Wednesday, 22 November 2017
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To judge from the British media, whose reportage sometimes verges on the hysterical, British troops are moving around Afghanistan in an inadequate number of death traps.

While it is true that approaching 100 troops have been killed this year, many of them by innoccuous sounding IEDs landmines to you and me there is a wide range and quantity of kit in theatre and more on the way. So far 500 vehicles have been delivered so far this year.

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From Private Eye issue 1252

In deepest Helmand, the price differential between wheat and dried opium this season is playing into the hands of the government and heavily against the Taliban. Wheat commands roughly twice the world price here, about $200 per ton against just under $95 on the grain floors of Chicago and Winnipeg. The price of opium has crashed : from about $225 a kilo two and a half years ago, you are now lucky to get more than $90 a kilo in Kandahar. The problem is hyper-production - there is two years worth of opium harvest now in store. Besides, it's getting hellishly problematical to sell the stuff and just plain hellish to grow it. It costs roughly $70 for hired labour to thin a jerib (one fifth of a hectare) of poppy ; $30 for the first go round and $40 the second time, and $300 a jerib to harvest.

Then there are the risks and overheads, paying the middlemen, the warlords and gangsters and the Taliban tax. A further risk is Governor Ghulab Mangal's habit of ordering in his taskforce of  100 armoured tractors protected by ISAAF (NATO's International Security Assistance Force) and Afghan army units which tear up fields just as the poppies are ready to cut and tap.

No wonder hundreds of farmers in Marjah gave two fingers to the Taliban at a recent Shura, telling their so called "protectors" they needed to buy subsidised wheat seed and fertiliser from the government. The Taliban reluctantly agreed because they know that otherwise the farmers face ruin. (Editor's note : tales returning with 19 Light Brigade tell of Taliban killing farmers and burning seeds and tractors to prevent them from taking the governemnt help, so this is a good indicator of progress and success in agricultural policies which are vital to secure the countryside and its future)

The farmers are now getting expert advice in the unlikely form of an NGO called Rift Valley Agriculture, whose members are a gang of Zimbabweans whose farms were taken off them by Mugabes's war veterans gangs. Their leader, Roy Watson, is a Giant Haystacks figure. A huge, silver-handled Colt automatic sticks out of his black XXX-Large body armour vest.

Roy and his oppo Farney Feirera are the Little and Large of the team. They are the supreme practitioners of Extreme Agriculture, going into the fields with the farmers, in the badlands of Marjah and beyond the belts of IEDs  at Musa Qala, to advise on crop husbandry, harvest and planting cycles, the application of fertilizer and herbicide. "They learn quickly, and are pretty damn good" Roy the Man Mountain says. "Wheat yields have gone up 30% in one year."

For more on Rift Valley Agriculture see

Reproduced by kind permission of PRIVATE EYE magazine <


Sapper William Blanchard Sapper_William_Blanchard

Sapper Blanchard, aged 39, from Gosport in Hampshire, joined 221 Field Squadron (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) (Volunteers), part of 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), in 2007. He completed his basic training and then his elementary explosive ordnance disposal course before volunteering for mobilisation in 2010.

Once mobilised he joined 61 Field Squadron (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) for mission specific training in Woodbridge before deployment. A friendly, well-considered and down to earth individual, he was the cornerstone of the reservist element within the Task Force.

He aspired to attempt officer selection on completion of his operational service and was already showing many of the hallmarks of a great leader.

A radiation protection officer by profession, he gained a double honours degree in Chemistry with Organic Chemistry and a Masters in Biomedical Pharmacology at the University of Southampton.

He leaves behind a large family including his wife, Suzanne Blanchard, and his children, Tom and Lucy Rees-Blanchard, his father, The Reverend Canon Lawrence Blanchard, and six brothers, Tom, Dan and Ned Blanchard and John, Chris and Shane Sargeant.

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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.


Acting Corporal Barnsdale, from Tring in Hertfordshire, was 24 years old and joined the Royal Engineers in September 2002. Following his basic combat engineer training in Camberley, he completed his Class 2 air conditioning and refrigeration trade training at Chatham before being posted to Hohne in Germany.

His four years in 26 Armoured Engineer Squadron, part of 32 Engineer Regiment, saw him promote to Lance Corporal and complete operational tours of Iraq and Afghanistan. Posted to 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) in October 2009, he comfortably passed his role-specific training and quickly settled into his new discipline. At the top of his peer group and already an Acting Corporal, he was in line for promotion at the earliest opportunity.

