" is the heavily irrigated and vegetated land either side of the Helmand River where the Taliban had been operating from. Numerous IEDs were cleared as the troops moved south to the compounds which were to be the locations of the new Patrol Bases. The Royal Engineers then worked throughout the rest of the day and night to put in place sangars and firing points and establish the new bases. The missions were completed within 24 hours.

The names for the new PBs are now being chosen by Colonel Wadood of the ANA to reflect the UK/ISAF role of acting in support of the ANSF.

In 2007 the bazaar in Sangin DC was largely deserted. Today the security situation is such that there are over 200 stalls open each day. While Afghan National Police take as much of a lead as possible for security within the urban area, the Afghan National Army and ISAF forces continue to expand the security "bubble" around the Centre. Op Ghartse Ghadmahe is another step in this process.


B Company and Royal Engineers preparing the compound for troops to move in.


Viking armoured vehicles help to move stores to A Company's new Patrol Base.

6 Dec 09. Progress is being made on the Government led provision of new ANP permanent checkpoints. In Sangin the building work on a new checkpoint has progressed swiftly in the past 3 weeks, with 2 buildings nearing completion. The new checkpoint will provide the ANP with a permanent base from which to patrol the streets of Sangin. It is hoped that by the end of December works will be completed and contractors can move on to new Vehicle Checkpoints for the ANP.


Early stages of the observation tower build in Sangin

Observation tower on the Northern Checkpoint in Sangin nearing completion.

6 Dec 09. The Mayor's work in the Sangin District Centre Bazaar is beginning to show clear results. His Municipal Services Department have made significant progress cleaning the streets of Sangin and clearing the gutters that run alongside the road. Contractors are now building three extensions to the tarmac roadway in Sangin to the North, South and Central to the Bazaar.


Road contractors working hard on one of 3 extensions to the tarmac road in the bazaar.

6 Dec 09. During an Operation in the early hours of 03 December, 3 RIFLES continued their plans to deny insurgents access routes to and from population centres with the destruction of a bridge at a known insurgent crossing point. At 0500 troops deployed from new Patrol Base ALMAS and pushed West and North of the canal to allow engineers to place charges on the Bridge. The demolition was fired at first light and successfully created a 10 metre gap across the canal. Insurgents are now forced to use routes that pass within the arcs of the new patrol bases, thus allowing 3 RIFLES greater ability to track their movement throughout the area of operations.


Charges emplaced under the cover of darkness


Demolition fired at first light

6 Dec 09. This week saw 3 RIFLES BG hosting Afghan Journalists for the first time. Journalists were escorted through the bazaar where they got the opportunity to talk to the local population about how they feel progress is Sangin is being made.  The journalists also met and interviewed the ANP Southern Checkpoint Commander Abdul Rashied, Acting Chief of Police Rahullah, and ANA officer Capt Nadari.

3 RIFLES BG Chief of Staff, Major Dickie Head commented: "To meet and talk to the Afghan journalists who had made the effort to visit Sangin was a privilege. They were clearly individuals who took their job seriously while approaching it with a great deal of enthusiasm. The questions they asked were to the point and pragmatic, as one would expect of many Afghans. We did nothing more than tell them what we were doing and how we thought Sangin was progressing. Then, by taking them on patrol in the bazaar we let them make their own minds up. I am sure they are not so nave as to think everywhere in our AO is as secure, but at least they will have had the chance to see things with their own eyes. It will be very interesting to see what they write."

9 Dec 09. On 9 December British and Afghan soldiers spent time showing a recently found Improvised Explosive Device to locals living nearby to Patrol Base Wishtan, near Sangin, to encourage them to report details on further devices. The find occurred after a local Afghan reported its whereabouts to Afghan National Army members at nearby PB Wishtan.  Localelders promised to report the whereabouts of further devices to the ANA and ISAF. The device was later taken to a safe location to be disposed of. Major Graeme Wearmouth, Officer Commanding B Coy, 1 SCOTS commented:

"It was really heartening to see a local willing to pass on information to the Afghan National Army about IEDs. ISAF responded swiftly to the threat, which was a big IED placed on a busy junction which would have caused considerable damage had it detonated."


Soldiers from B Coy 1 SCOTS explain the IED to local nationals

13 Dec 09. When an ANA group mentored by soldiers from the OMLT (Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team) arrived in Sangin the Mosque outside Patrol Base Pylae was in a terrible state after many years of conflict in the area. Despite the problems the people of the village still attended their Mosque.

After a number of meetings the restoration of this building should became a priority. Within the space of two weeks the construction was largely completed. A new school building was also added to the rear of the Mosque and a shower room was built with an area for people to wash their feet before prayer time

With the Mosque complete attendance has increased, and at least 30 children spend most of their day there. There is a lot of activity with the afternoon prayer being extremely busy. The Mullah, the locals and the children are thankful for what the ANA and ISAF have done for them.

