With the help of Royal Artillery soldiers the Afghan Army has taken another step towards fighting the Taliban on its own two feet; by bringing out the big guns.
The Afghan National Army (ANA) has not fired artillery guns for more than two years but last week the sound of 122mm D-30 guns was heard in Helmand province.
At Camp Shorabak, the home of the ANA’s 3rd Brigade 205 Hero Corps, its new 102-strong Artillery Company gave a demonstration of its new firepower to the head of 3/205 Brigade, Brigadier General Mohayoddin Ghuri, and the head of the British Task Force Helmand, Brigadier Tim Radford.
The Afghan Artillery Company has been trained for the past few months by British Gunners of the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team from 40 Regiment Royal Artillery and the Royal School of Artillery in Larkhill.
Brigadier General Mohayoddin said: “Today I am very happy because the ANA have been trained by our British friends on the D-30 gun – it is big progress for the ANA 3/205 Brigade.
“For three years we have trained together with the British, worked together, been fighting together. We are not friends, we are brothers, like one family in Helmand.
“My soldiers and the British soldiers are no different, because my soldiers support the Afghan people and I say thank you to the British people for sending their families to Afghanistan to support the Afghan people.”
Major Jon McCleery is head of the artillery training team. He said: “This is an important day because we are seeing the rebirth of the ANA artillery capability.
“We are at the very early stages but we can see real progress and our intention is that during this summer we wish to see them at the forward operating bases supporting operations.
“Initially we would see them supporting ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] troops with UK observers directing the firing but the secondary aim is to develop an ANA observer capability so they can call in and direct their own artillery.
“This shows the ANA can stand on their own feet, and in future the ANA guns will be supporting ANA troops on the ground.”
Brigadier Tim Radford said: “I’m extremely pleased with what I’ve seen today. The ANA are progressing extremely quickly and you can really see the progress that’s being made; this is just another example of how much better the ANA is getting as a fighting force.
“The advantage of having extra D-30 guns is that we can augment our already existing guns within Afghanistan and particularly in Helmand in the fight against the insurgency in southern Afghanistan.
“We are getting one stage closer to the ANA being independent and getting away from purely mentoring into partnering and ultimately being able to operate by themselves against the insurgency.”
The D-30 gun is a Russian-built gun which fires 122mm rounds. It has an effective range of 15.4km and a maximum range of 21.9km.
The last time the D-30 guns were fired in Afghanistan was in early 2007. Since then many of the ANA gunners have been redeployed as infantry soldiers limiting the ability to fire artillery.