Latest Channel 4 News:
Row over Malaysian state's coins
'Four shot at abandoned mine shaft'
Rain fails to stop Moscow wildfires
Cancer blow for identical twins
Need for Afghan progress 'signs'

Embedded with British troops in Helmand

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 13 February 2010

Video journalist Vaughan Smith has spent a month with the British army in Afghanistan ahead of Operation Moshtarak.

Op Moshtarak (Credit: Crown Copyright/MOD 2010)

He went on patrol in Helmand province with a group of soldiers tasked with keeping the Taliban out of the village of Kushal Kalay, so that another group could go in and clear the area of the Taliban's Improvised Explosive Devices or IEDs.

Vaughan Smith's report gives a remarkable insider's view of their three and a half-hour patrol.

British forces and their allies have prepared for the biggest battle of the eight-year war in Afghanistan, under Operation Moshtarak.

The imminent operation, which in Dari Persian translates to Operation "together", will mobilise a force of up to 15,000 troops to storm Marja, a town of 80,000 people, and a Taliban stronghold in the country's south.

Vaughan Smith, a freelance video-journalist, who has spent the past month in Helmand province with the Grenadier Guards battle group, explained the operation's "surge" plans to Channel 4 News.

He said: "The operation will engage an upsurge of US, British, Nato and Afghan troops, and intends to take significant areas in Helmand under control.

"The objective is to separate the Taliban from the civilian population – to allow the local administration to exert control and to bring security.

"This should also help to gradually improve the economy as well."

The operation is reported to have been under way for several weeks, with preparations for the actual assault intensifying.

Afghan and Western forces have announced their plans to the local population while moving into position. Nato command in Kabul put out a statement warning Afghan civilians in the town to remain in their homes once the assault was under way.

Ahead of the surge it was revealed another British soldier had died in Afghanistan, taking the total to 257.

The soldier, from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, was killed while on foot patrol in Babaji district in central Helmand province.

In the film the soldiers introduce themselves. "I'm Private Tony Bethal, I'm a sniper," says one and "I'm corporal Daniel Monks - and I'm the leader of this rabble," says another.

Vaughan Smith said: "They leave their base at 10am. The first man clears a route with a mine detector and they all follow his path.

"The hazards of Taliban Improvised Explosive Devices - IEDS - is so great that when they are fired on, they still have to stick to this path and they can't run for cover.

"Shortly after leaving the base they're fired on."

Smith added: "Some of the soldiers are particularly vulnerable because they're in open ground.

"They move - under covering fire - to regroup in a safer place.

" Smith says later the British soldiers head out again knowing the Taliban are waiting for them.

"The soldiers plan to kill the sniper using a shoulder-mounted rocket - known as a Javelin," he adds.

Smith continued: "They move off - they are now close to the Taliban but don't know their exact location. "To avoid an ambush they send up a flare to trigger a Taliban response."

Smith said the Taliban response was much stronger than they expected. They start getting shot at from several different directions but all the men of two section arrived back safely. They went out on patrol again the next day.

Daniel Monks said: "I didn't think I would be doing this out here.

"I was looking forward to coming out here and maybe chilling out a bit! But it's not like that. It's got loads of IEDs and mines. The threats are even higher than before."

Read more from independent video journalist Vaughan Smith at: Frontline

Send this article by email

More on this story

Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Watch the Latest Channel 4 News

Watch Channel 4 News when you want

Latest Fight for Afghanistan news

7-day catch-up


Watch Channel 4 News when you want to, from the last week.

The lonely walk

British Army bomb disposal unit

Alex Thomson joins a British bomb disposal unit in Afghanistan.

Life in an Afghan warzone

A British soldier in Helmand province

Follow British soldiers on the frontline of Panther's Claw.

Afghan fatalities in full

British soldiers killed in Afghanistan

The full list of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2001.

Week in pictures

credit: Reuters

A selection of the best pictures from around the world.

Sign up to Snowmail

The day's news from Jon Snow and the team direct to your inbox.

Channel 4 © 2010. Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.