Royal Anglian Regiment return to Afghanistan for NATO operation

1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment feature - Soldiers from 1st Battallion on the ranges in Kab

1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment feature - Soldiers from 1st Battallion on the ranges in Kabul - Credit: Archant

More than 200 soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment have been deployed back to Afghanistan, but on a very different role to their last tour in the country.

1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment feature - A Foxhound vehicle on patrol in Kabul

1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment feature - A Foxhound vehicle on patrol in Kabul - Credit: Archant

Far from Helmand province, from which troops were withdrawn last year, the soldiers are stationed in Kabul as part of NATO’s operation TORAL, a mission to train, advise and assist NATO advisers who are working alongside Afghanistan’s unity Government to maintain advances in the economy, technology and leadership.

On the request of the Afghan government, the UK has committed around 470 troops to Operation TORAL, to support the Afghans as they develop their own security, by mentoring at the Afghan Security Ministries and Afghan National Army Officer Academy – modelled on the world-renowned Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Commanding officer with 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, Lt Col Dom Biddick (right), said of the mission: “Our role is to protect the NATO advisers here within the city and to provide support to NATO personnel if they become endangered.

“On a daily basis we protect and enable hundreds of advisers that work in places like the Ministry of Defence and the equivalent of the Home Office to enable those advisers to pass on their knowledge.

“I was here with the battalion in 2002 in the wake of 9/11 when the impact of the civil war was very clear to see. It’s a categorically different city now in terms of the size and health of the population and the economy. I’m pleased to see a lot of progress.

“What we are doing is very much in the UK’s interest to promote security, not just now but with a view further into the future in this part of central Asia.

1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment feature - Lt Col Dom Biddick MBE MC Commanding Officer

1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment feature - Lt Col Dom Biddick MBE MC Commanding Officer - Credit: Archant

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“My force is in the heart of Kabul, half of it is going out in protected armoured vehicles collecting advisers, taking them to their places of work, enabling advisers to have that vital contact time with their Afghan counterparts, doing guardian angel support, making sure they get people out of harm and getting them back safely. [The other half] are training the highest quality of Afghan officer that they will have had in a generation.

“My men are going out making sure the brave Afghan people can stand on their own two feet well after we have left. The signs are promising but no-one is complacent and we will try and use all the remaining days as effectively as we can between now and the end of 2016.”

Under the operation, the Kabul Protection Unit is formed of soldiers from the military in Britain, America and Australia. It is the first time since the Korean War that UK and US troops have been integrated at such a level under British command.

At present around 60 Suffolk soldiers are deployed there.

Among them is Drummer Charlie Gallagher, 20, of Lowestoft, who joined the army in 2011.

He said: “The security of the advisers is our main priority.

1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment feature - Drummer Gallagher

1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment feature - Drummer Gallagher - Credit: Archant

“For me, this is my first tour. I haven’t been able to experience how it was before. What I can say is when we are out and conducting guardian angel we are 100% professional, we are always alert, always ready and we all get back safely every time.

“I have got 100% faith in my safety having everybody here. Everyone has got each other’s backs.”

LCpl Michael McKay, 22, from Mildenhall, was stationed in Hellmand province in 2012 with the 1st Battalion. When asked how Operation TORAL differed from the conflict battle during his last tour, he said: “It’s a lot easier. The conditions here are much more comfortable in the city, where it’s more developed than out in the countryside. It’s a safer environment.

“The Afghan national’s defence and security forces still need some help. We are there to provide protection for the advisers, to assist them...It’s a pretty critical mission that we have got.”

Officer Commanding the Suffolk Company, Major Will Meddings, said: “The operations in Kabul aren’t the same as operations in Hellmand. The job here is challenging in its own ways. The conditions are quite comfortable but the threat remains throughout. There’s still that background danger here.

“There are two different jobs that companies are doing here...They are both really essential to the NATO mission. The work in Hellmand was all about developing the Afghanistan Government. The work here is ensuring that the gains stay here, that the gains continue to stay in place. To make sure it’s a safer environment for everyone to work in.”

The 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment is stationed in Kabul on a six-month rotation until the end of 2016.

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