Saturday, August 14, 2010

Operation Omid Sey – clearing the road to Gereshk

Following the success of Operation Tor Shezada in southern Nad-e Ali, where ISAF forces cleared numerous IEDs from key routes and installed new checkpoints, the Afghan National Security Forces have led an almost identical operation in central Helmand Province.

The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police, working together on a major operation for the first time ever, at one point found IEDs at the rate of one an hour in Helmand’s second largest town, Gereskh.

ANA and ANP plan together for Op Omid Sey

The aim of the operation was also to drive insurgents out of the densely populated area with the support of ISAF troops and to build two new permanent police checkpoints to enhance security for local people.

Afghan counter-IED teams were brought from as far afield as Sangin and Nad-e Ali to search for roadside bombs which have been threatening the lives of civilians, soldiers and police alike in Helmand’s second largest town, Gereskh. One day they found eight in eight hours. The next day they found seventeen between dawn and dusk.

Most had been laid on a road alongside the canal, leading to an existing police checkpoint which had been attacked repeatedly in recent months. The road was also the direct route to market for the locals.

They hadn’t used it for months but were keen to see it reopened.

One Gereskh resident, Ali Mohammed, said: “The road is completely blocked by IEDs and we have to carry goods to market through the fields. I now have a really bad back as a result. We can’t wait to be able to use it again.”

ANP officer searches for roadside bombs as his commander watches on, with the support of ISAF troops

ISAF troops have attempted to use it but at their peril.

Warrant Officer John Waring, of 1 Mercian Regiment, said: “My vehicle had an IED strike here. A sizeable device, buried underneath the road. This device was believed to be a remote controlled device specifically designed to disable or destroy vehicles.”

The ANA Brigade Commander for 3/215 Brigade, Colonel Sheerin Shah, said: “Our mission is to open this route, clear all the IEDs and help keep it secure so that local people can use it.” But this was the first time the ANA and ANP had collaborated on an operation of this size. Both the ANP and ANA provided counter-IED search teams, trained by ISAF forces, and committed men and resources to protecting the counter-IED mission and the building of the two new checkpoints along the canal.

The ANA built them for the ANP, with British Army Engineers offering advice and support.

ANA Lieutenant Colonel Jangbaz said: “The ANA has equipment and this is the reason that we are building checkpoints for the ANP with the support of ISAF forces, for the local nationals.

Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Herbert, the Commanding Officer of the First Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 Scots), who also heads the Task Force Helmand Brigade Advisory Group, said the operation had been a huge success.

“The ANA and ANP proved they can do anything that ISAF can do,” he said. “The numbers say it all. They had 600 troops on the ground and we had just 100 offering support and advice. They seized the task with both hands and fulfilled it well. It is a great model for the future.”

Photos: Sarah Yuen/MOD 2010

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