For The Yorkshire Regiment, 12 December is recognised as Helmand Day and one of our important, regimental Company Days. Our recent history of duty in Afghanistan includes Op HERRICKs 7,10,11,15 and 16 and more recently, our soldiers were some of the last to leave Kabul on Op PITTING, enabling the evacuation of entitled personnel through their selfless commitment and compassion. Today we recognise the achievements of all those who served in Afghanistan, the 18 soldiers sadly killed in action and the 70 members of the Regiment who received operational gallantry awards.
OPERATION MAR KARADAD
2nd – 12th December 2007
In October 2001, coalition forces invaded Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom, as a result of the terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York on 11th September. The objective was to dismantle Al Queda and remove the Taliban from power. In December the International Security Force (ISAF) was established by the UN Security Council to bring security to the country and train Afghan national forces to take over the security of the country for the Afghan government. In the meantime, Coalition forces were battling against the Taleban for control of various regions, particularly in Helmand Province.
2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment.
British airborne forces briefly occupied the District Centre in Musa Qala in April 2006, on deployment on Operation HERRICK. In September, following months of fierce Taliban attacks, an impasse had been reached and a truce was brokered by the District Elders, under which both the British and Taliban forces agreed to withdraw from the District Centre.
However, within three months the Taliban were back, citing a US airstrike as a violation of the original agreement. Radical Islamic rule was established and the town became a stronghold of insurgent activity. As a result of the US Army surge, operational responsibility for Musa Qala was transferred to US Marines in March 2010.
2 YORKS deployed on Op HERRICK 7, taking over from 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards on 21st September 2007, in the mentoring and liaison role, guiding the Afghan National Army (ANA) units of the 3rd Brigade, working out of Camp Shorabak and deploying with the Kandaks (battalions) within their battalion areas of Gereshk, Sangin and Musa Qala.
By December plans were well advanced for a multi-national operation, Op Mar Karadad, to liberate Musa Qala from the Taleban and protect Mullah Salaam’s village. Mullah Salaam had been a Taliban commander but was now the District Governor and leader of a tribal uprising against the Taliban. On 2nd December, Royal Marine Commandos crossed the Helmand River and created a block to the south of Musa Qala; on 5th December the Household Cavalry BG established the northern block and the Afghan militia set up a cordon round the eastern perimeter.
On 7th December 2 YORKS led their ANA Brigade (less one battalion) in a feint attack from the South West, to convince the Taleban that the main attack was coming up the Musa Qala Wadi, while the main assault by US Task Force 1 Fury landed by helicopter, surrounding the town in a pincer movement , supported by an air armada, ranging from spy satellites, surveillance and electronic aircraft, bombers, strike fighters, UAVs, gunships and attack helicopters.
On 11th December the ANA, led by 2 YORKS, linked up with the weary US paratroops and broke into the town centre, behind a mine clearance team and after a successful sweep and search of the compounds, on the 12th December, the flag was raised over the District Centre, under a desultory mortar attack. Within three weeks of the liberation of the town a new District Centre had been constructed and was the first purely ANA Area of Operations (AO), mentored by A Coy, 2 YORKS, in the country, with a large, white helium balloon floating gracefully over one of the newly constructed PBs.