Troops help set up a secure future for Afghan civilians

MENTORS Troops help local police officers carry out vehicle searches in Gereshk, Helmand
MENTORS Troops help local police officers carry out vehicle searches in Gereshk, Helmand

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TUCKED away in a corner of the bustling city of Lashkar Gah in Helmand, Hampshire’s troops are leading the mission for British forces to pull out of Afghanistan.

Thousands of local Afghan police officers and recruits go through the Lashkar Gah Training Centre (LTC) every year, which is currently manned by soldiers from First Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment – known as The Tigers.

ROLE Sgt Maj Marcus Daniels

ROLE Sgt Maj Marcus Daniels

Within this square-mile compound, Afghan men learn the skills and drills they’ll need when Britain makes its planned withdrawal in 2014.

Sergeant Major Marcus Daniels, 40, of Emsworth, said: ‘What we are doing here is probably the most singularly important thing we could be doing in Afghanistan. If we don’t have a police force there is no security here.’

The training centre in the capital city of Helmand province is a mix of police academy and building site as it continues to grow. From 2014 it will be the main Afghan National Police (ANP) academy where all recruits will be trained.

At the start of this year, it was a squalid rat-infested place with tents flooded in a foot of dirty rain water. Three months after they took over in September, the Tigers – with the help of Ghurkhas – have transformed it into somewhere which aims to deliver a brighter future for Afghanistan.

Sgt Maj Daniels said: ‘We’ve come here with a fresh attitude and approach and we treat the recruits with a lot more respect than they got in the past. I came here last February for a reccy and it was not good. It was vermin infested and the tents were electrically unsafe. There was more chance of soldiers getting injured in them as from an insurgent attack so we ripped them all out.’

The Tigers oversee a new eight-week training programme which turns recruits from humble farming backgrounds into police officers capable of manning checkpoints across Helmand province. A separate 14-week scheme has also recently started to train up future police commanders.

The 700 recruits, who vary in age from 18 year olds to middle-aged men, live in their own part of the camp.

The programme teaches them basic policing skills like how to shoot rifles, stop and search vehicles, make arrests and gather evidence.

But they are also being taught how to read and write.

Major Rich Bredin, who is the Tiger’s commanding officer at the LTC, said: ‘It’s not that these people are stupid – they are uneducated.

‘A lot of people in Helmand are illiterate so we are doing something positive about that. What we are doing here is about the future of Afghanistan. It’s about getting them set up for the future and enabling them to sustain themselves.’

Rebuilding the ANP has not been an easy task and corruption is said to be rife among the old commanders still in charge. But it’s hoped the new the LTC will help transform the Afghan security forces.

Sgt Maj Daniels said: ‘The police are corrupt in Afghanistan. But at the LTC they are taught how to be proper policeman and that it’s wrong to extract money and equipment from civilians.

‘I don’t think we’ll ever eradicate the police corruption fully because that’s the way they are. That’s Afghanistan. But if we are able to reduce it, we can get this place ready for transition.’