Soldiers bid a tearful farewell to loved ones as they set off for Afghanistan – mindful that the biggest threat they will face will come from the Afghan soldiers they are to train.
Battle-hardened troops from the Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 Scots) – many on their second and third tours of duty – have been warned “green on blue” attacks pose the biggest threat to their safety while in the country to train Afghan special forces how to deal with Taliban insurgency.
It’s an ever-present threat not lost on the likes of decorated soldier Captain Iain Curren, from London Road.
He was awarded the Military Cross after he led two charges on an enemy ambush to rescue an injured soldier in Helmand in 2010.
The 29-year old said: “Our training has centred on such green-on-blue incidents, identifying them early and dealing with them, we’re fully prepared to counteract such problems.
“I was out in Afghanistan two months ago for a recce visit – when we were last there in 2010, we couldn’t move without being shot at by the Taliban or engaging with insurgents. Nowadays, the situation is a lot calmer, and we’ll only head out on patrol if requested by the Afghans.”
Almost 400 troops from 2 Scots were waved off yesterday by family and friends in a tearful ceremony at Glencorse Barracks in Penicuik.
Walter Barrie, from the Royal Scots Borderers, 1 Scots, based in the city’s Dreghorn Barracks, was shot dead in November while playing football with Afghan trainees in Patrol Base Shawqat, in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province.
His death brought the number of British servicemen killed by Afghan soldiers or police to 13 in the last year, compared to one in 2011, three in 2010, and five in 2009.
Commanding Officer Lt Col Robin Lindsay said his troops were well equipped to deal with any “insider attacks”.
He said: “We’ve had the opportunity since last August to be training specifically to counter the insider threat. We’ve made enormous progress, we’ve put together a remarkable training package looking at how you de- escalate such situations.
“We’ve had the best training we could possibly have had to mitigate the risk. We always work very hard to ensure we don’t become complacent.”
Corporal Tony Kerr, 21, was seen off by his sister Natalie, 17, from Penicuik, and friend Richard Harris, 31, from Roslin, as he prepared to embark on his second tour of Afghanistan.
Ms Kerr said: “It’s sad to say goodbye but it’s the job he’s paid to do, he lives and breathes the army.
“Days like this give you a real sense of just what it is they do.”