An enthusiastic football player and sportsman, he enjoyed playing the game as much as supporting his team, Queens Park Rangers. A highly professional and sociable individual, he was well-liked by those who knew him. He leaves behind his mother Wendy, his father Stephen, his sister Vanessa and his girlfriend Helen.

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The Ministry of Defence has today confirmed the name of Corporal Seth Stephens of the Royal Marines who was killed in southern Afghanistan on Thursday 1 July 2010. At the request of Corporal Stephens' family, no further information was released regarding his death in July. At their request, the Ministry of Defence have now issue have now issued the following tribute.

A spokesperson for the Royal Marines said:

"Cpl Seth Stephens was a truly popular man. He was blessed with the innate ability to brighten the darkest room; he also possessed a disarming sense of humour. Measured and thoughtful, his strength came from a depth of experience and knowledge that he was keen to share with others. Armed with a positive 'can do' approach to every task, he was a trusted friend and colleague. A team member he most certainly was, but it was as an individual that his true colours were best displayed. Never one to follow the well trodden path, he was confident in his own abilities and was always looking for new challenges."

"Above all else Seth was a doting husband and father. His absolute dedication and unfailing love for his family, was abundantly clear for everybody to see. He could always be relied upon to be there for his family and friends, whose needs he always placed before his own. Their loss is immeasurable and our condolences go to them. If there is some solace to be gained, it lies in knowing that Seth died doing the job he genuinely loved, alongside comrades that had the utmost admiration for him. At this tragic time our thoughts are with his family. We all hope that his family can draw strength, as we do, from the fond and lasting memories we all have of Seth; a father, husband, soldier and friend."


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.

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Sergeant Jones was born in Newport, South Wales, on 8 January 1975, and attended Lliswerry Comprehensive School before choosing to join the Royal Engineers.He completed basic training at the Army Training Regiment Bassingbourn in February of 1998, before passing out of the Royal Engineers Combat Engineering Course in August of the same year.

He deployed to Kosovo with 31 Armoured Engineer Squadron, 32 Engineer Regiment, before being posted to the Royal Engineers Armoured Trials and Development Unit in Bovington Camp, Dorset. After this Sergeant Jones was posted to D Squadron, The Queen's Royal Lancers, as an Engineer Reconnaissance Troop Sergeant in February 2009.

His service with D Squadron saw him conducting demolition on ranges in Scotland, leading a team over the Yorkshire Three Peaks in 24 hours and overseeing the site reconnaissance and placing of bridges for The Queen's Royal Lancers Battle Group in British Army Training Unit Suffield, Canada, in 2009.

For his deployment to Afghanistan earlier this year he was placed in 1st Troop, Fondouk Squadron, The Queen's Royal Lancers, and immediately made a name for himself as a tirelessly efficient, sharp-witted and boundlessly enthusiastic individual; his performance on Operation HERRICK 12 was second-to-none.

Sergeant Jones was quick to fit into regimental life in Catterick; his sense of humour and dulcet Welsh accent made him popular with the troops and in the Warrant Officers' and Sergeants' Mess. An avid supporter of the Welsh rugby team, he was never more at home than when arguing over a referee's decision in a test match against England.

Above all, Sergeant Jones was a family man. He spoke endlessly of his wife Joanne, and children, Natasha, Caitlin and Liam, and of his plans for the future. While his professional focus was unquestioned, his heart remained with his family for the duration of his tour in Afghanistan.

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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.

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Sergeant Peter Anthony Rayner was born into a military family on the 11 November 1975 in Andover. He considered his hometown to be Bradford but joined the 1st Battalion, The King's Own Royal Border Regiment in 1994; the same Battalion in which his father had served for most of his Army career.

He joined an Armoured Infantry Battalion based in Catterick, and it is in this role that Sergeant Rayner excelled. Passing a Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicle driving cadre soon after his arrival he then deployed as a Warrior driver to Bosnia in 1997, to Macedonia in 1998 and again to Bosnia in 2000.

By this time he had been promoted to Lance Corporal and was honing his skills as an armoured infantry soldier by becoming a Regimental Instructor Gunnery, Driving and Maintenance Instructor, and Fleet Manager.

As his Regiment moved to Cyprus he stayed in Catterick with the 1st Battalion, The King's Regiment and deployed to Iraq on Operation TELIC 2, where he was employed as a Warrior Commander.

