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  • 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment due to move to Dale Camp in ... 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment due to move to Chester site later this year A changing of the regiments is under way at Dale Barracks in Chester. A merger parade has taken place at Lucknow Barracks in Tidworth to formally mark the coming together of The Royal Welsh Regiment s 1st and 2nd Battalions into a single unit. View gallery Corporal Barry Lloyd RLC Royal Welsh Fusiliers View gallery The merger saw the 1st Battalion move from its old base at Dale Barracks in Chester to Tidworth, as part of the Army s 2020 reorganisation.

    It was announced last May that they would be replaced by the 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment which is due to move into the Dale later this year. The Royal Welsh Regiment was formed in 2006 when the Chester based Royal Welch Fusiliers combined with the Tidworth -based Royal Regiment of Wales in 2006. Last year there was speculation the move could spell the end for the Liverpool Road barracks especially when defence secretary Philip Hammond confirmed seven barracks would be closing under the restructure.

    But this fear proved unfounded when the announcement was made that the 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment will be moving on to the Liverpool Road camp.

    The Mercian Regiment recruits heavily from Chester and the surrounding areas.

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  • 600 take part in huge military parade (From Western Telegraph) 600 take part in huge military parade 8:00pm Monday 21st July 2014 in County News 1 PRIDE OF WALES: The Welsh Guards at Pembroke Dock. PICTURE: Martin Cavaney. (8435922) THE Welsh Guards led one of the biggest military parades Pembroke Dock has ever seen on Saturday (July 19). The bicentenary parade stepped-off from Pembroke Dock Community School at 11am, making its way through the town to the Royal Dockyard Chapel.

    The Fanfarenzug Stadt Band which was on a twinning visit from Bergen, Germany - Pembroke Borough Silver band and Haverfordwest ATC Band were on parade. About 100 standards from across Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire and about 600 people, including troops from 14 Signal Regiment (Electronic Warfare) based at Brawdy, and Army, Air Force, Royal Marine and sea cadets also took part. Pembrokeshire district parade marshal David Boswell said: It was a damn good parade.

    He added: It s always a proud moment to have the Welsh Guards leading the way, it s excellent. The Welsh Guards put the shine on the boots but at the end of the day if none of the other people had come it would have been a flop. They came from all around South Wales to make this parade for Pembroke Dock a real success and I thank them all.

    Bicentenary coordinator Martin Cavaney said: It was a very, very successful weekend the town was very, very busy and there were a lot of people in the centre of town. We were very pleased. On Sunday (July 20) afternoon the Fanfarenzug Stadt Band and members of the Schutencorp (Shooting Club Members) from Bergen paraded along Pembroke Main Street to the Castle for a performance.

    References ^ County News (

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  • A century of marching with the Coldstream Guards Ron Groves, the buttons on his red tunic glinting in the sunshine, peered from under his bearskin at the throng of tourists gathered only feet from his sentry box. Suddenly he became aware of a familiar face among the sightseers outside Buckingham Palace. Striding towards him in stilettos was Hollywood sex symbol Ava Gardner.

    It was then the months of training kicked-in. Ron fought off a smile and stood statue-still as his favourite pin-up posed only inches from him for a typical holiday snap. The pensioner, and Coldstream Guards veteran, treasures the memory of that brief encounter in 1954.

    If I shut my eyes, he chuckled, I can still smell her perfume. She really was a looker. Tomorrow, Ron and 70 colleagues celebrate a military milestone the 100th anniversary of the Birmingham Coldstream Guards Association.

    Close to 200 people are expected at the anniversary lunch at Tally Ho Police Training Centre. In my day, said Ron, 79, there was no hiding place. The sentry boxes were outside the palace.

    Some people would try to get a reaction, try to get you to move, but your training takes over. Ron, from Stechford 1 , was conscripted as an 18-year-old in 1952 into the Coldstream Guards. He finished in 1959 as a Lance Sergeant.

    He said: You walked through the gates of Caterham Barracks and it was a real shock to the system. You did 12 weeks doing foot drill and training. You learned about the regiment s history.

    Every four weeks we had a passing out parade in front of a high ranking officer. If he thought you were up to scratch, you were sent on a weekend s leave, if you weren t good enough, you were back squaded a week. After 12 weeks you got a final passing out parage and then we were sent down to Pirbright Camp, where we did nine weeks.

    After that, we were sent to Pickering in Yorkshire for live ammunition training for two weeks. I was then sent to the 2nd Battalion in Germany. The Coldstream Guards View gallery Ron said the best thing about being a Coldstreamer was the comradeship amongst the men.

    He said: We had so much pride, you never forget it. The comradeship and friendship that you built up was unbelievable. The training was very, very rigorous and we all went through it together.

    Ron is a long-serving committee member and secretary of the Birmingham branch. In 2003, they attended a garden party at Buckingham Palace and in 2011, he was presented to the Queen at Royal Chelsea Hospital. His pal and association chairman Brian Owens, 70, from Perry Common, served as Lance Corporal from 1960 to 1969.

    Brian said: I went to Pirbright and trained 16 weeks there. I joined the 2nd Battalion in Kenya in 1961. There was a bit of trouble in Zanzibar and I served there as a peacekeeper.

    We also went to Tanzania for their independence parade. Brian also went to Yemen where they lost five members of his battalion in clashes. Despite this, he enjoyed his time in the army and the variety it offered.

    He said: The aim of the association is to look after the Coldstreamer. Since 2007, we have looked after the injured troops at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at the QE hospital. We take whatever they request for the injured troops and for their families.

    We have also raised more than 5,000 through street collections and charity stalls at markets. He added: We have people donate money to us. We have a lot of help from other branches and clubs and members of the public.

    Norman French, 70, from Marston Green, served in places as far as South America and Yemen when he served as a Lance Corporal in the guards from 1961 to 1967. He said: When I was posted to Aden (Yemen), we went up to the Radfan Mountains, where we were occasionally attacked but our weapons were more advanced. He is now a welfare officer in the Birmingham Association.

    Norman said: I keep in touch with members who are sick and see what we can do for them. We will help Coldstreamers who may not be in our branch. HISTORY OF THE COLDSTREAM GUARDS The Coldstream Guards is one of the seven regiments in the Household Division - the personal troops of Her Majesty the Queen 2 .

    Formed in 1650 as part of the New Model Army during the English Civil War, the regiment swore allegiance to King Charles II in 1660 and has guarded the country s monarchs since 3 . The Regiment s motto is, Nulli Secundus or Second to None . The Coldstream Guards also contribute to ceremonial occasions, such as Changing of the Guard and Trooping the Colour and are distinctive for the black bearskin caps and red tunics worn by the five regiments of the Foot Guards.

    THE COLDSTREAM GUARDS ASSOCIATION BIRMINGHAM Around 175 people will be attending the 100th anniversary lunch of the Coldstream Guards Association Birmingham tomorrow at Tally Ho Police Training Centre off Pershore Road. There are 71 paid up members and 24 serving soldiers of the branch which was formed in 1913. All members will receive a commemorative tankard and ladies will get a photo frame.

    The association helps members who are leaving or who have left to obtain employment and they help injured soldiers at the RCDM at the QE. They meet every second Wednesday of the month at Tally Ho. Members help with recruiting and participating in its annual dinner, memorial parade and other social events.

    Sir Adrian Cadbury is president of the association and was a Coldstreamer.

    References ^ from Stechford ( ^ Her Majesty the Queen ( ^ King Charles II in 1660 and has guarded the country s monarchs since (

  • A new combat camera team arrives in ... - The Official British Army Blog A new combat camera team arrives in Afghanistan 22 October 2012 by britisharmy Corporal Mike Hubbard video operator CCT H17 I am Corporal Mike Hubbard and I m an Army reservist, Rifles cap badge and member of the Media Operations Group (Volunteers) (MOG(V)). As an Ex-infantier-turned-photographer I m currently deployed on a winter tour of Afghanistan on Op Herrick 17, as the video operator for the Army Combat Camera Team (CCT), which is a three-man team consisting of a photographer, video operator and team commander. This job is a million miles from my civilian career working for BT Global Services as an Account Manager.

    Children: The sounds of progress I was sitting in Lashkar Gah waiting for a helicopter. It was about 10am and the sun was out. It felt like a nice summer morning you get in the UK (sometimes).

    The camp at Lash is surrounded by high walls and on the other side of those walls is the hustle bustle of life, people living in the provincial capital going about their daily business. These are sounds you get used too, but then came the sound of children, lots of them laughing, screaming and playing, the noises that are all too familiar with a playground during break time in any country around the world but not here. It s a sound I ve never heard here before.

    During my last tour, three years ago, we were involved in projects building schools in this area but we never got to see the schools full let alone hear all the kids playing and laughing outside.. For me the sounds I heard washing over the walls brought on a moment of contemplation.. It really was the sound of progress..

    First of all here s a quick video, this was from the Brigade s final training exercise before we deployed. This was filmed and edited by me: Combat Camera Teams handover Train the trainer We ve been here for just over three weeks now, after an overlap of about a week with the outgoing CCT (Combat Camera Team) we re finally in the driving seat. Our second week was spent at Lashkar Gah where the brigade HQ is located and the other half of the AMOC (Afghanistan Media Operations Cell) team.

    We were tasked to cover a story with the PMAG (Police Mentoring Advisory Group). They were handing over and officially opening up a new wing at the police training school, which has been built and developed by the PMAG. The wing was being taken over by Afghan trainers who had only recently attended a train the trainer course.

    The new class being enrolled was the first co-ed mixed male and female class to be held, so this was a great mile stone in the history of Afghan Police Force training and a real sign of change. Cpl Mike Hubbard filming the handover of a training wing at Police HQ Lashkar Gah Capt Booth patrolling back from Police HQ Cpl Mike Hubbard filming in Lashkar Gah Dougal picked up great audio As part of this story we interviewed one of the Afghan female police officers, now this gave me something to think about as we had to use an interpreter as well, so the format of the interview needed to change. I needed to get an end result where the female was framed like a normal interviewee and looking in the right direction with good audio.

    We had a dougal mic (a big mic that looks like a wee scotty dog) and I also had radio mics (small and clip on your shirt collar). My preferred method is to radio mic the person we re interviewing but as there are real sensitivities around females in Afghanistan, I don t think getting her to start stuffing wires up her top with me guiding them through would be appropriate. So we went with the dougal and positioned the boss and the interpreter where the female we were interviewing wouldn t be bobbing her head from one place to the next when they were asking questions and interpreting.

    The interview went really well. We got some great quotes and she was funny. Once I got back to start the edit, I found as we had been focused on the interviewee the dougal picked up great audio from her but we could hardly hear the interpreter and we needed the audio from them So lesson learnt.

    Next time I ll set the interview up exactly the same but I ll put the radio mic on the interpreter and dougal on the interviewee so we get both sets of audio on different channels. The output from this job, is a set of rushes that we make available to the media, rushes are an un-edited collection of clips and interviews put together with a press release, this gives a news team all the parts they need to run their own story during a news broadcast. More technical and mentally demanding Once we got to Lash, the jobs started sprouting out of nowhere.

    In the first two days we ended up with five jobs and I m not moaning as a like to be busy. To give you an idea, these were our tasks for that week: The police training story, Kings Royal Hussars coming home story for their local news, Brigadier s end-of-tour piece to camera, collecting stock footage of Lash, collecting video messages for a charity event Ride to the Wall . Fingers crossed, this is a sign of things to come as I want to get as much material out of my tour as possible and really develop my video skills and to do that we need lots of work!

    Although when I say we were busy, the one thing that has hit me is the difference in activity. All my previous tours have been with a formed infantry company with 100 other blokes. You normally hit the ground running and life is pretty hectic, long hours and hard work of a totally different type, whether it s standing in a guard tower for hours on end, driving vehicles on long patrols or humping kit on foot patrols.

    Every day you re rolling from one job to the next without much of a break, if any, in between. So far, what I ve seen from this job, which to be fair isn t much yet, it s more like my civilian job where the work-load is more technical and mentally demanding with long hours in front of a computer. Yes we ll be getting out on the ground for weeks in a row so I ll get my boots muddy, but we ll always be heading back into Bastion to get the footage edited and sent off to where ever it needs to be.

    It has felt a bit weird sometimes, I keep feeling like I should be leaping onto a vehicle and heading out on a 12 hour patrol or getting stuck in a sangar for a couple of days instead of being sat in an office. Another similarity with my civilian job is that a large part of this job is finding and developing relationships. For BT as an account manager I have to find the right person within a government organisation at a high and low-level to talk to and then develop that relationship, leading to new business for BT etc.

    With the CCT we have to find all the right people to talk to within all the units out here and develop those relationships, which will then lead to stories. And it s much the same with the media. We want to get the stories out so we have to find the right people to talk to and more or less sell them the story.

    Another great way of finding stories is just talking to random people and its surprising what you can dig up.

    Here s one last video, these were the video messages we recorded to be played at the Ride To The Wall event at the National Arboretum, Stafford.

