British Mission In Afghanistan

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British Mission in Afghanistan

Assignment 1 - Letter to a newspaper or current affairs magazine

The Subject: British Mission in Afghanistan

The war in Afghanistan is viewed as unwinnable in some quarters, illegal in others, and is a subject on which all the main political parties refuse to be drawn when it comes to a timetable for withdrawal of British troops. In the meantime, soldiers on the ground have a job to do. Rarely highlighted in the media is the type of development work that British forces are carrying out in Helmand province. This tends to be overshadowed by reports of casualties and concerns over equipment and defense spending.

It is well known that British troops carry out their general soldiering duties alongside their counterparts from the Afghan National Army. Afghan civilians are also drafted in by the army to work on civil engineering projects within Helmand. Now soldiers from the Royal Engineers are starting to carry out engineering works in the province in partnership with Afghan soldiers. The embracing of engineering as a discipline within the ANA is a relatively new phenomenon, explains Lieutenant Alan Crompton of 21 Regiment of the Royal Engineers. He says: There have been engineering mentor teams out here for a while but having the Afghan National Army ring fence engineers and not use them as infantry has been a crucial step forward.

Last month the regiment completed the first engineering task in Helmand to have been carried out by British troops in partnership with Afghan soldiers. This was the construction of infrastructure for a patrol base called Rahim at Nahr-e-Saraj. The base can house 300 soldiers, and its construction saw embedded engineering mentors and partners from 21 Regiment devising and building the base in tandem with Afghan troops. Major John Lacken is the commanding officer of the squadron that worked with the ANA on patrol base Rahim. He says the infantry has worked with Afghan soldiers for some time on patrols, reassuring local people, deterring Taliban movements and seizing objectives from insurgents.

For us to hold areas and reassure the local population, and provide a level of security that is not going to see them intimidated by the Taliban, and that also encourages the Taliban to vacate the area, we must have a presence, says Lacken. That entails the construction of relatively sophisticated bases such as the new one at Nahr-e-Saraj, rather than the temporary checkpoints that are erected in areas still prone to what the army calls kinetic activity, or engagement with the enemy. Lacken says: Afghan nationals equate security to some kind of fort, so it is mandatory for us to occupy areas and build something there, and then patrol out from that. For the Royal Engineers, security and the possibility of development work go hand in hand. That is pretty much critical to us holding areas in Helmand he adds.

British soldiers from 21 Regiment working on patrol base Rahim started early each morning with their Afghan counterparts. Those who had mentored Afghan soldier-engineers while embedded ...
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