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Afghan forces take the lead in British-supported operation in Helmand

24 January 2013

British-trained Afghan forces have demonstrated their expanding capability by successfully leading a large and complex operation to build a bridge over the Nahr-e Saraj canal in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

Soldiers from the Afghan National Army as well as members of the Afghan Uniform Police conducted a security sweep through the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand as part of the mission, aimed at consolidating improvements in security.

This major operation was supported by British forces led by 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment (1 LANCS) who have been advising Afghan security forces in Lashkar Gah.

The operation demonstrated some of the crucial capabilities that the Afghan security forces have developed in recent years, including the installation of vital infrastructure and detection and disposal of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

It also included a bridge-build across the Nahr-e Saraj canal, before a 72-hour period in which in excess of 50 IEDs and 240 kilograms of homemade explosives were found and dealt with independently of support from their British mentors.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Wood, Commanding Officer of 1 LANCS, said:

'The success of this operation was down to the ability of both the Afghan Army and the Afghan Police to create and execute a good plan together. The manner in which they integrated enabled them to conduct the operation with minimal support from us.'

'The confidence this operation has given them will mean greater autonomy for their security provision in the area.'

Major Mark McLellan, Officer Commanding Corunna Company, 1 LANCS, said:

'They built a bridge and a new checkpoint as part of the operation to allow them and the locals more freedom of movement in the area. The police patrolmen performed brilliantly; they conducted 5 operations in 7 days across the Lashkar Gah area.'

'The operations were planned by the Afghans and they were fairly autonomous with the execution. Our soldiers only got involved to give advice and assistance when required.'

'The success of the operation can be judged by the fact that the Afghans managed to complete the bridge-build with little interference from insurgents and they managed to recover a massive hoard of IEDs and drugs. It won't be long before they take full responsibility for the area.'

Lieutenant Will Brown, 1 LANCS, said:

'You can really see it coming together for the Afghan Police now; there is really good command and control and they did a great job defusing and destroying hundreds of kilograms of explosives and drugs. The police engaged with the locals and those we spoke to said that they thought security had improved since they had been conducting operations.'

As Afghan forces' independence and capability improves, British and coalition forces will gradually step further back until Afghan forces operate with complete autonomy.

Burma Company, part of 1 LANCS, returned to the UK early in December 2012 having handed over responsibility for security in their area to the Afghan Uniform Police, while Corunna Company, who supported this operation, will become an Advisor Team Enabling Company. The remainder of the battle group will return to the UK in April 2013.

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