    A great event raising money for the upkeep of the memorial: Well it looks like we ll be getting out on the ground shortly so I ll make sure I have some good footage to share on my next update Previous post: H17 Combat Camera Team: Call-up papers and pre-ops training

  • A soldier's national security dream team | The Great ... - Reuters Blogs President Barack Obama s nomination of Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) for secretary of state, along with the potential appointment of former Senator Chuck Hagel for defense secretary, is an important step forward for the under-resourced State Department and the over-stressed Defense Department. Kerry and Hagel share qualities and experiences sure to resonate with those who execute U.S. national security and foreign policy on the battlefield and in the increasingly dangerous world of diplomacy.

    Both men demonstrated great bravery in war and moral courage throughout their lives. Hagel, as an infantry sergeant and squad leader in Vietnam, was twice wounded, saved by his squad mate brother and then returned the favor. Kerry, not far away, operated riverine craft in an equally dangerous environment and sustained several wounds.

    After such experiences, they understand the implications of deciding to use military force like few others in our civilian leadership. They know at a gut level that the decision to put our soldiers in harm s way can traumatize those who have answered the call of duty, and affect their families, like few of life s endeavors. From a soldier s perspective, I know their profound appreciation may temper Washington s appetite to respond to foreign policy problems with military force.

    They can help drive a more balanced, economic or diplomatic response to the challenges we will surely face. The moral courage each displayed is amply illustrated by their actions in the Senate. Hagel consistently challenged his own party s war hawks and was declared unpatriotic by many fellow Republicans.

    Yet his voting pattern, as described by James Fallows, reveals a cautious realist with a centrist record. Kerry, having voted to approve the use of force in Iraq with, among others, Senator Hillary Clinton, declared his intent to ensure all foreign policy tools remained on the table. Both men later voted against the surge in Iraq in the face of substantial push-back from their colleagues.

    More recently in Afghanistan, Kerry was critical of the diplomacy in a very difficult environment. In the words of another very courageous diplomat, the late Richard Holbrooke, Kerry s role in Afghanistan was extraordinary. Both Hagel and Kerry clearly understand that the oath of office is to support and defend the Constitution not their political party.

    Regrettably, the hint of Hagel s pending nomination has triggered the release of the attack Chihuahuas. Representative-elect Tom Cotton of Arkansas has led the charge, his criticism echoed by party luminaries such as Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). Cotton s screed reveals the current thinking of the GOP s dogmatic right-wing, which desperately needs the counterweight of cautious realists.

    Men who have experienced close combat tend to be practical. Hagel is now being criticized for his desire to see engagement with Iran and his intent to nudge Israel to a peaceful outcome in the endless Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Until we are able to lead a renewal of the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, Hagel said in 2006, mindless destruction and slaughter will continue in Lebanon, Israel and across the Middle East.

    With Obama s intent to accelerate his policy of engagement, supported by both Kerry and Hagel, it brings to mind the famous Abraham Lincoln quote, Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them? J Street supports a Hagel nomination as do five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel from both Democratic and Republican administrations.

    So should anyone who supports a peaceful and successful outcome with our ally Israel. We have a history of presidents crossing party lines in building Cabinets to achieve crucial goals. President Franklin D.

    Roosevelt needed a strong Republican and manager to pave the way into World War II and rapidly expand our armed forces. Enter Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, decorated combat soldier and a great selection for a bipartisan team.

    For different reasons today, we would benefit from a moderate and a distinguished leader who needs no apprenticeship, who just happens to be a war hero and has a proven record of working across the aisle to get things done. Enter Hagel as comfortable with generals as with the enlisted infantry he led in Vietnam. Obama is building a new team for his second-term objectives.

    The way it is shaping up with Kerry s nomination, followed soon by that of Hagel America will use the increase in engagement with allies and adversaries to allow a vital rebalancing of our instruments of national power. We are overdue in executing a reinvigoration of our State Department and a period of respite for our men and women in the Defense Department. Kerry will be brilliant at State.

    Hagel will be equally so at Defense. PHOTO: Senator John Kerry (L) speaking at a news conference in Cairo May 2, 2012. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany.

    Former Senator Chuck Hagel (R) at a news conference in Omaha, Nebraska, March 12, 2007.

    REUTERS/Dave Kaup PHOTO (Insert): Henry L.

    Stimson LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/Harris & Ewing

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  • Accused UK soldier killer `loves al-Qaeda' A man accused of the gruesome murder of a British soldier has told his trial that he loves al-Qaeda and considers the Islamic militants to be his "brothers". Michael Adebolajo, 28, sat surrounded by security guards as he began giving evidence in his trial at London's Old Bailey court on Monday. He and Michael Adebowale, 22, are accused of murdering 25-year-old soldier Lee Rigby in broad daylight as he walked back to his London barracks in May.

    The court has heard that the pair ran Rigby over with a car before attacking him with knives and Adebolajo attempted to behead him with a meat cleaver. The defendants, both Britons of Nigerian descent, deny murder. The soldier's family sat just metres from Adebolajo in the courtroom as he said: "Al-Qaeda, I consider to be mujahideen.

    I love them, they're my brothers." He added that he has never met members of the militant group. Adebolajo said he had been raised as a Christian but converted to Islam in his first year at Greenwich University in south London, close to where Rigby was killed. "My religion is everything," he told the court. The jury heard that Adebolajo, who has asked to be called Mujaahid Abu Hamza in court, is married and has six children.

    Growing up in Romford, east of London, he said that the "vast majority" of his school friends were white Britons. One of them had joined the army and was killed in Iraq. Adebolajo said he held former prime minister Tony Blair, who sent British forces to join the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, "responsible" for his friend's death.

    Adebolajo tried to travel to Somalia in 2010 but was captured in Kenya and brought back to Britain, the court heard. He said that before the brutal attack on Rigby, he had attended demonstrations organised by an Islamist group banned under British anti-terror laws, but then realised the protests were "impotent rage". "In reality, no demonstration will make a difference," he added. He told the court several times that he was a "soldier" and that he did not regret what happened to Rigby. "I will never regret obeying the command of Allah.

    That is all I can say," he said.

    The trial heard last week that Adebolajo told police he and Adebowale had targeted a soldier because they believed this was "the most fair target" in an attack aimed at avenging the deaths of Muslims abroad.

    He said he tried to behead Rigby because it was the most "humane" way to kill him, comparing it to halal butchery methods.

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  • AFA: Save Dead Soldiers from The Gay - Freethought Blogs Outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced a few days ago that the Pentagon would be offering several important benefits to the same-sex spouses of gay soldiers and the American Family Association by family they mean we hate gay people is calling down the thunder, especially over the terrible thought of a gay soldier s spouse being buried at Arlington National Cemetery. This means the military will recognize homosexual lovers as married and will give a full slate of benefits, including burial in Arlington National Cemetery. Panetta, at every turn, has exposed the military to open homosexuality, which presents an unacceptable risk to good order, discipline, morale and unit cohesion qualities essential for combat readiness.

    TAKE ACTION Send a letter to your members of Congress, letting them know that, on their watch, they have allowed the security of our nation to be endangered by focusing on social experimentation, rather than defense. Yes, of course. Because a decaying gay person in Arlington would release gay erototoxins into the soil, which would leech through the soles of the shoes of the color guard and other soldiers who may enter the cemetery and infect them with The Gay.

    And then we ll all be doomed.

    Or something.

  • Afghan bombers strike during US official's visit - Worldnews.comNative name Jomh r -ye Esl m -ye Af nest n (Persian) Da Af nist n Isl m Jomhoriyat (Pashto) Conventional long name Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Common name Afghanistan Image coat Coat of arms of Afghanistan.svg Symbol type Emblem National anthem Afghan National Anthem Official languages PashtoDari (Persian) Demonym Afghan Capital Kabul Largest city Kabul Government type Islamic republic Leader title1 President Leader title2 Vice President Leader name1 Hamid Karzai Leader name2 Mohammed Fahim Leader title3 Vice President Leader name3 Karim Khalili Leader title4 Chief Justice Leader name4 Abdul Salam Azimi Legislature National Assembly Upper house House of Elders Lower house House of the People Area rank 41st Area magnitude 1_E11 Area km2 647500 Area sq mi 251772 Percent water negligible Population estimate 30,419,928 Population estimate year 2012 Population estimate rank 40 Population census 15.5 million Population census year 1979 Population density km2 43.5 Population density sq mi 111.8 Population density rank 150th Gdp ppp year 2011 Gdp ppp $29.731 billion Gdp ppp per capita $1,000 Gdp nominal year 2011 Gdp nominal $18.181 billion Gdp nominal per capita $585 Hdi year 2011 Hdi 0.398 Hdi rank 172nd Hdi category low Gini 29 Gini year 2008 Gini category low Fsi 102.3 2.5 Fsi year 2007 Fsi rank 8th Fsi category Alert Sovereignty type Establishment Established event1 First Afghan state Established date1 October 1747 Established event2 Independence (from the United Kingdom) Established date2 August 19, 1919 Currency Afghani Currency code AFN Country code AFG Time zone D Utc offset +4:30 Drives on right Cctld .af Calling code +93 Footnote1 }} Afghanistan (; ; ), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan , is a landlocked country forming part of South Asia, Central Asia, and to some extent Western Asia. With a population of around 30 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world. It is bordered by Pakistan in the south and the east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far northeast.

    Afghanistan has been an ancient focal point of the Silk Road and human migration. Archaeologists have found evidence of human habitation from as far back as the Middle Paleolithic. Urban civilization may have begun in the area as early as 3,000 to 2,000 BCE.

    Sitting at an important geostrategic location that connects the Middle East culture with Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, the land has been home to various peoples through the ages and witnessed many military campaigns, notably by Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and in modern era Western forces. The land also served as a source from which the Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Hephthalites, Saffarids, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Khiljis, Timurids, Mughals, Durranis, and others have risen to form major empires. The political history of the modern state of Afghanistan begins in 1709, when the Hotaki dynasty was established in Kandahar followed by Ahmad Shah Durrani's rise to power in 1747.

    In the late 19th century, Afghanistan became a buffer state in the "Great Game" between the British and Russian empires. Following the 1919 Anglo-Afghan War, King Amanullah began a European style modernization of the country but was stopped by the ultra-conservatives. During the Cold War, after the withdrawal of the British from neighboring India in 1947, the United States and the Soviet Union began spreading influences in Afghanistan, which led to a bloody war between the US-backed mujahideen forces and the Soviet-backed Afghan government in which over a million Afghans lost their lives.

    This was followed by the 1990s civil war, the rise and fall of the extremist Taliban government and the 2001 present war. In December 2001, the United Nations Security Council authorized the creation of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to help maintain security in Afghanistan and assist the Karzai administration. Three decades of war made Afghanistan the world's most dangerous country, including the largest producer of refugees and asylum seekers.

    While the international community is rebuilding war-torn Afghanistan, terrorist groups such as the Haqqani Network and Hezbi Islami are actively involved in a nationwide Taliban-led insurgency, which includes hundreds of assassinations and suicide attacks. According to the United Nations, the insurgents were responsible for 80% of civilian casualties in 2011 and 2012. Etymology The name Afgh nist n (, ) means "Land of the Afghans" , which originates from the ethnonym "Afghan" .

    Historically, the name "Afghan" mainly designated the Pashtun people, the largest ethnic group of Afghanistan. This name is mentioned in the form of Abgan in the 3rd century CE by the Sassanians and as Avagana ( Afghana ) in the 6th century CE by Indian astronomer Varahamihira. A people called the Afghans are mentioned several times in a 10th century geography book, Hudud al-'alam, particularly where a reference is made to a village: "Saul, a pleasant village on a mountain.

    In it live Afghans ."Al-Biruni referred to them in the 11th century as various tribes living on the western frontier mountains of the Indus River, which would be the Sulaiman Mountains. Ibn Battuta, a famous Moroccan scholar visiting the region in 1333, writes: One prominent 16th-century Persian scholar explains extensively about the Afghans. For example, he writes: It is widely accepted that the terms "Pashtun" and Afghan are synonyms.

    In the writings of the 17th-century Pashto poet Khushal Khan Khattak it is mentioned: The last part of the name, -st n is a Persian suffix for "place". The name "Afghanistan" is described by the 16th century Mughal Emperor Babur in his memoirs as well as by the later Persian scholar Firishta and Babur's descendants, referring to the traditional ethnic Pashtun territories between the Hindu Kush mountains and the Indus River. In the early 19th century, Afghan politicians decided to adopt the name Afghanistan for the entire Afghan Empire after its English translation had already appeared in various treaties with Qajarid Persia and British India.

    In 1857, in his review of J.W. Kaye's The Afghan War , Friedrich Engels describes "Afghanistan" as: The Afghan kingdom was sometimes referred to as the Kingdom of Kabul , as mentioned by the British statesman and historian Mountstuart Elphinstone. Afghanistan was officially recognized as a sovereign state by the international community after the Anglo-Afghan Treaty of 1919 was signed.