Always one to seek out a new challenge, Sergeant Rayner moved to the Anti-Tank Platoon where he completed the Milan Detachment Commander's Course. He deployed again to Iraq on Operation TELIC 9 with the newly formed 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, this time as a Warrior Sergeant with Arnhem Company.

In 2009, following an exemplary performance on the Javelin Section Commander's Course, he deployed with Arnhem Company to Afghanistan as part of the Theatre Reserve Battalion on Operation HERRICK 11. He was based out of Patrol Base Shammel Storrei, one of the most heavily attacked bases in Southern Helmand, where he performed admirably. He received the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal on his return to Cyprus.

In 2010 he once again deployed to Afghanistan with Arnhem Company as the Javelin Platoon Sergeant. His bravery and courage had attracted much praise and he had cemented a reputation as one of the best Javelin Commanders in the Army.

He will be remembered for his pre-eminence as a Javelin Commander, for his forthright manner and for his huge personality. Sergeant Rayner will be sorely missed by all members of his Company and by all members of the 2nd Battalion the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment'Lions of England'. He leaves a young family and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Wendy and his son Derek at this time.

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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."

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Rifleman Suraj Gurung was 22 years old and born and raised in the hill town of Gorkha in Nepal. He passed the notoriously gruelling process for Gurkha selection into the British Army in December 2007; becoming the first member of his family to achieve this feat.

In early January 2008 he made the journey from the tranquil foothills of the Nepalese Himalaya to Catterick in North Yorkshire as a trainee Rifleman ready to begin the arduous months of Gurkha infantry training.

In October 2008 he completed this training and travelled to Brunei to join 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles. As a result of his good command of English and his obvious intelligence he was immediately selected to be the Platoon Radio Operator. This position is normally reserved for a senior Rifleman and as such it was testament to the high regard in which he was held so early on in his career.

Rifleman Suraj returned to the United Kingdom in August 2009 and was selected as the lead man in his patrol, known as the vallon man, for the upcoming tour to Afghanistan. His ability had again been singled out.

He deployed on Op HERRICK 12 in April 2010 and even from the start of the tour he was always confident and calm under pressure. As a soldier he excelled here in Afghanistan. As the point man of every patrol he led his multiple unflinchingly across some of the most daunting and uncertain terrain, day after day, time after time.

For six months he had been finding IEDs and selecting safe routes, keeping those following behind safe.

Only recently married he leaves behind his wife and family in Nepal.

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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.

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Corporal Matthew Thomas, from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, was killed in the Gamsir district of Helmand province on Saturday 25 September 2010, when the vehicle he was driving was struck by an improvised explosive device.

A spokesperson for the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers said:

"Corporal Matthew Thomas was an intelligent, dedicated and courageous man whose all-round professionalism as a soldier, excellence as a sportsman, and deep, deep competence as a mechanical engineer were widely respected and admired.

"Though still a young man he was a natural leader, setting the highest standards, showing enormous moral strength, and nurturing those under his command at every turn. His ready smile, natural exuberance and 'can do' attitude were much prized by all with whom he worked, and were testament to how he loved his profession.

"He revelled in the responsibility, challenges and opportunities presented to him as a vehicle mechanic on operations in Afghanistan. And for their part the troops whom he supported so ably wholeheartedly embraced 'Tommo', as he was fondly called.

"He died alongside these comrades, with whom such a bond had been built and who meant so much to him. His passing is a sad day for us but we must count ourselves privileged to have served with such a talented, rounded and inspirational man.

"Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time. We hope that in the midst of their terrible loss they can draw strength, as we do, from fond memories of a remarkable sportsman, soldier, mechanic and leader."


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."

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Trooper Andrew Martin Howarth was born in Bournemouth, 28th May 1990. He attended Queen Elizabeth's School in Wimborne, Dorset, before joining the Army in 2007. He completed basic training at the Army Training Regiment, Bassingbourn, before passing out of Royal Armoured Corps Phase 2 training at Bovington. He joined The Queen's Royal Lancers in Catterick, North Yorkshire, in February of 2008, and in doing so became the third generation of his family to serve with the Regiment.

Trooper Howarth has spent the duration of his career in C Squadron, as a reconnaissance vehicle driver. He was exceptionally gifted at maintaining and managing the armoured vehicles under his stewardship and was chosen from amongst his peers to drive for his troop leader. He showed his true abilities from the start, driving for his troop leader on training exercises on Salisbury Plain Training Area, during Exercise MEDICINE MAN in BATUS in the summer of 2009, throughout Mission Specific Training for Op HERRICK 12, and on the deployment to Afghanistan in April 2010. His initiative, self motivation and robustness, both physical and mental, were exceptional in a soldier of such youth and inexperience; he would have, without doubt, risen through the ranks above and beyond his peers. He had an infectious smile and a truly inspirational sense of humour.

