The CO of the King's Royal Hussars has been documenting its tour of operations in the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand.
In an open letter, Lieutenant Colonel Alex Potts said:
“The strategy has been simple: to focus security forces in the main population areas, including the roads that connect them, and to develop the capacity of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The perseverance of both the Afghans and the British is now bearing fruit and the responsibility for leading security operations has been passed to our Afghan partners. We now act in support of them, and whilst it remains a joint effort, we are working hard to do ourselves out of a job and leave the counterinsurgency campaign in the capable hands of the Afghans.
It is often difficult to describe or demonstrate the very real progress we are experiencing. However, in the area of Babaji, on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, it has taken a form that is the model that should be repeated elsewhere.
Babaji is a rural area of subsistence farmers living in small communities; life is hard, but families are able to sustain themselves through what they grow from the land. Until recently, it was an area controlled by the Taliban who littered their fields with the lethal and indiscriminate Improvised Explosive Devices and exercised their own brand of ruthless intimidation and extortion over a population powerless to resist them.
It provided the type of safe haven for terrorists that our country joined this campaign to remove. Following three years of determined work by the British Military, Babaji now has a functioning Afghan police force, local government officials, a tarmac road connecting the villages to the District Centre, schools, a health clinic and a flourishing local market.
So far so good, but what will make this endure is the fact that the population want the police and local government officials to succeed, they trust them and help them to provide security and economic growth.
Last week, an insurgent patrol attempted to ford the Helmand River and gain entry to Babaji, but they were repelled by a group of Babaji youths who stood on the other bank yelling and waving them away with nothing more than their shirts.
Insurgents need the support of the local population to operate and there was no support for them in Babaji. This is what progress looks like in Helmand and we thin out our combat troops with a clear conscience.
There are other areas of Helmand where there remains work to be done before we achieve the dynamics I have just described. It is in these areas where we currently focus our efforts with a military team of extraordinary talents and great variety.
Most important are our Afghan partners and they continue to be easy people for British soldiers to like. They are brave, entertaining and impossibly generous; all traits that matter when fighting a difficult military campaign.
The Afghans are now very used to British soldiers and I have every confidence in our partnership as it continues to deal with a lively insurgency that is determined to drive a wedge between us. This Battlegroup is the most diverse, complex and professional that I have served in.
Such is the maturity of this campaign and the focus it has received in our Army, that we have now developed skills and capabilities absent only five years ago. Our dismounted soldiers have the weapons, skills and equipment that give them a significant edge over the insurgent and we have integrated technology at the lowest levels to great effect.
This generation of soldiers do not fully realise how good they are, and the resilience that they have demonstrated in Afghanistan provides evidence that ordinary British society still produces young people capable of conducting the extraordinary.
There is still work to be done in Lashkar Gah, but we have sufficient time to achieve it and what has already been done is something we are quietly rather proud of.”
Lieutenant Colonel Alex Potts Commanding Officer The King's Royal Hussars