HAMPSHIRE’S soldiers have cleared insurgents from an area that was once a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan.
Troops from 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment – known as The Tigers – have been conducting patrols in a previously hostile area of Nahr-e Saraj in Helmand province.
The Ministry of Defence said when B Company of The Tigers arrived in the district they came under regular attack from Taliban fighters out on patrols.
But after months of hard work, the soldiers have been able to reduce the insurgency threat so much that a new school has been opened in the area.
Royal Marine officer Captain Luke Wheeler, 25, is attached to The Tigers as second-in-command of B Company.
He said: ‘Relentless patrolling in dangerous ground has actually reduced the threat.
‘The deterrent we provide and the relationships we have built with the local people have meant that it has become more and more difficult for the insurgents.
‘Due to the hard work of B Company Group, the locals now enjoy a sense of freedom and safety that they have not experienced for years.’
The drop in enemy activity allowed The Tigers to recently open a school in Khorgajat village. This had been attempted in previous tours, but could not be done due to the Taliban threat.
‘A few weeks after the opening of the school, we counted over 140 excited children running through the gates to learn to read and write,’ said Capt Wheeler.
He added: ‘We believe strongly that education is vital in building the future of Afghanistan.’
B Company has also been working with Afghan National Security Forces to conduct a number of daring helicopter raids south of the Helmand River.
The soldiers uncovered 30 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), the majority of which were removed from the ground to make the area safer for troops and local people.
The success in Nahr-e Saraj follows the handing over of security to Afghan troops in a nearby region called Nad-e Ali.
A Company of The Tigers arrived in the area in September of last year and found themselves under daily attacks from the insurgents in both the checkpoints they occupied and while they were out on patrol.
But after two major operations, they cleared the area of Taliban fighters and handed control of checkpoints over to Afghan security forces.
The second major push saw Taliban fighters pull out of a rural area surrounding the Shamalan Canal.
This allowed the Afghan National Army to establish checkpoints along the canal to prevent the insurgents reinfiltrating the area.
The last months of the tour have been quiet for the Tigers following a drop in insurgent activity. The troops are set to hand over to other British army units and return home in April.
Major Phill Moxey, 34, said: ‘I am extremely proud of what our soldiers have achieved.’