    Geography A landlocked mountainous country with plains in the north and southwest, Afghanistan is described as being located within South Asia or Central Asia. It is part of the Greater Middle East Muslim world, which lies between latitudes and , and longitudes and . The country's highest point is Noshaq, at above sea level. , and hot summers in the low-lying areas of the Sistan Basin of the southwest, the Jalalabad basin in the east, and the Turkestan plains along the Amu River in the north, where temperatures average over in July.|date=October 2011}} Despite having numerous rivers and reservoirs, large parts of the country are dry.

    The endorheic Sistan Basin is one of the driest regions in the world. Aside from the usual rain falls, Afghanistan receives snow during winter in the Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains, and the melting snow in the spring season enters the rivers, lakes, and streams. However, two-thirds of the country's water flows into neighboring countries of Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan.

    The state needs more than to rehabilitate its irrigation systems so that the water is properly managed. The northeastern Hindu Kush mountain range, in and around the Badakhshan Province of Afghanistan, is in a geologically active area where earthquakes may occur almost every year. They can be deadly and destructive sometimes, causing landslides in some parts or avalanche during winter.

    The last strong earthquakes were in 1998, which killed about 6,000 people in Badakhshan near Tajikistan. This was followed by the 2002 Hindu Kush earthquakes in which over 150 people of various regional countries were killed and over 1,000 injured. The 2010 earthquake left 11 Afghans dead, over 70 injured and more than 2,000 houses destroyed.

    The country's natural resources include: coal, copper, iron ore, lithium, uranium, rare earth elements, chromite, gold, zinc, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, marble, precious and semi-precious stones, natural gas, and petroleum among other things. In 2010, US and Afghan government officials estimated that untapped mineral deposits located in 2007 by the US Geological Survey are worth between and . At , Afghanistan is the world's 41st largest country, slightly bigger than France and smaller than Burma, about the size of Texas in the United States.

    It borders Pakistan in the south and east, Iran in the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in the north, and China in the far east. History Excavations of prehistoric sites by Louis Dupree and others suggest that humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago, and that farming communities in the area were among the earliest in the world. An important site of early historical activities, many believe that Afghanistan compares to Egypt in terms of the historical value of its archaeological sites.

    The country sits at a unique nexus point where numerous civilizations have interacted and often fought. It has been home to various peoples through the ages, among them the ancient Iranian peoples who established the dominant role of Indo-Iranian languages in the region. At multiple points, the land has been incorporated within large regional empires, among them the Achaemenid Empire, the Macedonian Empire, the Indian Maurya Empire, the Islamic Empire and the Sassanid Empire.

    Many kingdoms have also risen to power in what is now Afghanistan, such as the Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Hephthalites, Kabul Shahis, Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Kartids, Timurids, Mughals, and finally the Hotaki and Durrani dynasties that marked the political origins of the modern state. Pre-Islamic period Archaeological exploration done in the 20th century suggests that the geographical area of Afghanistan has been closely connected by culture and trade with its neighbors to the east, west and north. Artifacts typical of the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze, and Iron ages have been found in Afghanistan.

    Urban civilization is believed to have begun as early as 3000 BCE, and the early city of Mundigak (near Kandahar in the south of the country) may have been a colony of the nearby Indus Valley Civilization.After 2000 BCE, successive waves of semi-nomadic people from Central Asia began moving south into Afghanistan, among them were many Indo-European-speaking Indo-Iranians. These tribes later migrated further south to India, west to what is now Iran, and towards Europe via the area north of the Caspian. The region as a whole was called Ariana.

    The ancient religion of Zoroastrianism is believed by some to have originated in what is now Afghanistan between 1800 and 800 BCE, as its founder Zoroaster is thought to have lived and died in Balkh. Ancient Eastern Iranian languages may have been spoken in the region around the time of the rise of Zoroastrianism. By the middle of the 6th century BCE, the Achaemenid Persians overthrew the Medes and incorporated Afghanistan (Arachosia, Aria and Bactria) within its boundaries.

    An inscription on the tombstone of King Darius I of Persia mentions the Kabul Valley in a list of the 29 countries that he had conquered. Alexander the Great and his Macedonian army arrived to the area of Afghanistan in 330 BCE after defeating Darius III of Persia a year earlier in the Battle of Gaugamela. Following Alexander's brief occupation, the successor state of the Seleucid Empire controlled the area until 305 BCE when they gave much of it to the Indian Maurya Empire as part of an alliance treaty.|Strabo|64 BC 24 AD}} The Mauryans brought Buddhism from India and controlled the area south of the Hindu Kush until about 185 BCE when they were overthrown.

    Their decline began 60 years after Ashoka's rule ended, leading to the Hellenistic reconquest of the region by the Greco-Bactrians. Much of it soon broke away from the Greco-Bactrians and became part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The Indo-Greeks were defeated and expelled by the Indo-Scythians in the late 2nd century BCE.

    During the 1st century BCE, the Parthian Empire subjugated the region, but lost it to their Indo-Parthian vassals. In the mid to late 1st century CE the vast Kushan Empire, centered in modern Afghanistan, became great patrons of Buddhist culture. The Kushans were defeated by the Sassanids in the 3rd century CE.

    Although various rulers calling themselves Kushanshas (generally known as the Indo-Sassanids) continued to rule at least parts of the region, they were probably more or less subject to the Sassanids. The late Kushans were followed by the Kidarite Huns who, in turn, were replaced by the short-lived but powerful Hephthalites, as rulers. The Hephthalites were defeated by Khosrau I in CE 557, who re-established Sassanid power in Persia.

    However, in the 6th century CE, the successors to the Kushans and Hepthalites established a small dynasty in Kabulistan called Kabul Shahi. Islamization and Mongol invasion Between the 4th and 19th centuries the northwestern area of modern Afghanistan was referred to by the regional name as Khorasan. Two of the four capitals of Khorasan (Herat and Balkh) are now located in Afghanistan, while the regions of Kandahar, Zabulistan, Ghazni, Kabulistan and Afghanistan formed the frontier between Khorasan and Hindustan.Arab Muslims brought the message of Islam to Herat and Zaranj in 642 AD and began spreading eastward, some of the native inhabitants they encountered accepted it while others revolted.

    The people of Afghanistan was multi-religious, which included Zoroastrians, Buddhists, worshippers of the sun, Hindus, Christians, Jews, and others. The Zunbil and Kabul Shahi were defeated in 870 AD by the Saffarid Muslims of Zaranj. Later, the Samanids extended their Islamic influence into south of the Hindu Kush.

    It is reported that Muslims and non-Muslims still lived side by side in Kabul before the Ghaznavids rose to power.|Istahkr |921 AD}} Afghanistan became one of the main centers in the Muslim world during the Islamic Golden Age. By the 11th century Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni had finally Islamized all of the remaining non-Muslim areas, with the exception of the Kafiristan region. The Ghaznavids were replaced by the Ghurids who expanded and advanced the already powerful empire.

    In 1219 AD, Genghis Khan and his Mongol army overran the region. His troops are said to have annihilated the Khorasanian cities of Herat and Balkh as well as Bamyan. The destruction caused by the Mongols depopulated major cities and forced many of the locals to revert to an agrarian rural society.

    Mongol rule continued with the Ilkhanate in the northwest while the Khilji dynasty controlled the Afghan tribal areas south of the Hindu Kush, until the invasion of Timur who established the Timurid dynasty in 1370. During the Ghaznavid, Ghurid, and Timurid eras, Afghanistan produced many fine Islamic architectural monuments as well as numerous scientific and literary works. Babur, a descendant of both Timur and Genghis Khan, arrived from Fergana and captured Kabul from the Arghun dynasty, and from there he began to seize control of the central and eastern territories of Afghanistan.

    He remained in Kabulistan until 1526 when he and his army invaded Delhi in India to replace the Afghan Lodi dynasty with the Mughal Empire. From the 16th century to the early 18th century, Afghanistan was part of three regional kingdoms: the Khanate of Bukhara in the north, the Shi'a Safavids in the west and the remaining larger area was ruled by the Mughal Empire. Hotaki dynasty and Durrani Empire Mir Wais Hotak, seen as Afghanistan's George Washington, successfully rebelled against the Persian Safavids in 1709.

    He overthrew and killed Gurgin Khan, and made the Afghan region independent from Persia. By 1713, Mir Wais had decisively defeated two larger Persian armies, one was led by Khusraw Kh n (nephew of Gurgin) and the other by Rustam Kh n. The armies were sent by Sultan Husayn, the Shah in Isfahan (now Iran), to re-take control of the Kandahar region.

    Mir Wais died of a natural cause in 1715 and was succeeded by his brother Abdul Aziz, who was killed by Mir Wais' son Mahmud as a national traitor. In 1722, Mahmud led an Afghan army to the Persian capital of Isfahan, sacked the city after the Battle of Gulnabad and proclaimed himself King of Persia. The Persians were disloyal to the Afghan rulers, and after the massacre of thousands of religious scholars, nobles, and members of the Safavid family, the Hotaki dynasty was ousted from Persia after the 1729 Battle of Damghan.In 1738, Nader Shah and his Afsharid forces captured Kandahar from Shah Hussain Hotaki, at which point the incarcerated 16 year old Ahmad Shah Durrani was freed and made the commander of Nader Shah's four thousand Abdali Afghans.

    From Kandahar they set out to conquer India, passing through Ghazni, Kabul, Peshawar, and Lahore, and ultimately plundering Delhi after the Battle of Karnal. Nader Shah and his army abandoned Delhi but took with them huge treasure, which included the Koh-i-Noor and Darya-ye Noor diamonds. After the death of Nader Shah in 1747, the Afghans chose Ahmad Shah Durrani as their head of state.

    Regarded as the founder of modern Afghanistan, Durrani and his Afghan army conquered the entire present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Khorasan and Kohistan provinces of Iran, along with Delhi in India. He defeated the Indian Maratha Empire, one of his biggest victories was the 1761 Battle of Panipat. In October 1772, Ahmad Shah Durrani died of a natural cause and was buried at a site now adjacent to the Shrine of the Cloak in Kandahar.

    He was succeeded by his son, Timur Shah, who transferred the capital of Afghanistan from Kandahar to Kabul in 1776. After Timur Shah's death in 1793, the Durrani throne was passed down to his son Zaman Shah followed by Mahmud Shah, Shuja Shah and others. The Afghan Empire was under threat in the early 19th century by the Persians in the west and the Sikhs in the east.

    The western provinces of Khorasan and Kohistan were taken by the Persians in 1800. Fateh Khan, leader of the Barakzai tribe, had installed 21 of his brothers in positions of power throughout the empire. After his death, they rebelled and divided up the provinces of the empire between themselves.

    During this turbulent period, Afghanistan had many temporary rulers until Dost Mohammad Khan declared himself emir in 1826. The Punjab region was lost to Ranjit Singh, who invaded Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and in 1834 captured the city of Peshawar. In 1837, Akbar Khan and the Afghan army crossed the Khyber Pass to defeat the Sikhs at the Battle of Jamrud, killing Hari Singh Nalwa before retreating to Kabul.

    By this time the British were advancing from the east and the First Anglo-Afghan War, one of the first major conflicts during the Great Game, was initiated. Western influence Following the 1842 massacre of Elphinstone's Army and victory of Afghan forces, led by Akbar Khan, the British established diplomatic relations with the Afghan government but withdrew all forces from the country. They returned during the Second Anglo-Afghan War in the late 1870s for about two-year military operations, which was to defeat Ayub Khan and assist Abdur Rahman Khan establish authority.

    The United Kingdom began to exercise a great deal of influence after this and even controlled the state's foreign policy. In 1893, Mortimer Durand made Amir Abdur Rahman Khan sign a controversial agreement in which the ethnic Pashtun and Baloch territories were divided by the Durand Line. This was a standard divide and rule policy of the British and would lead to strained relations, especially with the later new state of Pakistan.

    After the Third Anglo-Afghan War and the signing of the Treaty of Rawalpindi in 1919, King Amanullah Khan declared Afghanistan a sovereign and fully independent state. He moved to end his country's traditional isolation by establishing diplomatic relations with the international community and, following a 1927 28 tour of Europe and Turkey, introduced several reforms intended to modernize his nation. A key force behind these reforms was Mahmud Tarzi, an ardent supporter of the education of women.

    He fought for Article 68 of Afghanistan's 1923 constitution, which made elementary education compulsory. Some of the reforms that were actually put in place, such as the abolition of the traditional burqa for women and the opening of a number of co-educational schools, quickly alienated many tribal and religious leaders. Faced with overwhelming armed opposition, Amanullah Khan was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after Kabul fell to rebel forces led by Habibullah Kalakani.

    Prince Mohammed Nadir Shah, Amanullah's cousin, in turn defeated and killed Kalakani in November 1929, and was declared King Nadir Shah. He abandoned the reforms of Amanullah Khan in favor of a more gradual approach to modernisation but was assassinated in 1933 by Abdul Khaliq, a Hazara school student. Mohammed Zahir Shah, Nadir Shah's 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973.

    Until 1946 Zahir Shah ruled with the assistance of his uncle, who held the post of Prime Minister and continued the policies of Nadir Shah. Another of Zahir Shah's uncles, Shah Mahmud Khan, became Prime Minister in 1946 and began an experiment allowing greater political freedom, but reversed the policy when it went further than he expected. He was replaced in 1953 by Mohammed Daoud Khan, the king's cousin and brother-in-law.

