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First Afghan Forward Operating Base Gets Approval

Ministry Of Defence (UK)

Forward Operating Base (FOB) "Hero" gets British and Afghan seal of approval

The first Afghan National Army designed, built, manned and patrolled Forward Operating Base (FOB) has received a seal of approval from the British Forces team that mentored them, and the local Afghan community.

FOB "ATTAL", which means "HERO" in Pashto, is the first of its kind in Helmand, demonstrating the Afghan National Army's will, and capability, to take on responsibility for their own security in the province. It's named after the Afghan National Army's, Helmand based, 3/205 "Hero" Brigade and joins Patrol Bases "Viking" near Sangin, "West" near Musa Qaleh and "Barakzai" near Gereshk as being Afghan National Army operated. Those Patrol Bases were built by British engineers and handed over to the Afghans but FOB ATTAL is the first Afghan National Army led project. It's also the largest FOB manned by ANA troops.

After initial rejection from the local community when the base was completed in early June, due to Taliban intimidation, the local ANA commander has been conducting intensive patrols to assure the villagers of their security over the last few weeks. For fear of losing their influence over the population, the Taliban threatened to cut the water supply to the villagers' farms. At this the locals grouped together and rejected them, requesting a reconciliation shura with the ANA commander.

Captain Jonathon Huxley of 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment who, along with his team, spent nearly three months mentoring the ANA attended that Shura on Saturday the 5th of July. He said: "The shura was going well, with a really good turn out. We even sacrificed two sheep we'd bought off some local farmers as a sign of respect, which they really appreciated. But the Taliban, in an act of desperation to retain their influence, attacked while it was taking place. There were no casualties but the locals were outraged at such a blatant disregard for their cultural values and now completely support the local ANA commander, giving them intelligence on the Taliban's movements" He added: "The ANA commander, who is also a Mullah, recently started reading prayers five times a day over a loudspeaker system which stretches across the valley. The locals reacted very well to this and are really happy that it's Afghan forces that are now protecting them. They've requested another FOB be built further up the Gereshk valley."

Captain Rosco Wendover (pictured) of 23 Engineer Regiment (Recce Troop), was there when they finished the construction. He said: "In five days, under the constant threat of IDF attack, they built the infrastructure for the base, including a protected helicopter landing site, 200m of ballistic protection wall, sangars, a super-sangar that overlooks the whole area, and they did it to a very good standard". He added: "Mentoring the Afghan National Army is absolutely what we should be doing, and it's very rewarding to see the project finished".

British Forces spokesman, Lt Col Robin Mathews, said: "This demonstrates not only the Afghan National Army's desire to provide their own security, but also the willingness of the people to support their own legitimate security forces. There is a long way to go, but this is an excellent example of Afghan-led progress as well as local ingenuity and endeavour."

NOTES:

1. Images are available from http://www.defencenewsimagery.mod.uk under the latest package titled "FOB ATTAL".

2. Gereshk is at the mouth of the Upper Gereshk valley and 38km from Sangin at the top.

3. FOB ATTAL is one of the lasting achievements of Op Oqab Sterga, or Op Eagle's eye, which aimed to enable freedom of movement further up the Gareshk valley towards Sangin. See more details here: http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/MilitaryOperations/BritishTroopsAndAnaInApachebackedOperation.htm

4. The Afghan National Army at FOB ATTAL were mentored by an Operational Mentoring Liaison Team (OMLT or "Omelette") from 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment with elements of 23 Engineer Regiment (Recce Troop).

5. The Afghan National Army has 58,000 trained soldiers and 90% of the population thinks it's an honest and fair institution.

Client ref 157/2008
COI ref 163178P

ENDS

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