Sunday, July 18, 2010

On the road to security in Central Helmand

Afghan and ISAF forces in Helmand Province have eliminated a notorious insurgent blackspot in the Green Zone by building a road right through the middle of it. The new route links two existing patrol bases with a third, just constructed, half way along the road, effectively drawing a line across the most verdant area of the Province just north of the well-populated town of Gereskh.

Danish troops, British engineers and counter IED experts, and an Afghan National Army Kandak (battalion) have all worked together for weeks on the multi-million dollar project which was spearheaded by the District Governor of Gereskh, Jan Gul and funded by the Danish government.

Afghan contractors deliver lorry loads of gravel to the site of the road build.

“The Taliban digs in IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices) all around here,” local landowner Haji Nabullah told patrolling Danish, British and Afghan soldiers. “I can’t walk here.  I have a car. Maybe the Taliban will come and put an IED next to my car.  Two local elders were killed just for visiting one of the patrol bases.”

“Don’t worry. We are going to remove them all and then keep overwatch along the entire route so they can’t come back and plant them again,” WO2 Mark Lovatt of the Royal Logistics Corps told him. “We are putting in the road for them as much as us, but we can’t just take the land for the road. They will be compensated just as they would be if we decided to do this in Denmark or the UK,” explained Lovatt.

“Afghan National Army soldiers have moved into the newly constructed patrol base which lies between the two partnered bases, one near the desert and the other on the Helmand River.  Tolay Commander Captain Mohammed Nasir was clearly excited at the prospect of being able to make a difference in the area.

“If we go out on patrol for 24 hours to a village then come back we cannot make a difference because the Taliban can return. But if we live there we will be able to guarantee security. More people will start coming back when they know their army is there, protecting them. We aren’t worried about our security. We are the army. We can defend ourselves, as long as we have good resupply routes,” said Nasir.

Afghan National Army soldiers on patrol near their new patrol base

The lack of a clandestine through-route to Gereskh town is expected to force the insurgents to use the main roads or the river, both of which are well-guarded by ISAF or Afghan troops and police, or to travel in the desert area either side of the Green Zone, where they can be spotted more easily.

Pictures: Crown Copyright/MOD 2010

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