    Daoud Khan sought a closer relationship with the Soviet Union and a more distant one towards Pakistan. Afghanistan remained neutral and was neither a participant in World War II, nor aligned with either power bloc in the Cold War. However, it was a beneficiary of the latter rivalry as both the Soviet Union and the United States vied for influence by building Afghanistan's main highways, airports and other vital infrastructure.

    In 1973, while King Zahir Shah was on an official overseas visit, Daoud Khan launched a bloodless coup and became the first President of Afghanistan. Marxist revolution and Soviet war In April 1978, the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) seized power in Afghanistan in the Saur Revolution. Within months, opponents of the communist government launched an uprising in eastern Afghanistan that quickly expanded into a civil war waged by guerrilla mujahideen against government forces countrywide.

    The Pakistani government provided these rebels with covert training centers, while the Soviet Union sent thousands of military advisers to support the PDPA government. Meanwhile, increasing friction between the competing factions of the PDPA the dominant Khalq and the more moderate Parcham resulted in the dismissal of Parchami cabinet members and the arrest of Parchami military officers under the pretext of a Parchami coup. By mid-1979, the United States had started a covert program to assist the mujahideen.

    In September 1979, Khalqist President Nur Muhammad Taraki was assassinated in a coup within the PDPA orchestrated by fellow Khalq member Hafizullah Amin, who assumed the presidency. Distrusted by the Soviets, Amin was assassinated by Soviet special forces in December 1979. A Soviet-organized government, led by Parcham's Babrak Karmal but inclusive of both factions, filled the vacuum.

    Soviet troops were deployed to stabilize Afghanistan under Karmal in more substantial numbers, although the Soviet government did not expect to do most of the fighting in Afghanistan. As a result, however, the Soviets were now directly involved in what had been a domestic war in Afghanistan. At the time some believed the Soviets were attempting to expand their borders southward in order to gain a foothold in the Middle East.

    The Soviet Union had long lacked a warm water port, and their movement south seemed to position them for further expansion toward Pakistan in the East, and Iran to the West. American politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, feared the Soviets were positioning themselves for a takeover of Middle Eastern oil. Others believed that the Soviet Union was afraid Iran's Islamic Revolution and Afghanistan's Islamization would spread to the millions of Muslims in the USSR.

    The PDPA prohibited usury, made statements on women's rights by declaring equality of the sexes and introducing women to political life. After the invasion, President Jimmy Carter announced what became known as the Carter Doctrine: that the U.S. would not allow any other outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf.

    He terminated the Soviet Wheat Deal in January 1980, which was intended to establish trade with USSR and lessen Cold War tensions. The grain exports had been beneficial to people employed in agriculture, and the Carter embargo marked the beginning of hardship for American farmers. That same year, Carter also made two of the most unpopular decisions of his entire Presidency: prohibiting American athletes from participating in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, and reinstating registration for the draft for young males.

    Following the Soviet invasion, the United States supported diplomatic efforts to achieve a Soviet withdrawal. In addition, generous U.S. contributions to the refugee program in Pakistan played a major part in efforts to assist Afghan refugees.

    The Reagan administration increased arming and funding of the mujahideen as part of the Reagan Doctrine, thanks in large part to the efforts of Charlie Wilson and CIA officer Gust Avrakotos. Early reports estimated $6 20 billion but more recent reports suggest that up to $40 billion were provided by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to Pakistan.

    This was in the forms of cash and weapons, which included over two thousand FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles. The 10-year Soviet war resulted in the deaths of over 1 million Afghans, mostly civilians. About 6million fled to Pakistan and Iran, and from there tens of thousands began emigrating to the European Union, United States, Australia and other parts of the world.

    Faced with mounting international pressure and great number of casualties, the Soviets withdrew in 1989 but continued to support Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah until 1992. Foreign interference and war After the fall of Najibullah's government in 1992, the Afghan political parties agreed on a peace and power-sharing agreement (the Peshawar Accords). The accords created the Islamic State of Afghanistan and appointed an interim government for a transitional period to be followed by general elections.

    According to Human Rights Watch: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar received operational, financial and military support from Pakistan. Afghanistan expert Amin Saikal concludes in Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival : In addition, Saudi Arabia and Iran as competitors for regional hegemony supported Afghan militias hostile towards each other. According to Human Rights Watch, Iran was backing the Shia Hazara Hezb-i Wahdat forces of Abdul Ali Mazari to "maximize Wahdat's military power and influence".

    Saudi Arabia supported the Wahhabite Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and his Ittihad-i Islami faction. Conflict between the two militias soon escalated into a full-scale war. Due to the sudden initiation of the war, working government departments, police units or a system of justice and accountability for the newly created Islamic State of Afghanistan did not have time to form.

    Atrocities were committed by individuals of the different armed factions while Kabul descended into lawlessness and chaos as described in reports by Human Rights Watch and the Afghanistan Justice Project. Because of the chaos, some leaders increasingly had only nominal control over their (sub-)commanders. For civilians there was little security from murder, rape and extortion.

    When the Taliban took control of the city in 1994, they forced the surrender of dozens of local Pashtun leaders. The Islamic State government took steps to restore law and order. Courts started to work again.

    Massoud tried to initiate a nationwide political process with the goal of national consolidation and democratic elections, also inviting the Taliban to join the process but they refused as they did not believe in a democratic system. Taliban Emirate and the United Front The Taliban started shelling Kabul in early 1995 but were defeated by forces of the Islamic State government under Ahmad Shah Massoud. Amnesty International, referring to the Taliban offensive, wrote in a 1995 report: "This is the first time in several months that Kabul civilians have become the targets of rocket attacks and shelling aimed at residential areas in the city." The Taliban's early victories in 1994 were followed by a series of defeats that resulted in heavy losses which led analysts to believe the Taliban movement had run its course.

    Many analysts like Amin Saikal describe the Taliban as developing into a proxy force for Pakistan's regional interests.On 26 September 1996, as the Taliban with military support by Pakistan and financial support by Saudi Arabia prepared for another major offensive, Massoud ordered a full retreat from Kabul. The Taliban seized Kabul on 27 September 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They imposed on the parts of Afghanistan under their control their political and judicial interpretation of Islam issuing edicts especially targeting women.

    According to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), "no other regime in the world has methodically and violently forced half of its population into virtual house arrest, prohibiting them on pain of physical punishment." After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban on 27 September 1996, Ahmad Shah Massoud and Abdul Rashid Dostum, two former enemies, created the United Front (Northern Alliance) against the Taliban that were preparing offensives against the remaining areas under the control of Massoud and those under the control of Dostum. The United Front included beside the dominantly Tajik forces of Massoud and the Uzbek forces of Dostum, Hazara factions under the command of leaders such as Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq and Pashtun forces under the leadership of commanders such as Abdul Haq or Haji Abdul Qadir. The Taliban defeated Dostum's Junbish forces militarily by seizing Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998.

    Dostum subsequently went into exile. According to a 55-page report by the United Nations, the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians. UN officials stated that there had been "15 massacres" between 1996 and 2001 and that "these have been highly systematic and they all lead back to the Taliban Ministry of Defense or to Mullah Omar himself." The Taliban especially targeted people of Shia religious or Hazara ethnic background.

    Upon taking Mazar-i-Sharif in 1998, 4,000 6,000 civilians were killed by the Taliban and many more reported tortured. The documents also reveal the role of Arab and Pakistani support troops in these killings. Bin Laden's so-called 055 Brigade was responsible for mass-killings of Afghan civilians.

    The report by the UN quotes "eyewitnesses in many villages describing Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people". President Pervez Musharraf then as Chief of Army Staff was responsible for sending thousands of Pakistanis to fight alongside the Taliban and bin Laden against the forces of Massoud. According to Pakistani Afghanistan expert Ahmed Rashid, "between 1994 and 1999, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought in Afghanistan" on the side of the Taliban.

    In 2001 alone, there were believed to be 28,000 Pakistani nationals, many either from the Frontier Corps or army, fighting inside Afghanistan. An estimated 8,000 Pakistani militants were recruited in madrassas filling the ranks of the estimated 25,000 regular Taliban force. Bin Laden sent Arab recruits to join the fight against the United Front.

    3,000 fighters of the regular Taliban army were Arab and Central Asian militants. Human Rights Watch cites no human rights crimes for the forces under direct control of Massoud for the period from October 1996 until the assassination of Massoud in September 2001. As a consequence many civilians fled to the area of Ahmad Shah Massoud.

    In total, estimates range up to one million people fleeing the Taliban. National Geographic concluded in its documentary "Inside the Taliban" : "The only thing standing in the way of future Taliban massacres is Ahmad Shah Massoud." In early 2001 Massoud addressed the European Parliament in Brussels asking the international community to provide humanitarian help to the people of Afghanistan. He stated that the Taliban and al-Qaeda had introduced "a very wrong perception of Islam" and that without the support of Pakistan and bin Laden the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for up to a year.

    On this visit to Europe he also warned that his intelligence had gathered information about a large-scale attack on U.S. soil being imminent. On 9 September 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud was assassinated by two Arab suicide attackers inside Afghanistan and two days later about 3,000 people were killed in the September 11 attacks in the United States.

    The US government identified Osama bin Laden, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the Al-Qaeda organization based in and allied to the Taliban's Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as the perpetrators of the attacks. From 1990 until this date over 400,000 Afghan civilians had already died in the wars in Afghanistan. The Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden to US authorities and to disband al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan.

    Bin Laden later claimed sole responsibility for the September 11 attacks and specifically denied any prior knowledge of them by the Taliban or the Afghan people. In October 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom was launched as a new phase of the war in Afghanistan in which teams of American and British special forces worked with ground forces of the United Front (Northern Alliance) to remove the Taliban from power and dispel Al-Qaeda. At the same time the US-led forces were bombing Taliban and al-Qaida targets everywhere inside Afghanistan with cruise missiles.

    These actions led to the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif in the north followed by all the other cities, as the Taliban and al-Qaida fled over the porous Durand Line border into Pakistan. In December 2001, after the Taliban government was toppled and the new Afghan government under Hamid Karzai was formed, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was established by the UN Security Council to help assist the Karzai administration and provide basic security to the Afghan people. Recent history (2002 present) While the Taliban began regrouping inside Pakistan, more coalition troops entered the escalating US-led war.

    Meanwhile, the rebuilding of war-torn Afghanistan kicked off in 2002. The Afghan nation was able to build democratic structures over the years, and some progress was made in key areas such as governance, economy, health, education, transport, and agriculture. NATO is training the Afghan armed forces as well its national police.

    ISAF and Afghan troops led many offensives against the Taliban but failed to fully defeat them. By 2009, a Taliban-led shadow government began to form in many parts of the country complete with their own version of mediation court. After U.S.

    President Barack Obama announced the deployment of another 30,000 soldiers in 2010 for a period of two years, Der Spiegel published images of the US soldiers who killed unarmed Afghan civilians. At the 2010 International Conference on Afghanistan in London, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he intends to reach out to the Taliban leadership (including Mullah Omar, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar). Supported by NATO, Karzai called on the group's leadership to take part in a loya jirga meeting to initiate peace talks.

    These steps have resulted in an intensification of bombings, assassinations and ambushes. Some Afghan groups (including the former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh and opposition leader Dr. Abdullah Abdullah) believe that Karzai plans to appease the insurgents' senior leadership at the cost of the democratic constitution, the democratic process and progress in the field of human rights especially women's rights.

    Dr. Abdullah stated: }} Over five million Afghan refugees were repatriated in the last decade, including many who were forcefully deported from NATO countries. This large return of Afghans may have helped the nation's economy but the country still remains one of the poorest in the world due to the decades of war, lack of foreign investment, ongoing government corruption and the Taliban insurgency.

    According to a report by the United Nations, the Taliban and other militants were responsible for 76% of civilian casualties in 2009, 75% in 2010, 80% in 2011, 80% in 2012. In 2011 a record 3,021 civilians were killed in the ongoing insurgency, the fifth successive annual rise.}} After the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, many prominent Afghan figures began being assassinated, including Mohammed Daud Daud, Ahmed Wali Karzai, Jan Mohammad Khan, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, Burhanuddin Rabbani and others. Also in the same year, the Pak-Afghan border skirmishes intensified and many large scale attacks by the Pakistani-based Haqqani Network took place across Afghanistan.

    This led to the United States warning Pakistan of a possible military action against the Haqqanis in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The U.S. blamed Pakistan's government, mainly Pakistan Army and its ISI spy network as the masterminds behind all of this. |Admiral Mike Mullen|Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff}} U.S.

    Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, told Radio Pakistan that "The attack that took place in Kabul a few days ago, that was the work of the Haqqani Network. There is evidence linking the Haqqani Network to the Pakistan government. This is something that must stop." Other top U.S.

    officials such as Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta made similar statements. On 16 October 2011, "Operation Knife Edge" was launched by NATO and Afghan forces against the Haqqani Network in south-eastern Afghanistan. Afghan Defense Minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, explained that the operation will "help eliminate the insurgents before they struck in areas along the troubled frontier".