The restoration of the Mosque highlights to the people in this village that ANSF and ISAF are there to help. More importantly it demonstrates that the Government can deliver a tangible improvement to their lives, something that the insurgents simply cannot offer.


The mosque before the works pock-marked with old bullet-holes


The mosque after the restoration works

The material used in this post was supplied by the UK MoD


At about 1245hrs local time on Tuesday 15 December, in the Sangin Wadi, about 1800 metres to the east of Sangin District Centre's main Bazaar area a joint patrol of British troops from 3 RIFLES and Afghan troops had set up a vehicle check-poin.

The joint patrol was made up of 4 Afghan National Army  soldiers and 15 British soldiers from 3 RIFLES with an interpreter.  The Afghan soldiers are commanded by Colonel Wadood and 3 RIFLES by Lt Col Nick Kitson.  The two men live and work together from a forward operating base (FOB JACKSON) just to the north of Sangin DC, where their Headquarters are alongside one another.

The check-point was set up as part of the ongoing security operations which the local Afghan Army and Police, supported by 3 RIFLES, have been conducting to protect people in the centre of Sangin DC from insurgent attacks.

A motorcycle carrying two men came towards the check-point and drove straight into it, the insurgents' bombs exploding among the soldiers.  Two Afghan soldiers and two British soldiers were killed and two other Afghan soldiers seriously injured.

Afghan soldiers arriving at the scene extracted their own dead and wounded in one of their vehicles to FOB JACKSON where they were evacuated by a US casevac helicopter to the hospital at Camp Bastion.  In minutes a British Chinook medical evacuation helicopter arrived at the scene. It landed close to the incident under small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire, and evacuated the British casualties, who tragically were pronounced dead shortly after. They were later named as Lance Corporal David Kirkness and Rifleman James Brown, and their eulogies are published below.

The UK MoD says that it is too early to know for sure, and the incident will be subject to an investigation, but initial indications are that the motorcycle was carrying not one but two suicide bombers reports from the scene suggest there was a double explosion.  It is thought the bombers were trying to get in to Sangin DC to attack the people there, possibly with one bomber killing himself and the other waiting to attack security forces or civilians in the aftermath. It seems that the bombers, on realizing they wouldn't get to the Bazaar because of the vehicle check-point they hadn't been expecting, blew themselves up among the soldiers.

Colonel Wadood and Lt Col Kitson went out together among the people in the Sangin DC Bazaar the following day.  Colonel Wadood took the opportunity to talk to as many people as possible, including a large group of local people that formed at one point, telling them: "The suicide bombers were making their way here, to the Bazaar.  Brave ISAF soldiers and Afghan Warriors died defending the safety of the Sangin people and this Bazaar."

He also stressed the need for the local people to go on taking greater ownership of their own security

"Colonel Wadood and I work very closely and we both felt strongly the need to make sure the people of Sangin DC understand the sacrifices being made by Afghan and British soldiers to protect them, and to reassure them we will not be intimidated by such acts.  We feel deeply the loss of our comrades, Afghan and British alike, but had it not been for their courage and bravery the potential loss of civilian lives in the heart of the Sangin community can only be guessed at," said Nick Kitson later.

Sangin District Centre is one of the protected communities in central Helmand alongside Gereshk, Musa Qualeh, Nad-e-Ali and Lashkar Gah where local people have been able to live lives protected from insurgent intimidation and violence and with their own security forces, the Afghan Police and Army, increasingly taking the lead.  It is in these centres that the economies are recovering and the international investment in reconstruction and redevelopment is under way.

Two years ago, the main Bazaar street in Sangin DC was a dusty main street with few shops open and for ISAF and local security forces was passable only in a heavily armoured vehicle.  Today it has over 200 stalls open daily, a metalled road, drainage, and Afghan Police and Army as well as ISAF troops walking about freely.

Afghan and British soldiers have recently been expanding the area under Afghan government control with a series of operations (known as Operation Ghartse Ghadmahe, reported on seperately in the blog ) pushing deeper in to the Green Zone (the irrigated and heavily vegetated areas astride the Helmand River) and other areas around Sangin DC to expel insurgents from areas from which they previously.  The soldiers have built new check-points and patrol bases to demonstrate to locals as signs of Afghan Government and ISAF commitment to their security.

This blog draws upon material supplied by the UK MoD.


Since the 17th February the United States have carried out eight airstrikes. The targets were:

February 17th - A Predator attack that targeting a Taliban compound in the village of Tapi near Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. The strike killed Sheikh Mansoor, a key al Qaida military leader based in North Waziristan. Pakistani news sources reported that the airstrike left a number of other important militants dead

February 18th An unmanned US Predator fired two missiles at a compound and a vehicle in Danda Darpa Khel just outside of Miramshah, North Waziristan. Four Haqqani Network fighters were initially reported killed, including Mohammed Haqqani, one of twelve sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Read more...  