Aside from his life as a professional formation reconnaissance soldier, Trooper Howarth was an immensely charismatic young sportsman. He has a deep rooted love of rugby football and represented the Regimental side on many an occasions. He was also an avid alpine skier, having learnt to ski with the Regimental Alpine Ski Team in Verbier, Switzerland in 2008; although he was only a beginner, his enthusiasm, absolute courage and determination easily compensated for his lack of experience on the slopes.

Trooper Howarth was killed in action during a vehicle patrol in the Bolan district of Lashkar Gah on 18 September 2010 alongside one of his colleagues. He was serving as part of Fondouk Squadron, The Queen's Royal Lancers, and was providing security to the people of Helmand Province, during a vehicle mounted ground domination patrol, by denying insurgents' freedom of movement. He leaves behind his parents, John and Sarah, and his older brother Marcus.

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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Kingsman Darren DeadyKingsman_Darren_Deady

Kingsman Darren Deady was born in Bolton on 18 January 1988 into a large Lancastrian family. He joined the Army in October 2008 shortly after leaving school determined to join his local infantry regiment, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment.

On completion of the tough and arduous Combat Infantryman's Course at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, he moved to Cyprus where he joined Arnhem Company of 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment in Spring 2009, just in time for the commencement of pre-deployment training for the battalion's Theatre Reserve role.

A Theatre Reserve Battalion provides acclimatised troops over a 12-month period as the UK's high readiness operational reserve. On completion of a busy and challenging period of preparation Kingsman Deady deployed with his company to southern Helmand, going straight to Nad 'Ali as part of Operation MOSHTARAK in February 2010.

He had an excellent tour and shone amongst his peers for his beaming sense of humour which remained in tact in the face of adversity, something for which he became famous and which had the most positive and enduring effect on all those that knew him.

After returning to Cyprus the battalion was deployed again and in July Arnhem Company returned to the Nahr-e Saraj region of central Helmand.

On 23 August 2010, Kingsman Deady was wounded in action fighting to defend a compound as part of Operation KAPCHA AMIQ 1, an operation to protect soldiers and civilians who are improving the infrastructure for the people of Nahr-e Saraj.

Arnhem Company were protecting a vital location when they came under prolonged, intense small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire. Kingsman Deady was fatally wounded fighting alongside his fellow soldiers. He was given exceptional first aid at the point of wounding by his friends, which kept him alive, before being evacuated to the hospital in Camp Bastion and subsequently to the UK for further treatment.

On 10 September 2010, with his family present, he died of his wounds at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. Kingsman Deady was a small man with an irrepressible sense of humour. He had a great talent for finding humour and making light of the darkest situations.

A young soldier with huge character, very popular and well-respected, he was well-known across the battalion. His dedication and commitment to those around him earned him the unquestionable loyalty of those who worked with him. His tragic loss has been extremely hard to bear for all those that had the privilege to meet him; he will never be forgotten.

Kingsman Deady's family said:

"We would like to thank you all for your support through these difficult times, they have been hard for everyone. I now hope you will join us in celebration of Darren's life.

"We lost a wonderful son, brother, uncle, grandson and friend; he is going to be missed by all. At this moment we are experiencing the hardest times of our life.

"Darren was proud to do a job that he loved and most of all believed in; his little brother once turned round to him and asked him 'Why do you fight?' and Darren simply replied 'To make a difference'.

"The Army and hospital staff have been amazing and really have looked after us and supported us, nothing was ever too much trouble for them and we are eternally grateful to all involved.

"The other families we have met through this journey have been a tower of strength and we wish them all the best. There is only one thing left to say now - 'Please Don't Forget Him'. RIP Darren Deady, you will be missed."

Lieutenant Colonel Robbie Boyd, Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment (2 LANCS), the 'Lions of England', said:

"Kingsman Darren Deady was a tiny man with the heart of a lion. His irrepressible and infectious sense of humour made this small man a huge character within Arnhem Company, where his courage and selflessness will always be remembered.

"He was always the first to volunteer for everything, to carry the heaviest load or to be first in the patrol to clear a path for his mates. He loved his job and his regiment, he loved serving with his fellow Lions in Arnhem Company.

