US Marine Corps Major General Richard Mills and his Deputy Commander, Brigadier George Norton, held a media briefing last Tuesday at the Ministry of Defence to report on security conditions over the past year in Helmand province, the region once referred to by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates as 'perhaps the most dangerous place on earth'. Speaking via satellite link from Camp Leatherneck, the commanders noted 'sustained', 'continuous' and 'unrelenting' progress since the US troop surge last year.
'The insurgent leadership has fled the province', said General Mills. 'We believe that he suffers from a lack of money and a lack of recruits. His leadership has been decimated by our special forces.'
Reflecting on the 'very dark place' that Sangin district was a year ago when he took command of Britain's 8,000 troops and 20,000 US Marines in Helmand province, Mills said there was 'a powerful insurgency that controlled the bulk of the population and the majority of the terrain... that controlled the roads... and ran a very well organised and surprisingly sufficient supply chain... Today we see quite a different province'.
Over the last year, coalition forces successfully expanded and connected 'security bubbles' that have eliminated large encounters and lengthy engagements with the Taliban. Commanders now see a broken enemy supply line, a robust Afghan security force, repaired roads, new infrastructure, a 'flourishing' and even 'aggressive' free media and competent district governors. A national election also came off 'fairly and virtually incident free'.
Brigadier Norton emphasized the 'significantly reduced' numbers of enemy fighters on the ground, a trend he explained as the 'local' nature of the insurgency. Fighters are drawn from local villages and 'simply drift away' from the insurgency when faced with steady resistance.
Major General John Lorimer chaired the 15 March media briefing and discussed the recent successes of the 1st battalion Royal Irish Regiment in Helmand. 500 Royal Irish soldiers took part in a massive air assault codenamed Operation 'Black Winter' in Helmand's Nad-e Ali district, the biggest operation for 1st Battalion since the crossing of the Rhine in 1945. Previously one of the most dangerous insurgent strongholds in Nad-e Ali, Zaborabad is now safely under coalition control. Last month, 1st battalion also recovered a huge stash of deadly Taliban weapons and ammunition in Nad-e Ali, a find that Lorimer says is a testament to the improved level of trust between security forces and the local population. Everyday citizens often provide the most valuable intelligence on the whereabouts of Taliban fighters and their stored weapons.
Successes have come at a price, noted the commanders. The U.S., U.K., Denmark, Georgia and other coalition partners lost a combined 179 soldiers from enemy fire in Helmand over this period.
'There is still much work to be done', admitted Mills. 'The areas north of Sangin remain an insurgent controlled area.' Forces must link up with Kandahar and 'we have to address the Pakistani border at some point in the future', he added.
Commanders are expecting a renewed offensive by the Taliban-led insurgents in the spring and summer that will test the readiness of Afghan forces and could undermine some of the year's achievements. Efforts must coordinate with the gradual transition of security from NATO forces to the Afghan army, which begins this July and ends with the withdrawal of all foreign combat troops from the country by the end of 2014.
Today, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced details about the first transitional phase. Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, is among the seven areas to take part.
'We hold the initiative', Norton reassured. 'The challenge of it is to develop it and sustain it over time.'
Private Robert Laws
2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment
Private Robert Laws, aged 18, joined 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) [2 MERCIAN] during Op HERRICK 10. His basic training started at the Army Foundation College, Harrogate, which prepares young men for the rigours of the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick. After completing the Combat Infantryman's Course in March of this year he passed off the square at Catterick and deployed to Helmand province to join B Company.
Known to friends as Robbie, Private Laws was killed alongside his mates in B Company while they were operating under command of The Light Dragoons Battle Group during Operation PANCHAI PALANG.
Lance Corporal Dane Elson
1st Battalion Welsh Guards
Lance Corporal Elson was born on 28 September 1986 in Harare, Zimbabwe. His family now lives in Bridgend in Wales. Having joined the Army, he completed his training in Guards Training Company, Catterick, in 2004 and joined the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards when they were based at RAF St Athan, near Cardiff.
He served in Iraq in 2004/05, and in Bosnia in 2006/07. He passed a promotion course and was promoted to Lance Corporal during the pre-deployment training for Afghanistan.
C (Essex) Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment (The Vikings)
Private Robert Hayes was killed as a result of an IED explosion on 3rd January 2010. He was conducting a security patrol south of Check Point Paraang in Southern Nad-e'Ali, Helmand Province. He had deployed to Afghanistan with C (Essex) Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment (The Vikings), attached to the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards Battle Group.
Private Hayes was a Rifleman within 6 Platoon, C (Essex) Company. He was responsible for providing assistance and security to the local population which included conducting patrols to disrupt insurgent activity in one of Helmand Province's most challenging and dangerous areas.
