Story and photo by Cpl. Katherine Keleher
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Lieutenant Gen. Sir Alexander Richard David Shirreff, NATO’s Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, toured Regional Command Southwest’s area of operations in Helmand province, Sept. 5-6.
Shirreff visited patrol and forward operating bases in Nad ‘Ali and Lashkar Gah districts and Camps Leatherneck and Bastion to learn firsthand what support NATO’s highest leadership can provide to coalition troops and their commanders.
“I’m responsible for force generation, to ensure the commander of [International Security Assistance Force] has the forces he needs,” Shirreff said. “And we face, at the strategic level at NATO, a challenge because all our nations are under considerable political pressure to drawdown. And clearly, the commander of ISAF continues to need the resources he needs from across the coalition to continue the fight.”
At each stop Shirreff talked to the local American, British and Afghan unit commanders for a battleground assessment and to get their opinions regarding what NATO can do to help them. They discussed topics related to the Afghan people, insurgents, Afghan National Security Forces, the Afghan government and the transition of security responsibility from coalition forces to Afghans.
“By coming here, by understanding the design for operations, the concept for operations, the way the fight is being carried forward, the huge successes and gains that are being made, together with some of the real tactical issues that are involved – I’m much better informed,” he said. “What I think I can do as a result of this is contribute to put together the force to take ISAF forward up to 2014 and then look beyond 2014, and really set the force for the future.
“Without coming out on the ground, I don’t think I’d get that sense as to what’s needed.”
While touring Camps Leatherneck and Bastion, Shirreff met with Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan, the commanding general of RC(SW) and II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), as well as Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Craparotta, the commanding general of 2nd Marine Division (Fwd).
The generals sat down to discuss recent progress and future operations before heading to the counter-improvised explosive device training grounds on Camp Bastion. There Marines in charge of C-IED training showed Shirreff how the Marine Corps counters and searches for IEDs. They also demonstrated a live controlled detonation to show Shirreff firsthand how much damage the bombs can do.
“It’s been outstanding, absolutely outstanding,” said Shirreff, regarding his visit. “From beginning to end I pay an unqualified tribute to these soldiers, the Marines, the airmen and the Sailors who are here for work that all the men and women of RC(SW) are doing and have done.
“It’s very clear that that work is gaining huge traction and significant successes.”
After visiting RC(SW) Shirreff planned to visit other provinces and commands in Afghanistan before returning to NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
More photos here.