    In anticipation of the 2014 NATO withdrawal and a subsequent expected push to regain power by the Taliban, the anti-Taliban United Front (Northern Alliance) groups have started to regroup under the umbrella of the National Coalition of Afghanistan (political arm) and the National Front of Afghanistan (military arm). Governance Afghanistan is an Islamic republic consisting of three branches, executive, legislative and judicial. The nation is currently led by Hamid Karzai as the President and leader since late 2001.

    The National Assembly is the legislature, a bicameral body having two chambers, the House of the People and the House of Elders. The Supreme Court is led by Chief Justice Abdul Salam Azimi, a former university professor who had been a legal advisor to the president. The current court is seen as more moderate and led by more technocrats than the previous one, which was dominated by fundamentalist religious figures such as Chief Justice Faisal Ahmad Shinwari who issued several controversial rulings, including seeking to place a limit on the rights of women.

    According to Transparency International's corruption perceptions index 2010 results, Afghanistan was ranked as the third most-corrupt country in the world. A January 2010 report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that bribery consumes an amount equal to 23% of the GDP of the nation. A number of government ministries are believed to be rife with corruption, and while President Karzai vowed to tackle the problem in late 2009 by stating that "individuals who are involved in corruption will have no place in the government", top government officials were stealing and misusing hundreds of millions of dollars through the Kabul Bank.

    Although the nation's institutions are newly formed and steps have been taken to arrest some, the United States warned that aid to Afghanistan would be reduced to very little if the corruption is not stopped. Elections and parties The 2004 Afghan presidential election was relatively peaceful, in which Hamid Karzai won in the first round with 55.4% of the votes. However, the 2009 presidential election was characterized by lack of security, low voter turnout and widespread electoral fraud.

    The vote, along with elections for 420 provincial council seats, took place in August 2009, but remained unresolved during a lengthy period of vote counting and fraud investigation. Two months later, under international pressure, a second round run-off vote between Karzai and remaining challenger Abdullah was announced, but a few days later Abdullah announced that he is not participating in the 7 November run-off because his demands for changes in the electoral commission had not been met. The next day, officials of the election commission cancelled the run-off and declared Hamid Karzai as President for another 5-year term.

    In the 2005 parliamentary election, among the elected officials were former mujahideen, Islamic fundamentalists, warlords, communists, reformists, and several Taliban associates. In the same period, Afghanistan reached to the 30th nation in terms of female representation in parliament. The last parliamentary election was held in September 2010, but due to disputes and investigation of fraud, the sworn in ceremony took place in late January 2011.

    After the issuance of computerized ID cards for the first time, which is a $101 million project that the Afghan government plans to start in 2012, it is expected to help prevent major fraud in future elections and improve the security situation. Administrative divisions Afghanistan is administratively divided into 34 provinces ( wilayats ), with each province having its own capital and a provincial administration. The provinces are further divided into about 398 smaller provincial districts, each of which normally covers a city or a number of villages.

    Each district is represented by a district governor. The provincial governors are appointed by the President of Afghanistan and the district governors are selected by the provincial governors. The provincial governors are representatives of the central government in Kabul and are responsible for all administrative and formal issues within their provinces.

    There are also provincial councils which are elected through direct and general elections for a period of four years. The functions of provincial councils are to take part in provincial development planning and to participate in monitoring and appraisal of other provincial governance institutions. According to article 140 of the constitution and the presidential decree on electoral law, mayors of cities should be elected through free and direct elections for a four-year term.

    However, due to huge election costs, mayoral and municipal elections have never been held. Instead, mayors have been appointed by the government. As for the capital city of Kabul, the mayor is appointed by the President of Afghanistan.

    The following is a list of all the 34 provinces in alphabetical order: Foreign relations and military The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for managing the foreign relations of Afghanistan. The nation has been a member of the UN since 1946, and has maintained good relations with the United States and other NATO member states since the signing of the Anglo-Afghan Treaty in 1919. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was established in 2002 under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1401 to help the nation recover from decades of war and establish a normal functioning government.

    Today, more than 22 NATO nations deploy about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Apart from close military links, the country also enjoys strong economic relations with NATO members and their allies. It also has diplomatic relations with neighboring Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, the People's Republic of China, including regional states such as India, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Russia, United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Japan, South Korea, and others.

    Afghanistan Pakistan relations have been negatively affected by issues related to the Durand Line, the 1978 present war (i.e. Mujahideen, Afghan refugees, Taliban insurgency, and border skirmishes), including water and the growing influence of India in Afghanistan. Afghan officials often allege that Pakistani and Iranian intelligence agencies are involved in terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan, by training and guiding terrorists to carry out attacks.

    On the positive side, the two nations are usually described in Afghanistan as "inseparable brothers", which is due to historical, religious, and ethnolinguistical connections, as well as trade and other ties. Afghanistan has always depended on Pakistani trade routes for import and export but this has changed in the last decade with the opening of Central Asian and Iranian routes. Conversely, Pakistan depends on Afghan water and considers Afghanistan as the only trade route to Central Asian resources.

    India and Iran have actively participated in reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, with India being the largest regional donor to the country. Since 2002, India has pledged up to $2 billion in economic assistance to Afghanistan and has participated in multiple socio-economic reconstruction efforts, including power, roads, agricultural and educational projects. There are also military ties between Afghanistan and India, which is expected to increase after the October 2011 strategic pact that was signed by President Karzai and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

    The military of Afghanistan is under the Ministry of Defense, which includes the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan Air Force (AAF). It currently has about 200,000 active soldiers and is expected to reach 260,000 in the coming years. They are trained and equipped by NATO countries, mainly by the United States Department of Defense.

    The ANA is divided into 7 major Corps, with the 201st Selab ("Flood") in Kabul followed by the 203rd in Gardez, 205th Atul ("Hero") in Kandahar, 207th in Herat, 209th in Mazar-i-Sharif and the 215th in Lashkar Gah. The ANA also has a commando brigade which was established in 2007. The National Military Academy of Afghanistan serves as the main educational institute for the militarymen of the country.

    A new $200 million Afghan Defense University (ADU) is under construction near the capital. Crime and law enforcement The National Directorate of Security (NDS) is the nation's domestic intelligence agency, which operates similar to that of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and has between 15,000 to 30,000 employees. The nation also has about 126,000 national police officers, with plans to recruit more so that the total number can reach 160,000.

    The Afghan National Police (ANP) is under the Ministry of the Interior, which is based in Kabul and headed by Bismillah Khan Mohammadi. The Afghan National Civil Order Police is the main branch of the Afghan National Police, which is divided into five Brigades and each one commanded by a Brigadier General. These brigades are stationed in Kabul, Gardez, Kandahar, Herat, and Mazar-i-Sharif.

    Every province of the country has a provincial Chief of Police who is appointed by the Ministry of the Interior and is responsible for law enforcement in all the districts within the province. The police are being trained by NATO countries through the Afghanistan Police Program. According to a 2009 news report, a large proportion of police officers are illiterate and are accused of demanding bribes.

    Jack Kem, deputy to the commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, stated that the literacy rate in the ANP will rise to over 50% by January 2012. What began as a voluntary literacy program became mandatory for basic police training in early 2011. Approximately 17% of them test positive for illegal drug use.

    In 2009, President Karzai created two anti-corruption units within the Interior Ministry. Former Interior Minister Hanif Atmar said that security officials from the U.S. (FBI), Britain (Scotland Yard) and the European Union will train prosecutors in the unit. The south and eastern parts of Afghanistan are the most dangerous due to the flourishing drug trade and militancy.

    These areas in particular are often patrolled by Taliban insurgents, and in many cases they plan attacks by using suicide bombers and planting improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on roads. Kidnapping and robberies are also often reported. Every year many Afghan police officers are killed in the line of duty in these areas.

    The Afghan Border Police are responsible for protecting the nation's airports and borders, especially the disputed Durand Line border which is often used by members of criminal organizations and terrorists for their illegal activities. Reports in 2011 suggested that up to 3 million people are involved in the illegal drug business in Afghanistan, many of the attacks on government employees and institutions are carried out not only by the Taliban militants but also by powerful criminal gangs. Drugs from Afghanistan are exported to Iran, Pakistan, Russia, India, the United Arab Emirate, and the European Union.

    The Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics is dealing with this problem. Recently, the people mustered courage and took to streets in Kabul to protest against gruesome killing of a woman accused of adultery by suspected Taliban in the Parwan province. Economy Afghanistan is an impoverished and least developed country, one of the world's poorest due to the decades of war and nearly complete lack of foreign investment.

    The nation's GDP stands at about $29 billion with an exchange rate of $18 billion, and the GDP per capita is about $1,000. The country's export was $2.6 billion in 2010. Its unemployment rate is about 35% and roughly the same percentage of its citizens live below the poverty line.

    About 42% of the population live on less than $1 a day, according to a 2009 report. On the positive side, the nation has less than $1.5 billion external debt and is recovering by the assistance of the world community. The Afghan economy has been growing at about 10% per year in the last decade, which is due to the infusion of over $50 billion dollars in international aid and remittances from Afghan expats.

    It is also due to improvements made to the transportation system and agricultural production, which is the backbone of the nation's economy. The country is known for producing some of the finest pomegranates, grapes, apricots, melons, and several other fresh and dry fruits, including nuts. While the nations's current account deficit is largely financed with the donor money, only a small portion is provided directly to the government budget.

    The rest is provided to non-budgetary expenditure and donor-designated projects through the United Nations system and non-governmental organizations. The Afghan Ministry of Finance is focusing on improved revenue collection and public sector expenditure discipline. For example, government revenues increased 31% to $1.7 billion from March 2010 to March 2011.

    Da Afghanistan Bank serves as the central bank of the nation and the "Afghani" (AFN) is the national currency, with an exchange rate of about 47 Afghanis to 1 US dollar. Since 2003, over 16 new banks have opened in the country, including Afghanistan International Bank, Kabul Bank, Azizi Bank, Pashtany Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, First Micro Finance Bank, and others. One of the main drivers for the current economic recovery is the return of over 5 million expatriates, who brought with them fresh energy, entrepreneurship and wealth-creating skills as well as much needed funds to start up businesses.

    For the first time since the 1970s, Afghans have involved themselves in construction, one of the largest industries in the country. Some of the major national construction projects include the New Kabul City next to the capital, the Ghazi Amanullah Khan City near Jalalabad, and the Aino Mena in Kandahar. Similar development projects have also begun in Herat in the west, Mazar-e-Sharif in the north and in other cities.

    In addition, a number of companies and small factories began operating in different parts of the country, which not only provide revenues to the government but also create new jobs. Improvements to the business-enabling environment have resulted in more than $1.5 billion in telecom investment and created more than 100,000 jobs since 2003. The Afghan rugs are becoming popular again and this gives many carpet dealers around the country to expand their business by hiring more workers.

    Afghanistan is a member of SAARC, ECO and OIC. It is hoping to join SCO soon to develop closer economic ties with neighboring and regional countries in the so-called New Silk Road trade project. Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul told the media in 2011 that his nation's "goal is to achieve an Afghan economy whose growth is based on trade, private enterprise and investment".

    Experts believe that this will revolutionize the economy of the region. Opium production in Afghanistan soared to a record in 2007 with about 3 million people reported to be involved in the business but then declined significantly in the years following. The government started programs to help reduce cultivation of poppy, and by 2010 it was reported that 24 out of the 34 provinces were free from poppy grow.

    In June 2012, India strongly advocated for private investments in the resource rich country and creation of suitable environment therefor. Mining and energy Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution explains that if Afghanistan generates about $10 bn per year from its mineral deposits, its gross national product would double and provide long-term funding for Afghan security forces and other critical needs. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimated in 2006 that northern Afghanistan has an average (bbl) of crude oil, 15.7 trillion cubic feet ( bn m 3 ) of natural gas, and of natural gas liquids.

    In December 2011, Afghanistan signed an oil exploration contract with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for the development of three oil fields along the Amu Darya river in the north. Other reports show that the country has huge amounts of lithium, copper, gold, coal, iron ore and other minerals. The Khanashin carbonatite in Helmand Province contains of rare earth elements.

    In 2007, a 30-year lease was granted for the Aynak copper mine to the China Metallurgical Group for $3 billion, making it the biggest foreign investment and private business venture in Afghanistan's history. The state-run Steel Authority of India won the mining rights to develop the huge Hajigak iron ore deposit in central Afghanistan. Government officials estimate that 30% of the country's untapped mineral deposits are worth between and .

    One official asserted that "this will become the backbone of the Afghan economy" and a Pentagon memo stated that Afghanistan could become the "Saudi Arabia of lithium". In a 2011 news story, the CSM reported, "The United States and other Western nations that have borne the brunt of the cost of the Afghan war have been conspicuously absent from the bidding process on Afghanistan's mineral deposits, leaving it to mostly to regional powers." Transport and communications Afghanistan has about 53 airports, with the biggest ones being the Kabul International Airport, serving the capital and nearby regions followed Kandahar International Airport in the south, Herat International Airport in the west, and Mazar-i-Sharif Airport in the north. Ariana Afghan Airlines is the national carrier, with domestic flights between Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif.

