Light Dragoons welcome home parade: Brigadier Doug Chambers on how the transition process progressed during the regiment’s tour
Brigadier Doug Chalmers, Commander Task Force Helmand, has reported on the progress of HERRICK 16, the codename given to the period the Dragoons were in Afghanistan.
Brigadier Chalmers began by focusing on the objectives that 12th Mechanized Brigade, involving soldiers and officers from the Light Dragoons, had set themselves before commencing their six months on Operation HERRICK 16.
'It may seem odd, but it was only when I reflected on the objectives that we set, having had long discussions with our predecessors, as we were coming home, that I realised to what extent the underlying theme had been about enabling rather than doing,' he said.
Describing the tour as a transitional summer, the Brigadier said that it was encouraging how much progress had been made in helping the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to take over responsibility for security.
'It felt that this tour, perhaps more than any other, brought together all the elements that had been achieved in previous HERRICKs and made sense of all the work that has been done over the years.'
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Brigadier Chalmers talked about the success and the importance of driving the insurgents away from areas of occupation to the margins of the area of operations.
'The insurgents did launch an offensive which they called Al-Faruq, the intention of which was to get back a foothold in the population and economic centres in Nad 'Ali.
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'Their initial D-Day was May 3 and 4 but in this they singularly failed, as they did in subsequent assaults up to and after Ramadan.'
More important than the strategic failure was the effect that it had in the minds of local citizens who saw the threat squashed, principally by their own forces.
The Brigadier said that the transition process was working effectively and that the objectives to set the right conditions for Nahr-e Saraj to begin the process had been successful and the district would enter the formal stage of transition within the next month or so.
'For many this district focuses in the minds of Afghans on the city of Gereshk, which is growing, with over 500 shops there and a lot of investment, especially on the western side of the city.'
He conceded that there was still a lot of violence there but that this was now much more emanating from the northern end of the valley rather than all around the city as it had been last summer.
Confidence in the district was growing and as a result 60 per cent of ISAF bases were closed during the tour.
'This is important psychologically; if we still had ISAF bases it would suggest that things weren't as far forward as they in fact were.'
A lot of progress had been made working with and training the Afghan Local Police who now come within the Afghan Uniform Police structure, so issues like pay, fuel provision and scheduled periods of leave were now being sorted out.
In addition to that, there had been a lot of improvement in the development of the institutions of the ANSF, with leave cycles more established, which had brought the absentee rate down. Pay was more reliable, going directly to the individuals who had earned it, as was provision of spares and equipment.
Brigadier Chalmers said that the Afghans were working very hard to grip their own institutions to deal with the insider threat, and on a number of occasions they had pre-empted the situation by removing individuals that they thought were behaving in an odd way.
'Putting this into context, every day several thousand of my soldiers were engaging with the Afghans and when I visited units where an incident had occurred I was impressed by how robust they [the British soldiers] were in their reaction to this, and their sense of commitment and belief in what they were doing remained strong. It is just one of the risks that they face every day.'
(thanks to the British Army website: www.army.mod.uk)