"He had already shown skill as well as courage having previously served in Afghanistan during Operation MOSHTARAK in Nad 'Ali during 11 Light Brigade's tour. This was his second deployment in the face of the enemy and he fought again with the courage and heart of a lion.

"No-one in my battalion was as good or as accurate with an underslung grenade launcher; he fired it time and again on two separate tours to protect the team he was ferociously loyal to. A team player, a man with a huge heart and a man with bags of humour in the face of adversity.

"England has lost one of her finest Lions, his family: a brother and son, his mates: one of their most respected friends. We will never forget Darren Deady; a regimental brother to his fellow Kingsmen, a man with the heart of a lion, forever popular and forever respected.

Major Paul Tingey, Officer Commanding Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"Kingsman Darren Deady was one of the first Kingsmen I got to know when I assumed command of Arnhem Company. He was a real character. He was a young man who was confident enough to speak to his boss about anything on his mind, and often did.

"I always felt that he was being himself, no false pretences and never putting on a show to impress. Impress, however, he did. He was a superb soldier - trusted, respected and an example to others. He was a small man with a huge personality.

"1 Platoon soldiers have lost one of their best mates. He is a great loss to Arnhem Company and to The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family who have lost a loving son and a devoted brother."

Captain Bowden-Williams, Second-in-Command, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"Kingsman Deady was an old fashioned Kingsman - wiry, tough, humorous, never afraid to voice his opinion. Above all this he was loyal to his friends not only in camp or when socialising, where he will always be remembered, but also on the battlefield where he ultimately gave his life for them."

Lieutenant Mark Hayward, 3 Platoon Commander, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"I remember turning up to the small patrol base in Nad 'Ali on the last tour to take command of my first multiple. I got all the lads together to introduce myself and I remember looking at all of the lads sat in front of me and out of all the faces looking back one stood out in particular. Sat there looking back was Kingsman Deady with his trademark cheeky grin. This was a grin I am happy to say was one I would see many times in the future.

"His optimistic outlook and ability to provide morale to those around no matter the situation is something I will always admire. It says a lot about his character as the whole time I have been in the regiment I have only heard people speak of him with the highest of regards. It has been an honour to have served alongside him. Rest in Peace Deady."

Second Lieutenant Andy Miller, 1 Platoon Commander, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"Commanding Kingsmen is always a privilege, but to be Kingsman Deady's Platoon Commander was an honour. Kingsman Darren Deady was by far the best Kingsman in my platoon. He was polite, focused, funny, entertaining and truthful. He was an extremely professional soldier and as a result he was often the first to volunteer for the most difficult of tasks within the platoon.

"He would either be leading the way, clearing a safe route free from hidden bombs for his comrades, or he would be carrying some of the heaviest equipment that the platoon had, even if he did say 'There's only so much these chicken legs can carry'. He was ferocious in battle and deadly accurate with his underslung grenade launcher."

"We would often talk of what we were looking forward to on our post-tour leave. He could not wait to return to Bolton to see his family, go out with his friends and spend his money on a ridiculously fast motorbike as well as a lads' holiday to Amsterdam.

"Away from soldiering, back in Cyprus, Kingsman Deady lived for the weekends. My Monday mornings would always be brightened by tales of Kingsman Deady's latest escapades, usually involving him with no top on and going missing for a large part of the night, often returning with a new tattoo that he would proudly show me.

"Kingsman Deady will be sorely missed by me and the entire team. He was the life and soul of the platoon and it is a tragedy that his 'one of a kind' laugh will never be heard again. My thoughts are with his family. Kingsman Darren Deady will never be forgotten by me or his brothers in 1 Platoon."

Sergeant Lea Wilkinson, 1 Platoon Sergeant, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"Deady was one of the most popular and much-loved members of the platoon. The energy and morale which he produced was infectious, making being in Afghanistan that much more bearable.

"Darren was a cheeky lad who often managed to make me laugh even when he was in trouble. The platoon will be a very different place without him."

Corporal Stephen Byrne, Section Commander, 1 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"I first met Kingsman Deady when I moved to Arnhem Company two years ago. I liked him from day one and what a brilliant character. He was a fantastic soldier that put his best into everything."

Corporal Sean Bateson, Section Commander, 1 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"A true Kingsman, a true Lancastrian, always full of life and always with a smile on his face. Truly missed but never forgotten."

Corporal Iliav Waqa, Section Commander, 2 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"It was a privilege to have known him and he always gave one hundred and ten per cent; everything was always done to the highest standards."