    International flights include to United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Turkey, India, Iran, Pakistan and a number of other Asian destinations. There are also domestic and international flight services available from the locally owned Kam Air, Pamir Airways and Safi Airways. Airlines from a number of regional nations such as Turkish Airlines, Gulf Air, Air Arabia, Air India, PIA and others also provide services to Afghanistan.

    Flights between Dubai and Kabul take roughly 2 hours to reach. The country has limited rail service with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan in the north. The government plans to extended the rail line to the capital and then to the eastern border town of Torkham by 2014, connecting with Pakistan Railways.

    Long distant road journeys are made by older model company-owned Mercedes-Benz coach buses or carpool and private cars. Newer automobiles have recently become more widely available after the rebuilding of roads and highways. They are imported from the United Arab Emirates through Pakistan and Iran.

    As of 2012, vehicles that are older than 10 years are banned from being imported into the country. The development of the nation's road network is a major boost for the economy due to trade with neighboring countries. Afghanistan's postal and package services such as FedEx, DHL and others make deliveries to major cities and towns.

    Telecommunication services in the country are provided by Afghan Wireless, Etisalat, Roshan, MTN Group and Afghan Telecom. In 2006, the Afghan Ministry of Communications signed a $64.5 million agreement with ZTE for the establishment of a countrywide optical fiber cable network. As of 2011, Afghanistan has around 17 million GSM phone subscribers and over 1 million internet users.

    It only has about 75,000 fixed telephone lines and little over 190,000 CDMA subscribers.

    3G services are provided by Etisalat and MTN Group. The Afghan government announced that it will send expressions of interest to international companies to attract funding will launch its first ever space satellite by October 2012. Health According to the Human Development Index, Afghanistan is the 15th least developed country in the world.

    The average life expectancy was estimated in 2012 to be 49.72 years. Afghanistan has the 9th highest total fertility rate in the world, at 5.64 children born/woman (according to 2012 estimates).Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, estimated in 2008 at 1,400 deaths/100,000 live births, and the highest infant mortality rate in the world (deaths of babies under one year), estimated in 2012 to be 121.63 deaths/1,000 live births. Data from 2010 suggests that one in 10 children in Afghanistan dies before they are five years old.While these statistics are tragic, the government plans to further cut the infant mortality rate to 400 for every 100,000 live births by 2020.

    The country currently has more than 3,000 midwives with an additional 300 to 400 being trained each year. A number of new hospitals and clinics have been built over the last decade, with the most advanced treatments being available in Kabul. The French Medical Institute for Children and Indira Gandhi Childrens Hospital in Kabul are the leading children's hospitals in the country.

    Some of the other main hospitals in Kabul include the 350-bed Jamhuriat Hospital and the Jinnah Hospital, which is still under construction. There are also a number of well-equipped military-controlled hospitals in different regions of the country. It was reported in 2006 that nearly 60% of the population lives within two hours by foot to the nearest health facility, up from 9% in 2002.

    Latest surveys show that 57% of Afghans say they have good or very good access to clinics or hospitals. The nation also has one of the highest incidences of people with disabilities, with an estimated one million handicapped people. About 80,000 citizens have lost limbs, mainly as a result of landmines.

    Non-governmental charities such as Save the Children and Mahboba's Promise assist orphans in association with governmental structures. Demographic and Health Surveys is working with the Indian Institute of Health Management Research and others to conduct a survey in Afghanistan focusing on Maternal death, among other things. Education Education in the country includes K-12 and higher education, which is supervised by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education.

    The nation's education system was destroyed due to the decades of war, but it began reviving after the Karzai administration came to power in late 2001. More than 5,000 schools were built or renovated, with more than 100,000 teachers being trained and recruited. It was reported in 2011 that more than seven million male and female students were enrolled in schools.

    As of 2011, about 82,000 students are enrolled in different universities around the country. Kabul University reopened in 2002 to both male and female students. In 2006, the American University of Afghanistan was established in Kabul, with the aim of providing a world-class, English-language, co-educational learning environment in Afghanistan.

    The capital of Kabul serves as the learning center of Afghanistan, with many of the best educational institutions being based there. Major universities outside of Kabul include Kandahar University in the south, Herat University in the northwest, Balkh University in the north, Nangarhar University and Khost University in the eastern zones, as well as a number of others. The National Military Academy of Afghanistan, modeled after the United States Military Academy at West Point, is a four-year military development institution dedicated to graduating officers for the Afghan armed forces.

    The $200 million Afghan Defense University is under construction near Qargha in Kabul. The United States is building six faculties of education and five provincial teacher training colleges around the country, two large secondary schools in Kabul and one school in Jalalabad. Literacy rate of the entire population is low, around 28%.

    Female literacy may be as low as 10%. In 2010, the United States began establishing a number of Lincoln learning centers in Afghanistan. They are set up to serve as programming platforms offering English language classes, library facilities, programming venues, Internet connectivity, educational and other counseling services.

    A goal of the program is to reach at least 4,000 Afghan citizens per month per location. The military and national police are also provided with mandatory literacy courses. In addition to this, Baghch-e-Simsim (based on the American Sesame Street) was launched in late 2011 to help Afghan children learn from preschool and onward.

    Demographics As of 2012, the population of Afghanistan is around 30,419,928, which includes the roughly 2.7 million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan and Iran. In 1979, the population was reported to be about 15.5 million. The only city with over a million residents is its capital, Kabul.

    The other largest cities in the country are, in order of population size, Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad, Lashkar Gah, Taloqan, Khost, Sheberghan, Ghazni, and so on. Urban areas are experiencing rapid population growth following the return of over 5 million expats. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the Afghan population is estimated to increase to 82 million by 2050.

    Ethnic groups Afghanistan is a multiethnic society, and its historical status as a crossroads has contributed significantly to its diverse ethnic makeup. The population of the country is divided into a wide variety of ethnolinguistic groups. Because a systematic census has not been held in the nation in decades, exact fi

  • Afghanistan preparing to deploy The Official British Army Blog Afghanistan preparing to deploy 26 October 2012 by britisharmy Lieutenant Tom Ball, Second-in-Command of B Squadron, Royal Dragoon Guards (RDG), is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan on operation HERRICK 17. The Royal Dragoon Guards will have two, quite separate roles during their tour. One Squadron will be working as the Warthog Group (a brigade-level asset) with the remainder working alongside Afghan police forces as part of the Police Mentoring Advisory Group (PMAG).

    Over the course of this tour, soldiers and officers will be describing their varied experiences in this blog. Here, Lt Tom Ball describes the build-up to deployment. Afghanistan here we go!

    As I ve watched Alma Lines slowly emptying over the last month or so, the anticipation of what is coming has been mounting, not only amongst my call sign, but the whole of B (The Black Horse) Squadron and indeed the Royal Dragoon Guards. Needless to say, we have been hearing back from the troops who have deployed early, but nothing will match one s own boots hitting the desert. For some, myself included, this is a first tour and so anxious excitement has been mounting throughout the whole of the Mission Specific Training (MST) package which has run from January but for the old hands, who have the legacy of Op HERRICK 12 and one or even two Op TELICs before that, it is the familiar rotation of preparation, reassurance to the tour first timers, and goodbyes.

    A Squadron, Royal Dragoon Guards, carry out casualty evacuation training during the final exercise. Morale is good I never thought I would see the day where I listened to young soldiers with wives and families tell me that they just wanted to go, but then I suppose the sooner you leave, the sooner you get back. I joined the Regiment in September 2010, at the beginning of Hybrid Foundation Training, having finished at Sandhurst the previous month and so I have been fortunate to have been put through the full two year training rotation, which includes nine long months of MST.

    One of my soldiers arrived from basic training last week, yet he too will soon be qualified to deploy and will be doing so with myself and the main body. MST, the long tailed beast that it is, has entailed everything from exercises in Thetford and Salisbury plain to obtaining too numerous to count weapon and vehicle qualifications and driving around the countryside of North Yorkshire on patrol with the NYPD (North Yorkshire Police Department!). Families and friends get up close and personal with a Challenger II main battle tank on the Dettingen weekend in June.

    Basic survival in Afghanistan One of the memorable occasions that sticks in my mind during this training was the celebration at Families Day on the Dettingen weekend in June. Not only was this a chance to celebrate the British-German allied victory against France in 1743, in which our antecedent regiments were instrumental, but it was also an opportunity for families of members of the Regiment to gather in a casual environment and enjoy themselves on the various stands, looking at vehicles, weapons and enjoying a few drinks, games and rides. It was a rare opportunity to meet the soldiers families and friends, and was as important to me as any of the MST exercises, as it put into context all of the soldiers that I have the pleasure of working with on a daily basis.

    These training events have given us the chance not only to hone the necessary skills and drills for basic survival in Afghanistan, but allow one to build relationships with the other units which will be on the ground with us. As a Police Advisory Team (PAT) you are required to visit multiple Afghan police checkpoints daily and spend a lot of time moving from one to the next, and it is only with a good relationship with the other troops on the ground that this can safely be achieved. I can confidently say that I am looking forward to working closely with 40 Commando Royal Marines and Delhi Company, 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles.

    Finally, am I nervous? Naturally the answer is yes , but this is heavily outweighed by the fact that I am about to deploy on a trip that I have been wanting to go on ever since I started craving to wear green in about 2000. I am excited and I feel ready.

    I am sure it will be good.

    Let s just see.

  • Air Jordan Space Jam XI 2009 Retro | VYSCHL K P K Fatty after hearing middle age, in the heart a pleased, "we are also go nike air jordan uk to the orchid Di Si city, you see us to accompany but go, we are allied to put together and then can resist the larger robber's aggression, fore go toward the road of the north up isn't a peace very.This, I must and our owner's company measure for a while and ask him to make decision.Go, please hurry.Okay.Admire especially and walk to a wagon of the company regiment middle beside, to Kai strange talk way, "owner, we are the Volkswagen company's regiments of, I have already cautiously inspected their badges, they also think with our partner but go.H'm, promise them, this is a good opportunity, free toward them find out for a while, they fore the noodles has what relation, if can help our passing smoothly is the best.BE, owner.After admiring to salute toward the strange Kai especially, again arrived at the behind of company's regiment, to especially compare say, "especially compare Sir, our owner has already promised, he thinks we associately together will be more safe."Okay, I immediately reply to our young lady, please slightly wait."Comparing especially is very happy, turn round to own company's regiment but go, can with the mercenary soldier regiment of barbarian together safety a lot of, the generally small Mao thief will never dare to come over, the mercenary soldier regiment of barbarian is the strongest mercenary soldier regiment in the world, although the numbers are few,basically having no whichever mercenary soldier regiment dare resist with them, because as long as is resist with them, wait for of is all death, have no one to live.Not big short while, especially ratio take the owner's designation, come and admire remit nike air jordan shoes to match especially, both parties reached simple agreement, then the troops of company's regiment run neck to neck, what the Volkswagen company's regiment pleases is a more well-known medium-sized mercenary soldier regiment, the number is about 50 people, although with green jade 15 barbarians of the Si company's regiment kick the beam, however also be regarded as quite good strength.Especially compare Sir, you go to orchid Di this time the Si intend that the stem orders what, isn't your wine the franchisee with the west to carry on allotment?"Admire to set up for especially curious about that the appearance asks a way.Recent west is that the household of two greatest princes is only big, we wants to clip to sew at these in exist also more and more difficult, hope to find out other national special products in the orchid Di Si, go to the west carry on the sale of sale, wine industry and glass may soon will be accepted by two princes up, is still your real strenght enough strong, sew at clipping of three princeses in can also visit the existence of blade enough to spare."Especially compare saying of exclamation.Is also very difficult, both parties' dish shells really too severely, two overwhelming majority of incomes have already become three princes income, we are to give up overwhelming majority of profits, just acquire three princes permission, carry on his/her own business activity in the southwest area, this not, the owner can't take southwest of the special product go to the orchid Di Si city and hope to reach agreement with other national company's regiments and pass other industries to make money."Admire especially also not have no grievedly say.Yes, this year, our businessman is more and more difficult to do, if can let the strange air jordan retro 2009 prince of Kai become a king like, pay attention to commercial personality by Kai strange prince, we just have the space of existence.Yes, do I hear that the incumbent king's courier arrives two princes territory, directly is killed?"A little bit small voice is such, two princes basically denying virtuous his highness of Si Tan is to legally inherit a person, and they refuse to obey Si Tan any decision of virtuous his highness.BE so, admire an inside Si his highness there is also similar, you say empire this is how, limb from limb a while."Yes, our young lady makes a special trip to go to the orchid Di Si city and northern city to carry on an investigation this time, if probably of words, we may move the orchid Di Si city, or Kai strange prince troops of in the territory, only is safe over there."Compare a small voice especially of tell this news admire especially.Alas, our owner is also taking same viewpoint, he thinks three princes and Si Tan virtuous his majesty of affirmation will include a war, when the time comes to our stroke will very big, still intend earlier well, whole mainlands also only Kai the territory of the strange prince is safe, there is no whichever empire daring and Kai the strange prince does rightness."Yes, Kai strange prince in addition to being mainland's strongest person, also air jordan 2009 own the strongest barbarian's army corps in the world, also have who can do with prince rightness."Compare to envy especially of say."Really envy those persons who live city in the orchid Di, their lives are how happy!"Yes, be like them so can safe life of there are no severals in place, and the whole order of sequence of city is again so good, live supplies abundant, they in winter can with our most the city of south was similar to eat the vegetable and the fruits, envied them too much.Is alas, unfortunately the empire disorders in the one now in, I don't understand, with lend the Kai strange prince strong real strenght, why different all empire?"Compare to depressedly say especially.
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  • An Artist Abroad: Home Sweet Home Captain Sophie Whitaker, 39 Regt RA. Image by Cpl Si Longworth RLC Captain Sophie Whitaker is a serving war artist whose main job is to provide Joint Fires Targeting support to Task Force Helmand on OP HERRICK 18. As a member of 74 Battery (The Battleaxe Company) 39 Regiment Royal Artillery attached to 1 Royal Horse Artillery, Sophie works in the Brigade Headquarters, Lashkar Gah, where she finds time between an often hectic schedule to put pencil to paper.