A large group of Taliban soldiers are moving down a road when they hear a voice call
from behind a sand dune. "One member of the Special Air Service is better than ten

The Taliban commander quickly sends 10 of his best soldiers over the dune whereupon
a gun battle breaks and continues for a few minutes, then silence.

Read more...  

Since the 19th March the United States have carried out five unmanned airstrikes. The targets were:

March 21st: Unmanned Predators and Reapers struck a compound in the village of Inzar, North Waziristan. The targeted compound belonged to a relative of a militant commander. Initial reports indicated that four terrorists were killed. However none of these were reported to be senior al Qaida or Taliban leaders. The Taliban responded to the attacks by killing four "U.S. spies." A note found attached to the bodies stated that:

"Spies are spies, and they will come to the same fate as these men. Do not spy for America."

Read more...  

Since the 12th April the United States has carried out seven unmanned airstrikes. The targets were:

April 14th: Unmanned predators or reapers fired two Hellfire missiles at a car in the village of Ambor Shagha, Miramshah, North Waziristan. According to Pakistani intelligence sources four militants were killed in the strike and an additional three were wounded. No senior al Qaeda or Taliban figures have been reported killed in the strike.

Read more...  

International Security Assistance Force - Afghanistan have recently released the following statement:

Three months after the launch of Operation Moshtarak, clear signs of progress are evident throughout central Helmand.

"There are many positive indicators, especially in the areas of development and economic growth," said Major General Nick Carter, commander of ISAF Regional Command (South). "We have roads being built, district centres being reconstructed, and a lot of minor infrastructure projects underway."

Read more... editor Ward Carroll and managing editor Christian Lowe are currently embedded with American troops in eastern Afghanistan. This despatch was published in (who retain copyright) on 21st May 2010

FORWARD OPERATING BASE RUSHMORE -- It took elements of First Platoon, Angel Company, 3-187, an hour to navigate a convoy of MRAPs across 10 miles of bumpy dirt road between the Combat Outpost at Yosef Khel to the village of Mest. And that slow ride was considered a good commute by infantry standards -- no IEDs hit; no RPGs fired at them, and no small-arms contact with the enemy.

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The Secretary of State for Defence (The Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP): The significant increase in the number of international troops in southern Afghanistan is enabling commanders to make improvements in the laydown and command arrangements of coalition forces in the region. The first of these was the handover of security responsibility for Musa Qaleh district in Helmand province from UK to US troops on 27 March. This transfer allowed UK troops in Musa Qaleh to be redeployed to the population centres of central Helmand where they have increased ISAF's capacity to protect the Afghan civilian population from the threat posed by the insurgency, and to train and partner with the Afghan National Security Forces.

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Since the 11th May the United States has carried out three unmanned airstrikes:

15th May: US Predators fired missiles at a Taliban compound and "two truckloads of militants" in the first recorded airstrike with Pakistan's Khyber tribal agency. Between 5 and 15 Taliban fighters were killed in the attack, but none were reported to be senior figures. The location of the attack also remains unclear.

21st May: Unmanned aircraft fired four missiles at a Taliban compound in the village of Mohammed Khel, North Waziristan. Reports suggest that between 6 and 10 'terrorists' were killed in the attack. Initially it remained unclear if the casualties were al Qaida, Taliban or other Jihadists operating in the area. No senior figures were reported killed at the time. However on the 31st May As Sahab, al Qaida's propaganda arm, released statement confirming that its chief finance official Mustafa Abu Yazid was killed in the strike. Yazid is considered one of al Qaida's most senior figures. He served as al Qaida's leader in Afghanistan and was identified by the 9/11 Commission as its "chief financial manager." This would have made him responsible for the distribution of funds from al Qaida's treasury.

Read more...  

Earlier Wednesday, a NATO helicopter providing support to British troops in southern Afghanistan was shot down by Taliban gunners, and military officials said all four American crewmen aboard were killed.

The deaths brought the number of American service members killed in Afghanistan to at least 19 this month, according to, a nongovernmental Web site that tracks war fatalities in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Read more...  

An occasional series highlighting longer reports and features on Afghanistan which we think are worth a read.

Afghan's civic war - attempts to build local governance from the grass roots up.

U.S hopes Afghan councils will weaken Taliban

Read more...  

House of Commons Library new research paper 10/45: The 'Afpak policy' and the Pashtuns

A year's deployment in Afghanistan : One U.S. battalion's story

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On the 9th June a NATO helicopter providing support to British troops in Afghanistan was shot down by Taliban forces. The deaths of four American crewmen took the number of U.S. casualties for the month to 19 servicemen. What was already proving to be a bad month for the United States and its partners has since then got much worse.

Read more...  

