Sunday, January 24, 2010

Royal Anglian commander: the battle is 'winnable.'

The commanding officer of Royal Anglian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan has paid tribute to men lost in action but insisted troops are fighting a “challenging but winnable” battle.

In his mid-tour report Lt Col James Woodham MC, who leads the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, said that although the campaign had been marred by tragedies - the deaths of L/Cpl Adam Drane and Pte Robert Hayes and many serious injuries - their were grounds for optimism.

He said: “We find ourselves involved in a challenging but absolutely winnable counter-insurgency campaign and the battalion's contribution is critical, varied and hugely valued.

“I am convinced that whilst it remains hard graft, the battle for the people is turning our way and that this is time for contributing nations to stand fast in their support of the people of Afghanistan.

“Ultimately we seek to persuade the people of Afghanistan that a better future lies with supporting the Afghan government and not the Taliban. In all the areas of Afghanistan in which the Vikings are deployed there are 'green shoots', many of which have been the result of the extraordinary professionalism, bravery and determination of our soldiers.”

The battalion, nicknamed the Vikings, currently has 400 soldiers deployed to the notorious Helmand province; many recruited from Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

A (Norfolk) Company recently carried out a major offensive alongside the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police which has expanded the area of Musa Qal'eh in which people can safely go about their normal lives. The company is responsible for securing the area around this former Taliban stronghold.

“The security situation in Musa Qal'eh, once seen by some as the most dangerous in Afghanistan, is currently very good and the thriving bazaar is testament to the confidence felt by the local people,” Lt Col Woodham said.

C (Essex) Company have found themselves in one of the most contested areas of central Helmand, clashing with the Taliban almost daily in the Nad-e' Ali district.

But Lt Col Woodham added: “Their operations are providing much needed security to an area to their north in which every day life can continue, schools and clinics can re-open and the government of Afghanistan can conduct its business.”

D (Cambridgeshire) Company led an important operation over Christmas to rid areas of farmland of improvised bombs allowing the locals to safely tend their crops. More recently they conducted a night operation during which they destroyed a bridge that was being used regularly by the Taliban.

Lt Col Woodham added: “This impressive work comes with a human cost and at this time the Vikings have lost two brave soldiers killed in action and a number who have suffered significant injury.

“I know that both these soldiers were utterly committed to their important work and those of us they have left behind find inspiration in their sacrifice. Our thoughts are with their families.

“It would be wrong not to mention those in the battalion who remain in the UK providing first class support to those deployed and most importantly to our families. We, as soldiers whose job takes us to far away lands, rely on the support of our families and friends in the UK.”

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