    I am drafting this blog late at night sitting in a dark tent, with six other bodies sleeping, using the glare of the laptop to light up the keys as I type! I have been quiet on the blogging front for a couple of weeks due to the move of the Headquarters and I have also been enjoying a break back at home on my R&R (rest and recuperation). However, now I am fully back in the swing of things it seems that was all a distant memory.

    Harry In this blog I shall attempt to describe the past few weeks of events from the Headquarters move, to the journey home, and then a brief insight into what I got up to on R&R. Running throughout the script I shall post pictures of the work in progress (WIP) of a pencil drawing that I completed whilst on R&R the model is my future mother-in-law s favourite horse, Harry. If none of this is of interest you then please don t read on, for the rest there is a lot to report so do bear with me!

    The Move This blog starts in the hot and dusty climes of Lashkar Gah where I have spent the last four and a half months working in the Headquarters. The Headquarters has been based in Lashkar Gah since May 2006 and has co-ordinated UK operations across Helmand Province for over seven years. I was a part of what can possibly be described as the most complex headquarters move on operations ever undertaken by the British Army.

    We were down to minimal manning, with the other half of the Fires cell having already established the Bastion set-up. I had come on shift at 0400hrs to enable to night shift to get away on their early morning flight, as I held the fort with one detachment commander (DC) for the Change of Command (CHOC) and the close down of the TFH headquarters in Lashkar Gah. Harry work in progress It was a long morning and it seemed like an absolute age that we were waiting for the CHOC.

    With only a skeleton staffing, large screens on the walls showed locals going about their daily routine, as muted pictures of BFPS flickered in the background time passed very slowly. My R&R wasn t too far around the corner either, but we were all itching to get on and join the rest of the team in Bastion. When the time came for the CHOC, it was a very surreal and memorable moment.

    The DCOS (Deputy Chief of Staff) entered the JOC at around 1015hrs on 9th August 2013 to establish communications with the Bastion headquarters. Any current operational issues were swiftly dealt with and at precisely 1020hrs the DCOS spoke over the net (radio) to Bastion headquarters and clearly stated that the command of Taskforce Helmand had now been assumed by the Headquarters in Bastion. As those words fell from his mouth, it was quite an unbelievable experience as I witnessed history in the making.

    Although words can barely describe that feeling, it was as if I were watching an old war film where the news of war was being broken over the radio. This marked the end of an era, as we swiftly switched off laptops that had been diligently manned 24 hours every day for the last seven years. We switched them off, pulled out the cables and packed them in boxes.

    Cables were ripped off the walls where makeshift black nasty (tape) and cable ties had affixed them, and radios were disconnected to be placed away. Within minutes the Lashkar Gah headquarters ceased to exist and the remaining staff headed back to their rooms to finish packing for their onward journey to Bastion. Waiting at the LKG HLS As we waited at the helicopter landing site (HLS), we chatted about the prospects of what lay ahead, but most importantly what our respective R&R plans were and for some even end of tour plans!

    It wasn t long before we were given notice that the helicopters had left Bastion on their way to collect us, and we swiftly put on our PPE (personal protective equipment) before being led out to the HLS. I video recorded the two chalks (groups) of staff with my digital Olympus camera crouching alongside the compound walls as the two Chinooks flew in to transport us. It is said there are two types of people who look towards the Chinook as dust and stones are thrown towards us one of them is a photographer!

    As we lifted up in a cloud of dust, I strained my neck peering through the scratched window, as I looked down at the wall of the HLS, symbolically painted with all the crests of other Brigade Headquarters that went before us, as I watched them fade in the distance. Wall of former Brigade emblems New Digs With so much nostalgia being left behind, there was nothing for it but to embrace the change and look forward to the new set-up in Bastion. In no time at all, we found ourselves hot, tired and sweaty being orientated around our new accommodation and listening in to the security and welfare briefs.

    We were then walked immediately to our new offices where we took up our respective seats and started work, as if we had never been moved. The orientation and layout was different, and although we had access to all the same programmes, information and systems as before, we had more modern versions which took us all a while to navigate! The tempo of operations was still relatively quiet and after lunch I managed to shower and change and feel a little more human.

    Our new accommodation is a small camp within Bastion, protected by its own HESCO wall and rows of razor wire home sweet home ! I must admit, I have never been to prison but if this is anything to go by I d rather not! We are bound by various rules and regulations to ensure that whilst there are still troops roughing it out in the FOBs, we do not succumb to Bastionitus a fond term used to describe the condition of complacency and comfort.

    Not that a 12-hour shift enables me much time for comfort; nor did I have time to fully settle in as I began to write my handover notes for my R&R cover. Harry work in progress Within a couple of days of the move, I had to re-pack my bags to get ready to go home. The days, hours and minutes prior to R&R can be excruciatingly long at times, knowing I would be with my fianc , family and friends in a matter of days and wishing away hours so that I would be closer to being home.

    Four and a half months is an incredibly long time to be away from home, and phone calls and internet can only maintain morale for so long. It was a great morale boost to find out that 24 hours ahead of my scheduled departure date, I had been Space A d that is, that our whole flight was fortunate enough to travel on spaces available on an earlier flight. I handed over my role and headed back to our Bastion echelon group to start the process in going home.

    We handed in our operational equipment and stored our weapons in the armoury. I felt somewhat naked without my pistol attached firmly to my side and was constantly aware that I may have forgotten it somewhere! My OSPREY was also considerably lighter to travel back with.

    After our mandatory briefs, we collected our passports and mobile phones and headed on the bus for our first check-in. Here we labelled our baggage, checked in and loaded our hold baggage. The remainder of that day I sat in the ops room and caught up with some Bastion friends.

    The second check-in wasn t until the late afternoon, and having handed in our weapons we now had to be escorted everywhere. Thus it started the long journey home, waiting for flights whilst fighting tiredness, impatience and excitement to see my fianc , family and friends. Harry work in progress The journey home We travelled out of Bastion to Cyprus on a Tristar, which isn t too dissimilar in style internally to a budget airline.

    We were on our way home at last! I sat next to a female Lieutenant Colonel with whom I chatted to about her role in Afghanistan, and what we were both particularly looking forward to back at home; including lush green grass and rain. As we were busy chatting away about chickens, horses and ducks, the flight crew invited us to sit in the cockpit (perhaps because we were the only two to still be awake at that time of morning.) It was a brilliant experience as we were shown the controls, listened on the headsets and admired the views over Egypt (some fires could still be seen smouldering in the Capital).

    Harry work in progress We admired the sun rise and it wasn t long before we spotted the Cypriot shores among the haze of the sea mist. We belted up for landing and with our headsets on we experienced a very smooth landing in Cyprus. We disembarked for an hour to refuel and stayed in the very familiar departure lounge of RAF Akrotiri.

    I rang my fianc (at about 0400hrs UK time, just 3 hours after he had eventually gone to bed after a long day harvesting ) to let him know that my flight was on time, only to ring him again ten minutes later to announce that I would be arriving an hour earlier than expected! Home sweet home Finally the green, yellow and brown patchwork of the fields of Britain came into view and shortly afterwards we were waiting for our baggage at the carousel. Black bags, gorilla boxes and camouflaged bags of all shapes and sizes were spat out and rapidly collected.

    When I walked through the doors of the arrivals lounge I joined the crowd of soldiers waiting to be collected. It was wonderful to be met at Brize by my fianc as I walked over to the car park, placed down my baggage and hurried over to give him a huge hug! I was still wearing my cheap temporary brass/copper engagement ring that I had bought at the local shop, when he suggested I take it off as he revealed from his pocket my engagement ring in its box.

    The ring is an heirloom, his late grandmother s engagement ring, whom unfortunately I never had the opportunity nor pleasure to meet. The engagement ring I desperately tried not to fall asleep in the car on the way home but I didn t survive contact. Having spent a few hours reacquainting myself with the M25 I was relieved to finally complete the journey and arrive home.

    Thankfully I didn t make my usual faux pas of talking to the dog first rather than my fianc (principally because the dog did not accompany him to the airport!). Lola (the lab) and Boots (the cocker) were both excited to see me, and Lola couldn t contain herself but kept bouncing and jumping up! She didn t leave my side for the rest of that day, nor for a few after.

    It was so good to be home, but I must admit I was exhausted, jet lagged and a little disorientated all I wanted to do was crash out on my bed. Boots and Lola at work and at play It is a very surreal experience to find that within the space of 48 hrs you have been working at a high tempo, living by strict routine for four months and occupying your thoughts with little other than work matters; to waking up in your own bed and wondering what you have to do that day. It is almost as if I were living two different lives, and whilst the body adapts quickly, the mind takes a little longer.

    For the first few days I didn t do an awful lot really, the dogs enjoyed some long walks and I didn t even mind if it were raining! I enjoyed doing some training with them, as they are both working gun dogs (in progress), and it was a nice change for them after having spent many a day accompanying My fianc in the tractor and listening to his rendition of the Kings of Leon! Lola at work in the tractor Wedmin One night neither of us was sleeping particularly well, I was still jet lagged and My fianc was worrying about the weather, so we ended up talking at 3am about wedding plans.

    It was so nice to be able to talk face to face and get inspired and excited about our wedding together. We were engaged a few days after Christmas, after which I had been thrust back in to pre-deployment training and then deployed. The first couple of days of my R&R were relatively quiet as I rang round friends to catch up, arranging to meet up with some and inviting others over.

    My fianc was busy with the harvest during the sunny days and thankfully we had a couple of rainy days to spend time together. This was the perfect opportunity to crack the wedding guest list!! You wouldn t have thought that either being in the military or part of the farming fraternity would incur so many friends and family not that we could do an awful lot about the latter.

    After a rather hefty cull we fashioned a list of 150. My Mum came to stay the first weekend, and I managed to book an appointment to try on some wedding dresses, one of my sisters and future mother-in-law joined us. It was a very emotional experience for my poor Mum, who in less than a minute of me trying on my first dress was in tears!

    I tried on about six dresses which were all gorgeous and surprisingly even the meringues were flattering, however, I am still intent in making it myself (with a little help and guidance). The following day, Mum and I had a look at some fabrics, and she helped me make a skirt from the silk I bought from Afghanistan. Skirt template Daily routine It didn t take me long to get back into the routine at home; early rises, dogs, horses, chickens and lambs to be fed, along with runner beans, tomatoes and cucumbers to be picked.

    It wasn t long before My fianc roped me into helping shift a few bales and dropping off his various work colleagues back to their farm machinery! It wasn t all work and no play, as my friends stopped by for tea, lunch and dinner and I frequented a few pubs too! However, my alcohol tolerance had significantly reduced from its level prior to deployment.

    Nevertheless a glass of chilled white wine at dinner was a welcome pleasure. Mid-week I had the pleasure of Hannah and Dan (from Ditto), and Graeme Lothian and his partner for company at dinner. I prepared home-made quiche, salad and new potatoes something I had missed whilst out in Afghanistan.

    We had a pleasant evening and Graeme surprised me by giving me a copy of his book An Artist in London with a signed message to say thank you . My fianc and me The following evening My fianc and I attended a dinner dance where I managed to catch up with a few more friends. That bank holiday weekend was a local agricultural show.

    My Dad came to visit and joined My fianc , the dogs and I for the day. Unfortunately this indicated that only too quickly was my R&R coming to an end. That afternoon we left the showground and I said goodbye to Dad.

    I packed the remnants of my kit, grabbed a quick dinner, changed into my uniform and jumped in the car ready to go back to Brize Norton. Even the dogs knew I was off as they recognised me wearing the uniform and saw the bags being moved to the car, wearing that worried and forlorn expression that only dogs can. Dad and me Time to go I said goodbye to my fianc at the airport car park, knowing that I would be home again in just a matter of weeks.