Corporal Gareth Collins, Section Commander, 1 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"One of the best Kingsmen I've ever worked with within the platoon, always there whenever anyone needed him, my thoughts go out to his family."

Lance Corporal Gary Smith, Section Second-in-Command, 2 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"You're one of the best lads I've ever known and it was a privilege to fight alongside you."

Kingsman Ben Harper, Signaller, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"Deady was one of the boys who looked after everyone. I will always remember him calling me fatty and me giving him stick back but he always got the beers in first. I'll remember him as a mate, brother and the best Kingsman around."

Kingsman Christopher Norris, Fire Support Group, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"Darren was one of the best lads I've ever met in the Army. A guy who always lived for the weekend. You will never be forgotten."

Kingsman Dean Smith, 1 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"Deady was one of the best lads I've ever met. I enjoyed his company and working with him. He was always having a laugh and always had a smile on his face. I will always remember him."

Kingsman James Kirner, 1 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"I can't believe he's gone, he was the morale of the platoon. We're going to miss you so much."

Kingsman Liam Phillpot, 1 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"Even when he was down he managed to cheer you up. Even though he is gone he will never be forgotten."

Kingsman Liam McKenna, 1 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"He always kept morale high even in the worst of situations, he will be so missed."

Kingsman Antony Lewis, Fire Support Group, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"In the short time that I have known him he was a great lad to be around, always happy and positive, a pleasure to work with, my thoughts are with his family."

Kingsman John Dowson, 1 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"I didn't know Deady for long but what a sound lad, always up for a laugh. My deepest thoughts are with his family and those who were lucky enough to know him."

Kingsman Alan Burrow, 1 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"Deady was a top lad and a true soldier, always happy and always with a smile on his face, even when he was down. He always had something to laugh about and was the life and soul of the party.

"He loved to go out and have a beer and chase the girls and it seemed to work as he often pulled. It won't be the same without him wandering around without his top on. Rest in Peace mate, you will never be forgotten."

Kingsman Robert Purkiss, Company Medic, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"One of the best men in Arnhem Company, some of the stories will stay with me forever and the fact that he was always cribbing with a smile on his face."

Kingsman Scott Duffy, 1 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"Darren Deady was one of my best friends in the battalion. He was always one to make you laugh when times were hard and making the most of a bad situation. He will be dearly missed by the lads in 1 Platoon. We have lost one of our best soldiers, a true Kingsman."

Kingsman Kyle Garth, 1 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"Deady was full of character, the most popular lad in the platoon and one of my best friends.

"He would always be making people laugh when times were hard and morale was low. He would always pick on my accent; he used to say that I sounded like a farmer and I used to take the mick out of his Bolton accent.

"We would go to the gym together, then, when the weekend arrived, we would all go out as a big team and enjoy ourselves. Rest in Peace Deady mate, you're going to be missed."

Kingsman Christopher Stagg, 3 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"Deady, I can't believe you're gone mate. You will be sorely missed. You were a great colleague and an even better friend. Rest In Peace mate."

Kingsman Jacob Murray, 1 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"From one Boltoner to another, you were a good mate to all the lads in Arnhem Company. When one of us was down you always knew how to put a smile back on our faces.

"Thoughts are with your family and friends back home. I am going to miss you mate, gone but never forgotten. Rest in Peace."

Kingsman Kemron Modeste, 3 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"Deady mate, it feels like only yesterday we last spoke about how we were going to spend leave and how you were saying you were going to come visit me back home in Grenada.

"Mate, I know if you could you would have been there, you will be sorely missed by all in Arnhem Company. Can't wait till we see each other again. From your brother from another mother. See you later mate."

Kingsman Christopher Craig, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"No words can describe what sort of a friend you were to the men of Arnhem Company, nor can they do justice to what sort of a soldier you were.

"Your family, regiment and country have lost one of its finest and bravest. I am proud to have served alongside you and rest assured we will never forget."

Kingsman Mark Traynor, 3 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"You were without a doubt the morale of this company; you would even be laughing when days were bad. We will never forget you mate."

Kingsman Tom Smith, 3 Platoon, Arnhem Company, 2 LANCS, said:

"Deady, can't believe I am speaking to you in this way but you were a top friend to everyone. Mate, I can't tell you how much I am going to miss you. All the lads feel for your family and friends at home. You were a true Kingsman mate. Rest in Peace Deady, you will never be forgotten."Kingsman_Darren_Deady


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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