Monday, January 25, 2010
Household Cavalry commander reports on challenging three months in Helmand
The Household Cavalry Regiment are half way through their current deployment to Afghanistan. Here their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Harry Fullerton, gives his mid-tour report:
"For the last three months the Household Cavalry Regiment [HCR] has been deployed in three distinct groups in Helmand province.
"Making up a considerable part of Battle Group North West, which controls the Musa Qaleh area of Task Force Helmand, is the Battle Group Headquarters, Headquarter Squadron and C Squadron, plus an Armoured Infantry Company of A Company, 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh, B Company, 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment [2 YORKS], and A Company, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglians.
"The next group, which is further afield and away from the Battle Group, is A Squadron, who have been based in both Camp Bastion and FOB [Forward Operating Base] Price and have found themselves working in the Babaji area.
"The third group is B Squadron, which is the Brigade Recce Force, which has been tasked across the whole area, but has mostly been deployed in the central area of Helmand.
"These first three months have been challenging, but a great deal of success has been achieved during this time and the Battle Group and our detached squadrons feel confident of doing more to ensure the security of the people of Helmand, to defeat the insurgency, and to partner and train up the Afghan security forces.
"We had an excellent handover from 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, giving us enough knowledge and insight of the area that we could maintain the tempo of operations in Musa Qaleh.
"Musa Qaleh has been an area of increasing stability and security over the past 12 months, with the area under control of the government growing on a regular basis. Such is the confidence of the local people that there is a bustling bazaar area and two large markets that occur each week in the wadi, and all this is done without the need for any overt military security presence.
"The key theme of the tour has been about working with our Afghan partners, both the Police and Army. The Afghan Police have recently been on an intense training programme, run by the Americans. The finished product is a District Police Force that are better trained and disciplined and who are now gaining the respect of the locals, something that was perhaps missing in the past.
"The development of the police is vital to the long term stability of Musa Qaleh and we are heading in the right direction. The Afghan Army battalion (called a Kandak) in Musa Qaleh is a professional body, commanded by an experienced Commanding Officer who has thorough knowledge of the area.
"The Kandak has recently been reinforced with new soldiers, increasing its strength by nearly a company's worth. What we have been doing is working ever more closely with the Afghan Army and Police.
"In addition to the Kandak's companies that are mentored by B Company, 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, we are also planning our operations jointly at battle group and company level and then executing these plans in a partnered manner. ISAF and Afghan forces complement each other with different specialist skills and we have discovered how good the Afghans are at reading the ground and clearing through built-up areas.
"Together we are achieving more. The recent villages reclaimed in the south was a prime example of this co-operation.
"As I look forward into the second half of the tour, the one thing we have yet to experience is a taste of the real Musa Qaleh winter. Up until now, although we have had rain, there has been little of the harsh conditions that we have been expecting. However, January and February could bring the extreme weather and this will hamper our operations somewhat. This is only countered by the fact that it tends to hamper the insurgents as well.
"Weather aside, I expect that the next few months will see an ever more confident community, an expanding area of government control and further moves on our part to partner with the Afghan National Security Forces.
"The other possibility is that I would hope to see some moves by the less motivated insurgents to down tools and attempt reintegration with the community. We have already seen the beginnings of this and we hope for more.
"Last but not least, Musa Qaleh is about to see some significant reconstruction and development, with a new mosque being built in the centre of town, new government offices, a causeway being built across the wadi, and a route improvement being planned in the direction of Gereshk. We should also see the completion of the new police station. All in all, there is a great deal of investment going into the town.
"At the smaller scale, there have been many projects to build and open schools, repair roads, drill for water holes and teach people basic construction skills.
"There is no doubt that Musa Qaleh is a thriving town with great potential in the near future. The ANSF are strong and are improving all the time. Security is improving and the people are becoming more confident in the ability of the Afghan Government to deliver the security and services that they need."