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Rifles ready for Afghan mission
THE visit of the Duchess of Cornwall to 4 Rifles last week saw them in their penultimate phase of training before an expected deployment to Afghanistan with 1 Mechanised Brigade.
I am not allowed to say that they will deploy because it has not been announced formally by the Government.
I was very impressed by the mock Afghan compound that the training wing had set up to prepare the guys, and the effort that was going into the training.
While the last two pre-deployment exercises that I have visited on the Plain have only shown us ISAF/Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) co-operation, the Rifles’ training emphasised that although the Afghan National Army (ANA) may be taking the lead, British soldiers still have to be very aware of the dangers that face them and be prepared to take action to defend themselves.
The scenario played out for the duchess showed a mixed patrol approaching and clearing a compound, but being attacked by an insurgent who was promptly dealt with. What was interesting to see was the modern equipment being used alongside a periscope similar to those used in the trenches in the First World War – but far more hi-tech.
4 Rifles are planned to be the mentoring force to the ANA, and will be working very closely with them, both in training and on operations, which raises the question of ‘Green on Blue’ incidents where Afghanis wearing security forces uniforms turn their weapons on their mentors. The first casualty this year was a Green on Blue, and local soldier Major Josh Bowman was killed in this way.
Last year the Land Warfare Centre in Warminster issued a special edition pamphlet called Green on Blue with the strapline of “yak team wahed” (one team together) on every page.
The pamphlet tries to put the issue into perspective, emphasising the small numbers of soldiers killed and wounded compared to the numbers deployed, but then statistics have always been used to placate fears.
I know from talking to returning soldiers that the issue is one of the main concerns, along with improvised explosive devices, that they have.
Patrick Hennessey, author of The Junior Officers’ Reading Club and an officer in the Grenadier Guards, in his new book Kandak, tries to understand the pressures and motivation that drives recruits to the ANSF.
It is worth reading to try to learn a little about the ANA and its men, but it has to be remembered that his tour was in 2007 and much has changed, including attitudes, since then.