Afghan conflict subject of talk to Aboyne club

Over forty members of Aboyne & District Probus Club heard a talk on Afghanistan from Major Nick Cavil, Royal Marines, who is with 45 Commando, Royal Marines, at RM Condor, Arbroath.

Mgr. Cavil, who was born and brought up on Jersey talked about his most recent tour in Helman Province, the third of three tours to Afganistan.

He illustrated his talk with slides which showed many aspects of the tasks the Marines are undertaking. He commanded a Company or 300, some 120 Marines and the remainder local Afghan soldiers, police, guides and translators.

He put his talk in the context of four activities which all our forces undertake: Protecting the population; partnering the Afghan forces; surpressing the insurgency and facilitating development and governance.

His Company was responsible for an area of Helman part of which was heavily populated and where the Talaban were only active on occasion; an area where they engaged in more frequent firefights and dealing with IEDs and a largely desert area which was quiet with almost no people. The area his Company was responsible for doubled in size during his six month tour. He explained that constant patrolling by seven eight man groups, twice a day, every day, with Afghan Army men and Police was the main way to reassure the local people, discourage the Talaban and build up trust with the people.

Partnering involved setting up, arming and training local groups of young men, who after a year could join the uniformed Afghan Police and working with the Afghan Army who increasingly are planning and leading their own operations and trying to reduce dependance on his Company. One aspect of this work was to ensure the talk was always half about their children and families - not the women - not just about weapons, tactics etc. He provided the local groups with Motorola radios so that the units could keep in touch which greatly inmproved command and control and stopped different units going off doing their own thing without the others knowing what was going on.

Major Cavil said that making the Talaban think it was a bad idea to take on the troops was the most important and most successful way of surpressing the insurgents but sometimes it was important to undertake an action to take out an important Talaban group. He gave a graphic example of this when intelligence showed that a Talaban leader and IED expert had come from Pakistan with a twelve man team. The was done by carefully misleading the Talaban into thinking they were facing a small patrol, keeping the Apache helicoptors out of view and flushing some of the group into the open. Eventaully the group was killed or captured and the leader was discovered by the Afghan soldiers trying to escape dressed as a woman - his big feet gave him away.

The next meeting is on March 13. All retired gentlemen are welcome.