Lives and limbs are still being lost in Afghanistan but is the British media losing interest? Vaughan Smith spent three weeks embedded with soldiers in Geresk where the fighting is as fierce as ever.
With so much other news, particularly the Jubilee, the Olympics and the Syrian war, there has been almost no reporting in Britain from our troops fighting in Afghanistan this year. Though the world’s interest may have moved, the brutality of the fighting in Afghanistan has not abated.
The First Battalion of the Grenadier Guards have just returned from a hard-fought summer in Helmand, securing Geresk, the region’s most important town, as part of a process designed to allow the Afghan National Army to take the lead there in the fight against the Taliban insurgency.
By the end of the tour the Grenadiers had handed over primacy to the Afghan security forces in the area, the first movement towards the planned departure by the British Army in 2014.
To achieve this it was decided that the Grenadier Guards should fight aggressively to weaken the insurgents in the area to give the Afghan security forces space to adapt to the role without being constantly attacked by the Taliban.
I spent three weeks with the Grenadiers near the end of their tour, most of it with the Queen’s Company and accompanied 3 Platoon, led by Lieutenant Alexander Budge. 3 platoon have had more casualties in this deployment, the Grenadiers third to Afghanistan, than any other platoon and though they are steadfast, they are clearly fatigued.
I was the only video journalist to visit the Grenadiers during this tour. The Guardsmen said that they thought that the media had lost interest in them. I know the Grenadiers well because I have filmed them on their two previous tours and 25 years ago I served as a Lieutenant in the Queen’s Company myself.
The most difficult thing for the Guardsmen isn’t the discomfort, the heat or the extraordinarily hard work that fighting involves. It is not the fear of death or injury or even the separation from their families. The hardest thing for them is losing one of their comrades.
When ordinary soldiers are asked why they fight they say that it is to protect their fellow soldiers. They are anxious that the Afghan Security Forces in the Geresk area now make it work because the opportunity given to them by the Grenadiers has cost many lives and limbs.