Together, the United Kingdom, the United States and our allies around the world, face a difficult security environment, where the outlook is sobering and the threats diverse, growing and unpredictable.

We live in a period in which direct military threats to our countries' territories are low.

But in this globalised world, the scourge of terrorism, the danger of nuclear proliferation, the ungoverned space created by fragile or failed states, and the competition for energy and resources, will test our ability to deter, contain and deal with risks to national security.

Read more...  

Suicide bombers storm Afghan aid building, kill four

Pakistan Army struggling to root out Taliban

Read more...  

The International Security Assistance Force's strategy for defeating the improvised explosive device threat in Afghanistan can be characterised by three main elements - attacking the system, defeating the device and preparing the force.

Major General Gordon Messenger, the Chief of the Defence Staff's Strategic Communications Officer, and Colonel Peter Smith, Assistant Director of Counter-IED at Land Forces Headquarters, reiterated that the IED menace is being countered through intelligence, training and equipment at a briefing to the media in MOD's Main Building on Thursday 1 July 2010.

Reminding the audience that while improvised explosive devices are far from a new phenomenon and that around 300 are found every month outside Iraq and Afghanistan, Major General Messenger said that it was in Afghanistan that their use had become 'unprecedented'.

Read more...  


Private John Howard, aged 23, was born in Wellington, New Zealand, on 17 April 1987. Having arrived in the United Kingdom he applied to join The Parachute Regiment and subsequently completed the Combat Infantryman's Course held at the Infantry Training Centre Catterick, North Yorkshire.

On successfully passing out in November 2007, Private Howard was posted to 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment (3 PARA) in Colchester. On joining the battalion he was posted to B Company and deployed to Afghanistan in March 2008 on Operation HERRICK 8. During his time with 3 PARA, he deployed on exercises in the Netherlands, Norway, Kenya and the USA. Throughout this period Private Howard served with distinction and was identified by his regiment as a potential high flyer with much to offer.

True to form, in April 2010 he volunteered for service with the Brigade Reconnaissance Force and successfully completed the Brigade Reconnaissance Force cadre, excelling during the demanding build-up training, before deploying on Operation HERRICK 13. During this time he qualified as a sharpshooter and a team medic.

Right from the outset of the tour he rapidly established himself as a leading personality in his section and platoon. His sense of humour and easygoing attitude made him an immensely likeable figure whose friendships with his comrades spanned both rank and age. He had been at the very forefront of all the Brigade Reconnaissance Force operations up to the point when his life was tragically taken.

All of those who knew Private Howard will be poorer for the loss of this engaging, compassionate and inspiring young man. He leaves behind his parents Roger and Anne, two sisters Charlotte and Isabella, and his girlfriend Sophie.

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To the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Civilians of NATO's International Security Assistance Force:

We serve in Afghanistan at a critical time. With the surge in ISAF strength and the growth of Afghan forces, we and other Afghan comrades have a new opportunity. Together, we can ensure that Afghanistan will not once again be ruled by those who embrace indiscriminate violence and transnational extremists, and we can ensure that Al Qaeda and other extremist elements cannot once again establish sanctuaries in Afghanistan from which they can launch attacks on our homelands and on the Afghan people.

This has been a hard fight. As you have soldiered together with our Afghan partners to reverse the Taliban momentum and to take away Taliban safe havens, the enemy has fought back ISAF and Afghan Forces sustained particularly tough losses last month. Nonetheless, in the face of an enemy willing to carry out the most barbaric of attacks, progress has been achieved in some critical areas, and we are poised to realize more.

Read more...  

Ranger McCormick (22) came from Coleraine in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. On completion of his recruit training, he joined 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment at Tern Hill, Shropshire, in January 2008.

Ranger McCormick was posted to A Company, where he served with distinction for two-and-a-half years. His professionalism, selflessness and enthusiasm were well known across the Company and the Battalion. Aaron had served once before in Afghanistan on Op HERRICK 8, and was quickly identified as a quality soldier. Voluntarily, he took on the responsibility as the lead Vallon (mine detection) man. He would be the first man on any patrol, showing the strength of character and courage that he would come to be known for.

Faugh-A-Ballagh! ('Clear the way!'), is the Regiment's motto, and Ranger McCormick was a man who truly cleared the way.

Despite a relatively short time in the Army he was able to offer guidance and advice to the newest members of his unit, often over a brew and having a chat about 'Star Wars'; he was a huge fan.

Ranger McCormick was very well educated and had aspirations to complete a degree in education in the future, a career to which he would have been well suited.

Always ready with a smile, Ranger McCormick was always at the centre of the 'craic' and he will be sorely missed by all members of The Royal Irish Regiment. He leaves behind his mother Margaret, his father Lesley, his sisters Callie-Ann and Tammy, his brother Michael and his girlfriend Becky. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

Read more...  

Latest from the Ministry of Defence

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