Teaching Afghans to Fight Back; Welsh Soldiers Are Playing a Key Role in Mentoring the Afghan National Army, Whose Troops Will One Day Take Responsibility for Their Country's Security from Nato's International Security Assistance Force. in the Second of His Western Mail Reports from Afghanistan, Ben Glaze Meets Two South Wales Servicemen Teaching the Latest Afghan Recruits

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 26, 2010 | Go to article overview

Teaching Afghans to Fight Back; Welsh Soldiers Are Playing a Key Role in Mentoring the Afghan National Army, Whose Troops Will One Day Take Responsibility for Their Country's Security from Nato's International Security Assistance Force. in the Second of His Western Mail Reports from Afghanistan, Ben Glaze Meets Two South Wales Servicemen Teaching the Latest Afghan Recruits


Byline: Ben Glaze

WELSH troops on the frontline in Afghanistan know all too well the risks of fighting the Taliban in Helmand Province.

The sooner Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers are trained and competent enough to take responsibility for their country's security, the quicker British servicemen and women can leave the dangerous, dusty desert and return to the UK.

That is why the work carried out by two quiet young Welshmen is so important to saving British lives in the war-torn nation.

Lance Corporal James Jenkins and Fusilier John Burgess, both from 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh, also known as The Royal Welch Fusiliers, mentor troops from the ANA.

"Their instructors will take the lesson and we're assigned to an instructor to provide advice and help," said L/Cpl Jenkins, 23.

"We stand to one side listening and, if we think the instructions are wrong, we'll step in at the end and say so.

"But we don't interrupt their lessons because we need the recruits to respect them.

"We're there to make sure they do it correctly, point them in the right direction and help them out."

ANA fighters have previously been unreliable and lacked discipline and professionalism. But, despite a desertion rate of about 40%, recent recruits have shown new promise, motivation and desire to rid their country of Taliban insurgents.

The trainees' endeavours earned praised from L/Cpl Jenkins, who is originally from Cardiff's St Mellons estate but now lives in Abertridwr, near Caerphilly, with 22-year-old fiancee Lucy Norris.

He said: "There are a few who are really bad, but many are very good. We've got to be patient with them.

"In the British Army we're disciplined and put a lot of effort into training.

"It's important not to have massively high expectations too early. We've got to build their confidence gradually.

"And it can be hard to build trust and bond with the ANA because we're only with them for a short time, but we try to get straight in there and work with them."

And the learning is a two-way process. Afghan soldiers have a better feel for situations on the ground - what the British call "battle awareness". UK troops benefit from the ANA men's knowledge and perceptions in local villages and bazaars.

L/Cpl Jenkins, a former pupil of St Illtyd's RC High School in Rumney, Cardiff, said: "I love the responsibility. …

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Teaching Afghans to Fight Back; Welsh Soldiers Are Playing a Key Role in Mentoring the Afghan National Army, Whose Troops Will One Day Take Responsibility for Their Country's Security from Nato's International Security Assistance Force. in the Second of His Western Mail Reports from Afghanistan, Ben Glaze Meets Two South Wales Servicemen Teaching the Latest Afghan Recruits
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