2 Scots pipers entertain Afghans at important security meeting 01 December 2010
Scottish troops played an appreciated – and tuneful - supporting role when Colonel Abdul Sattar Noorzai, commanding officer of the 2nd Afghan National Police (ANP) Kandak, hosted a meeting for people in Lashkar Gah to discuss the local security situation.
The shura (a traditional Afghan public meeting) was held for those living along Helmand’s important Route 601. More than 180 attended, many more than at previous shuras, and of note were the long distances some people had travelled to attend.
The shura started and concluded with the bagpipes being played by the soldiers from the Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, who partner the 2nd Kandak ANP. The music was received with enthusiastic acclaim by the Afghan people.
Major Nick Wight-Boycott, Officer Commanding D Company, Royal Highland Fusiliers, explained: “The Afghans really appreciate the pipes, which represent the many similarities between the Pashtuns and the Scots.
"Both peoples come from mountainous countries where tribes or clans have been central to the fabric of the nation for generations.”
Colonel Sattar then opened the meeting, speaking about how the security situation was improving, but admitting there was still some way to go. He urged the people to reject the insurgents, whom he described as criminals. He also called on them to tell the police if they knew of insurgents planting IEDs so that he and his men could come and deal with them.
Following this Col Sattar emphasised to the local farmers that it was ‘haram’ (forbidden) for them to grow opium and that any grown would be eradicated. Then the locals had an opportunity to present their concerns to Col Sattar.
Major Wight-Boycott recalled: “Most of the feedback was positive, focussing on the improving security situation and the noticeable improvement in the performance of the Afghan police since better training has been introduced.
“There was one complaint – an allegation that the ANP had assaulted an individual and stolen some money. But although this caused concern, and Col Sattar promised to investigate thoroughly, equally it was seen as an encouraging sign that the man was able to come to the shura and expose this alleged wrongdoing without fear of retribution. “
After the Shura, there was an ineffective insurgent attempted to disrupt the dispersals by local nationals, but this quickly quelled by an ANP patrol.
Major Wight-Boycott added: “This was a very positive event with a good, encouraging atmosphere, and I was pleased to see the very positive reaction we and the ANP received from the locals.
"It was also great to be able to provide some entertainment with the bagpipes and see the Afghans enjoying the music!”