Norwich Territorials' pride in Afghan role

Ben KendallTerritorial soldiers from Norwich have spoken of their pride in helping restore normality to an area of Afghanistan previously regarded as a Taliban stronghold.Ben Kendall

Territorial soldiers from Norwich have spoken of their pride in helping restore normality to an area of Afghanistan previously regarded as a Taliban stronghold.

The men from the 3rd battalion Royal Anglian Regiment, A company, have returned home after a six month tour of Musa Qaleh, in the notorious Helmand province.

Norfolk troops have played a role in helping life return to normal. Just six months ago, Musa Qaleh's twice weekly livestock market attracted a couple of hundred traders at most. Nowadays, 3,000 traders regularly attend the twice weekly event which takes place just outside the town in a local wadi - or dry river bed.

Cpl Steve Walker, 24, from Norwich, commanded a 10-man section. He said his time in Afghanistan had been good, and he was 'really happy' with his men, especially one who warned him when he was about to tread on a mortar shell when patrolling in the bazaar.

'I nearly stepped on it but a colleague spotted it,' Cpl Walker said.

He added: 'The fact that I can patrol without having to fire my weapon on a regular basis is good. It's a massive improvement compared to other areas of Helmand.'

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Cpl Earnie Adams, 48, from Corpusty, near Holt, said: 'I've enjoyed working with the Afghan people and I believe that they appreciate us being here. Both Afghan military and civilians have said that security has improved vastly and their quality of life has also improved.'

The soldiers - who will soon return to their day jobs - had three main roles in Afghanistan: they carried out regular reassurance patrols, helped train the Afghan National Police and supported other units on operations.

'The Royal Anglians have done a fantastic job,' said major Simon Potter, 38, from Wroxham, who is combined force Musa Qaleh's senior officer responsible for hearts and minds operations. 'Every time there are any problems, especially in the district centre, they are tasked to deal with it.'

Musa Qaleh has been a critical district for the British. After intense fire-fights in 2006, a deal was brokered by the town's elders whereby they would take control if International Security Assistance Force troops and the Taliban both withdrew.

A week later the Taliban drove back into town, beheaded or executed many of the elders, and retook control. It was won back from the Taliban in late 2007 and security in the district is now largely provided by the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.

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