Captain Ben Babington-Browne
2 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers
Captain Ben Babington-Browne was born on 17 Oct 1981 and grew up in Maidstone. After graduating from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and completing the Royal Engineers Troop Commanders' Course he joined 22 Engineer Regiment in April 2007.
He deployed shortly afterwards to Iraq as a Troop Commander in 5 Armoured Engineer Squadron where he quickly showed that he was an exceptionally gifted leader. It was a demanding tour but he thrived in that environment, earning the respect of all who served with him there.
Trooper Christopher Whiteside
The Light Dragoons
Trooper Christopher Whiteside, or 'Norm' to his friends, was deployed as part of Emsdorf Troop, a Light Dragoons' Troop operating in the dismounted role as a Fires Support Group for A Company, 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment.
Trooper Whiteside was born on 22nd July 1988 in Blackpool. He joined the Army in July 2005 as an Infanteer in the Queen's Lancashire Regiment. Having served with the QLR for just over one year, he was discharged after suffering a serious knee injury. But still determined to serve his country, he joined up again when fully fit as a Formation Reconnaissance soldier in The Light Dragoons in March 2008.
Rifleman Daniel Hume
4th Battalion The Rifles
Rifleman Daniel Hume was killed on the 9th July while serving in 4th Battalion The Rifles.
From his Commanding Officer Lt Col Rupert Jones MBE:
"Rifleman Daniel Hume always said that he wanted one day to be RSM of the Battalion. This may at first appear to be an arrogant boast from a young soldier, but in his case it was anything but this. He was an exceptionally gifted young man who wanted to genuinely do something with his life and it would have been a brave man to bet against him to achieve his
Private John Brackpool
Prince of Wales' Company, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards
Private John Brackpool was killed on 9th July 2009 whilst on operations near Char-e-Anjir, just outside Lashkar Gah, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He was serving as a rifleman with the Prince of Wales' Company, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards.
John was on sentry duty on a compound that had recently been secured as part of Operation Panther's Claw, when the compound he was in was engaged by enemy fire. One of the rounds struck him, and despite immediate medical attention there was nothing that could be done for him.
Corporal Lee Scott
The 2nd Royal Tank Regiment.
On the morning of Friday 10 July 2009, Corporal Lee Scott, 26, of The 2nd Royal Tank Regiment was killed during an explosion while taking part in Operation Panther's Claw, just north of Nad Ali, Helmand Province.
Corporal Scott was born in Ely and grew up in Kings Lynn, where he married Nicola in February 2008.
Major Charlie Burbridge. EGYPT Squadron Leader said:
Rifleman Daniel Simpson
Rifleman Simpson, 20, from Croydon, joined the Army in August 2007. He undertook the Combat Infantryman's Course at the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, North Yorkshire. On completing his training, he was posted to 2 RIFLES in Ballykinler, Northern Ireland. He was sent to C Company and subsequently to 9 Platoon. Soon after joining, he was deployed to Kosovo on Op VALERO where he was employed as a Rifleman within a section. After returning to Ballykinler the Battalion's focus switched to its future deployment to Afghanistan. During the pre-deployment training he showed an aptitude for all things
Corporal Jonathan Horne
Corporal Jonathan Horne, 28, from Walsall, joined the 1st Battalion, The Royal Green Jackets in July 2004 having completed his Infantry training in Catterick. He attended the Section Commander's Battle Course in Brecon in 2008 and was promoted to Corporal in the middle of Pre-deployment training. Corporal Horne served with distinction as both a Green Jacket and as a member of the Rifles in Iraq between 2006 and 2007 (where he was wounded in action) and on peacekeeping operations in Kosovo in 2008. He was hugely proud to deploy to Afghanistan as a Section Commander and relished the opportunity of commanding Riflemen in battle. Tragically, Corporal Horne was killed in action by an IED blast on the morning of the 10th July 2009 in Sangin. He leaves behind his beloved wife Rachel, his children Frankie and Jessica, his parents and three brothers.
Rifleman William Aldridge
Rifleman Will Aldridge joined C Company 2 Rifles in Ballykinler, Northern Ireland in December 2008 at seventeen years of age, after attending The Army Foundation College at Harrogate and completing his Infantry Training in Catterick. Rifleman Aldridge completed pre-deployment training for Afghanistan with his Platoon but was unable to deploy on tour until he turned 18 on the 23rd May 2009. Rifleman Aldridge played a key role with the Battalion's Rear Party in Ballykinler, guarding the families of those already in Afghanistan until he was old enough to deploy himself. Rifleman Aldridge was fiercely proud of being one of the very youngest British soldiers in Helmand.
Rifleman Joseph Murphy
Rifleman Joe Murphy, 18, was from Castle Bromwich, Birmingham and joined the 2nd Battalion, The Rifles in November 2008 after attending the Army Foundation College, Harrogate and completing the Combat Infantryman's Course in Catterick. He completed pre-deployment training with C Company and in March 2009 he deployed to Sangin as a light machine gunner in 9 Platoon, C Company. Rifleman Murphy was killed in action by an improvised explosive device on the 10th July 2009. He leaves behind his parents, Brian and Jill and his older brother, Ben.
Rifleman James Backhouse
Rifleman James Backhouse, 18, from Castleford, Yorkshire joined the Army in September 2007 and arrived in 2 RIFLES in April 2008 where he joined 9 Platoon, C Company. Rifleman Backhouse joined the Battalion as an Under-18 and was therefore unable to deploy to Kosovo in 2008. So, it was with great enthusiasm that he deployed to Afghanistan with his Platoon in March 2009. Rifleman Backhouse cleared the route ahead for his fellow Riflemen to follow. He was killed in action by an improvised explosive device, doing the job he loved, surrounded by his friends.
Rifleman Aminiasi Toge
2nd Battalion The Rifles
Rifleman Aminiasi 'Togey' Toge was born in Suva, Fiji, with his twin brother on 19 July 1982.
He swapped the southern Pacific paradise of home for the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick, North Yorkshire in September 2007 and passed out as a Rifleman in April 2008. Posted to the 2nd Battalion, The Rifles based in Ballykinler, County Down, Rifleman Toge soon deployed to Kosovo before returning to the UK and starting pre-deployment training for Afghanistan.
Rifleman Toge was a keen swimmer and an outstanding rugby player who could open gaps in a defence with the deftest of steps before accelerating through with his extraordinary pace. He also loved to travel.
Afghan News Roundup for July 2013 is compiled by Elayne Jude for Great North News Service
Ironic icon, torturers released, Safi & Safi reinvented, slap gets lethal
Afghan Air Force for the Chop ?
At the 2013 Paris Air Show, Russia announced the Kamov company's Ka-52 Alligator's readiness for export.
The Alligator can handle "hot-and-high" operating conditions. "Kamov-52 was conceived when Russian experience of combat operations in Afghanistan were quite alive," said the chopper's chief designer, Sergey Mikheev.
11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps
Captain Daniel Read from 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, part of the Counter-IED Task Force, was killed as a result of an explosion which happened in the Musa Qaleh area of northern Helmand province on 11 January 2010.
Captain Dan Read deployed on Operation HERRICK 11 as a High Threat, Improvised Explosive Device Disposal Operator. Dan was born in Kent in December 1978 and was 31 years old when he was tragically killed in an IED blast whilst he was on task supporting Battle Group (North West).
Having completed his GCSEs at Rainham Mark Grammar School, Dan joined the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1996 as a Sapper. He was posted to 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) and got his first taste of EOD operations on Op FINGAL in 2002 when he deployed as a Search Team Second in Command. From this point on, Dan was 'hooked' on EOD and knew the only job for him was that of the Ammunition Technical Officer, the 'ATO'. When he returned from the tour, Dan applied for a commission in the Royal Logistic Corps; he was successful and he completed his course at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in December 2004.
CORPORAL JOSEPH ETCHELLS
KILLED IN ACTION NEAR FORWARD OPERATING BASE WISHTAN, SANGIN
SUNDAY 19TH JULY 2009
Corporal Etchells, or "Etch" to his mates, was born on the 23RD March 1987. He joined the Army in December 2003, and on successful completion of his infantry training at Army Foundation College, Harrogate, was posted to the Second Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers later that year. He was always eager and proud to be a Fusilier and Infantryman.
3rd Battalion, the Rifles
It is with sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Corporal Lee Brownson a from 3rd Battalion, the Rifles was killed in Afghanistan on 15 January 2010. He was killed as a result of an IED explosion while on patrol near Sangin, in Helmand Province.
Corporal Lee Brownson was born in Bishop Auckland on 15 September 1979. He went to King James the First Comprehensive School prior to enlisting in the Army on 30 August 1996.
He attended phase one training at the Army Training Regiment in Winchester before attending the Infantry Training Centre Catterick in November 1996. He completed training and was posted to the Second Battalion, the Light Infantry based at the time in Palace Barracks, Northern Ireland.
During his time in the army Corporal Brownson has served in Sierra Leone, Cyprus, Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan. He completed the Platoon Serjeants Battle Course in Brecon in March 2009 gaining the highest possible grade. Corporal Brownson assumed the role of section commander with 2 Platoon, A Company 3 RIFLES and it was in this role that he deployed on Op HERRICK 11.
He leaves behind his wife Leeanne, two daughters Ginalee and Morgan and his unborn child.
Captain Daniel Shepherd
11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps
Captain Shepherd aged 28, was married and came from Lincoln. Following a degree in Electrical Engineering, he joined the Royal Logistic Corps on Commissioning from Sandhurst in August 2003.
He subsequently attended specialist logistic training before, as a junior officer, joining 8 Transport Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, with whom he served in Iraq in 2004.