    In some ways you strangely look forward to getting back to Afghanistan, if only to see everyone again. Once resigned to the fact that I was going back, there is nothing to do but look forward to it and enjoy it, for that way time goes faster at least. With less than six weeks to go on my return, the worst was over and there will be plenty to keep me busy!

    I shall save my first week back at work for my next blog, by now I am sure you are as exhausted of reading this as I was when I got home! Final portrait of Harry Look at Sophie s page 1 This entry was posted in 1 Mech Brigade 2 , 39 Regt RA 3 , TFH HQ 4 and tagged animals 5 , Army 6 , art 7 , artist 8 , British 9 , British Army 10 , dogs 11 , drawing 12 , Helmand 13 , horse 14 , military working dog 15 , painter 16 , painting 17 , Royal Artillery 18 , sophie whitaker 19 , war artist 20 , watercolour 21 . Bookmark the permalink 22 .

    References ^ Captain Sophie Whitaker An Artist Abroad ( ^ View all posts in 1 Mech Brigade ( ^ View all posts in 39 Regt RA ( ^ View all posts in TFH HQ ( ^ animals ( ^ Army ( ^ art ( ^ artist ( ^ British ( ^ British Army ( ^ dogs ( ^ drawing ( ^ Helmand ( ^ horse ( ^ military working dog ( ^ painter ( ^ painting ( ^ Royal Artillery ( ^ sophie whitaker ( ^ war artist ( ^ watercolour ( ^ Permalink to An Artist Abroad: Home Sweet Home (

  • An Original BAMF - Rhino Den | Military Stories, MMA News, Army ... By Mr. Twisted The cliffs at Pointe du Hoc during the Normandy invasion in 1944. A low-level Airborne raid into Grenada in 1983.

    Operation: Just Cause. The Battle of Mogadishu. Takur Ghar.

    These events hold places of reverence for all units in the United States Military who bear the name Ranger. But these units all owe more than a little something to a man who has been referred to by some historians as America s first celebrity America s first hero. He was America s first BAMF.

    His name was Robert Rogers. Born in 1731, Rogers started his training early. During the time in life when modern kids are figuring out how to manipulate the controller for an Xbox 360, Rogers was wandering through the woods to find local Indian tribes that would teach him wilderness craft.

    Tracking, stalking, killing, and skinning animals was an average day at school for Rogers by the ripe old age of 10. By the close of his teenage years, Rogers was already a seasoned veteran of a militia fighting in the King George s War. Rogers was 23 years old when the French & Indian War kicked off a war that Winston Churchill later famously called the first world war in his back yard.

    A year later, Rogers had been charged with recruiting for the British Army what would come to eventually be known as Rogers Rangers a group of forest-savvy fighters who would take on the most dangerous and unpleasant missions the British Army could come up with. Which, to be honest, were quite a few because the commanders Rogers and his men fought under were pretty far from stellar. Rogers Rangers were intended to act primarily as a reconnaissance unit.

    However, due to the unwillingness of his British superiors to grab their balls and take action, Rogers and his men often encountered some heavy fighting. Being heavily outnumbered by Frenchmen became a normal way of life for Rogers and his men. In the famed Battle on Snowshoes, Rogers Rangers had to pull back from a group of 250-plus enemy fighters when their 60-man unit could no longer hold them off.

    But don t kid yourself while retreating from the French may sound rather less than heroic, Rogers turned it into a 6 hour battle that finished only because it got too dark to see the enemy. And, after pulling off a retreat that still has historians scratching their heads sliding down huge hills in the middle of the night in deep snow after being shot in the head and hand Rogers collected his men together and jumped back into patrolling just a couple days later. That was just the beginning.

    After the Battle on Snowshoes, Rogers got his own island for his men to train and live on so that they could have more freedom from the British government. Yes, you read that correctly his own island. While the British soldiers were drilling on how to march into gunfire, Rogers was training his men how to sneak through the woods and kill the shit out of Frenchmen using Indian tactics.

    See, before Rogers, marching onto a pre-determined field to engage an opposing force at an agreed upon date and time was a typical form of battle. Armies would square off with officers firmly in charge and stand in front of one another until one side broke ranks and retreated. And the retreat was exactly that nothing more than turning away from the battle and leaving.

    In his famed Rules of Ranging, Rogers wrote down plans for changing that into an actual tactic: If you are obliged to retreat, let the front of your whole party fire and fall back, till the rear hath done the same, making for the best ground you can; by this means you will oblige the enemy to pursue you, if they do it at all, in the face of a constant fire. Though it may seem strange today, a fighting retreat was a novel concept at that time. Rogers had some truly innovative ideas on how to conduct war.

    Ideas such as, get this, becoming a smaller target for the enemy to shoot at: If you are obliged to receive the enemy s fire, fall, or squat down, till it is over; then rise and discharge at them. Holy shit. That means not standing in a human wall with a red coat on ?

    Ambushes, raids, fighting retreats Rogers introduced a new model of warfare that frustrated both his superiors and his enemies, often simultaneously much like the modern special operations soldiers that owe so much to the tactics he developed. Rogers awesomeness didn t stop there. After the famous raid he conducted far behind enemy lines into the town of Saint-Francis a raid that showed he could beat the Indians at their own style of warfare many of his men were near the point of starvation on the return journey.

    Rogers, being the total badass leader that he was, gave them what food he had and went back to their fort via a wild canoe ride, an extremely long walk (probably fighting Bigfoot along the way), resupplied, and came back to get his men. Keep in mind, Rogers himself was nearly dead from exhaustion during this whole ordeal, as well. Yet his dedication to his men drove him to complete the mission.

    Interestingly enough, at the war s end, Rogers was just getting warmed up. Have you ever heard of Lewis & Clarke? Here s a cool fact: Rogers true desire was to be the explorer who would find the Northwest Passage.

    Rogers actually covered more ground in less time during his own exploratory expeditions throughout the American continent than Lewis & Clarke did several years later on their famed journey. All of this requires a special breed of man, to be sure. In his book Leadership and Training for the Fight: A Few Thoughts on Leadership and Training From a Former Special Operations Soldier, MSG Paul Howe states plainly that Machines don t fight wars, terrain doesn t fight wars.

    You must get into the minds of humans. That s where the battles are won. Rogers understood this and it was clearly reflected in his tactics and rules.

    A quick glance at his Rules for Ranging shows a reliance on tactics, awareness, leadership, and courage rather than a specific technology. It is in that regard that he truly molded the American way of waging war and became the father of the American Rangers. Robert Rogers America s first BAMF.

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    Twisted on Twitter @RU_Twisted and The Rhino Den @TheRhinoDen

  • Another 2,000 raised for our Welsh Guards | Sussex Polo Another 2,000 raised for our Welsh Guards Square Peg Polo Challenge in memory of Lt. Col. Rupert Thorneloe and in aid of the Welsh Guards Afghanistan Appeal Fund The sixth annual Square Peg Polo Challenge was yet again a fantastic success and we were joined by representatives of The 1st Battalion Welsh Guards on Sunday 1 July for the Square Peg Polo Challenge in memory of Rupert Thorneloe & in aid of the Welsh Guards Afghanistan Appeal Fund.

    Hundreds of people turned up to support the 1 st Battalion Welsh Guards. Spectators dealt with the unpredictable summer weather in a very British-fashion as some brave souls carried on picnicking throughout the mid-way downpour. Overall Winners: Hincha Pelotas Eight teams travelled from across the South East to compete for much coveted Square Peg Trophy and Claymores.

    Winners of the bespoke Trophy and contemporary outdoor beanbags were Hincha Pelotas in the 2-Goal. Chas Taylor s team were evenly matched against home team Sussex Polo at 4 goals all at the start of the final chukka. Then Hincha Pelotas turned up the gas and sped to a victory of 7-4.

    Best Playing Pony was awarded to Squeaky , Niall Donnelly s impressive five year old TB ex-racehorse. In the -2, KSJ had an even match against Empires (who went through after a coin toss against Criips LLP) but won 7-5 overtaking in the final chukka and team member Zul Junus was awarded Best Playing Amateur across the whole tournament. For the second year running, Toby Addison, aged 12, and former winner of the Rupert Thorneloe Memorial Trophy at Pony Club has committed himself to fundraising for the Welsh Guards Afghanistan Appeal.

    On Sunday he raised another 2,000, bringing his fund-raising total to date to 5,500. Back Row: KSJ winners -2, centre: Sussex Polo, runners up +2, Front: WINNERS Hincha Pelotas Thank you to the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards who (as well as assisting Toby with his fundraising) taught him how to march for the Finalists Parade! All the action was filmed by Cheers Mate Productions.

    It was a fabulous day and thank you to Square Peg as once again they pull it out of the (bean) bag with their innovative prizes!

  • Archie Shelley Grenadier Guards Growing up in Walkley. Archie was born on 19th March 1891 at 35 Camm Street, Walkley, one of nine children born to Charles Shelley and his wife Mary Ann (nee Marshall) who was born in Leicester. He was the 7th child and had 4 sisters and 4 brothers.

    He was at least the third generation of Shelley s to be born and live in Walkley. Archie attended Bole Hill Infants & Junior school and was then admitted to the senior school on 30th October 1898, he left school on 18th March 1904 to obtain his labour certificate. On leaving school he became a file cutter as were some of his brothers, his father, his uncles and grandfather so there was a long tradition of this employment in the family.

    In 1871 Archie s father Charles was still living at home with his parents Charles and Elizabeth Shelley and siblings on Bell Hagg Road. Elizabeth Shelley was born in the parish of Bradfield, Sheffield. Archie s father Charles married Mary Ann in 1872 and by the 1881 census they had 4 children, George Herbert born 1873, Frank born 1875, Emma born 1877 and Amelia born 1879, the family were living at 2 House 2 Court Sycamore Street, Walkley.

    Sycamore Street s name no longer exists and was changed around 1892 to Compton Street. Shelley family homes in Walkkey 35 Camm St, 311 Walkley Rd, 68 Camm St. By 1891 the family were living at 35 Camm Street, Walkley and the additions to the family were Mary Ann born 1881, Charles Thomas born 1886 and Archie born 1891.

    On the 1901 census the family were living at 311 Walkley Road and there were a further two children, Frederick born 1893 and their youngest child May was born on 31st July 1895. She was baptised by the Rev. Thomas Smith at St.

    Mary s parish church on 21st August 1895 but unfortunately she died aged 10 months and was buried in St.Mary s church cemetery on 3rd June 1896. Again the service was conducted by the Rev. Thomas Smith.

    By 1911 the family were back on Camm Street Number 68 and living with the family was Dalton Shelley born 16th March 1905 at this address and he was grandson to Charles & Mary Ann and nephew of Archie. I suspect he was the son of Amelia Shelley who worked as a live-in domestic maid on The Nook, which is off Barber Road, Walkley and the reason for surmising this is that Dalton was a witness of her marriage to William James Hague (another Walkley chap) in 1920 again at St. Mary s church.

    Unfortunately another of Archie s sisters, Mary Ann, had died in 1898 aged 17years. She was buried in St. Mary s cemetery on 12 May 1898 and the service was conducted by Rev.

    Hugh N. Smith. Living with the family in 1891 as a boarder was Fred Stubbs, a single man aged 39 years who worked as an engineer s fitter.

    As can be seen Archie lived in a number of houses but all were within mile of each other if not less. No.

    68 Camm Street remained the home of a number of the Shelley family until 1961. From 1907 1910 it was the home of Charles and Mary Ann (Archie s parents) and on Charles death Mary Ann remained there until 1919 when the house was occupied by Amelia Shelley who lived there until 1920.

    In 1921 Frederick and his wife Harriett lived there and following Frederick s death Harriett remained until 1961. We know very little of Archie and his family as we have been unable to trace any of his relatives or their descendants despite appeals in the local, national and international media. We do know that he was a member of the Walkley Reform Club based in Fir Street, Walkley which was a temperance society opened in the early 1900 s. (see memorials) His attestation papers state he was employed as a blacksmith although when he left school he followed his father and brothers in the trade of file cutter, it also gives his age as 43yrs so both of these facts could be wrong.

    Prior to volunteering in the military he was employed at the Neepsend Gas works and was a member of their cricket club. Archie volunteered for service on 4th September 1914 alongside at least two other Gas Board workers Arthur Steele (another Walkley soldier) and Harry Percival Smith. There may well have been a larger group of work colleagues enlisting on that day but that is research for another time.

    He was examined and considered fit for service by Joseph Nunan of 73 Upwell Street, Sheffield who was the medical officer.The medical officer stated that he had examined Archie and found that he did not present any of the causes of rejection specified in the Regulations for the Army Medical Service. He could see the required distance with either eye; his heart and lungs were healthy; he had free use of his joints and limbs, and he declared that he was not subject to fits of any description. He was 5 9.1/2 tall, weighed 143 lbs (10stone 3 lbs) had a chest measurement of 34 which on expansion was 36.1/2 .

    He had no distinctive marks or scars. His complexion was dark with brown eyes and black hair. His religion is given as Church of England.

    His next of kin was his mother Mary Ann Shelley. He was assigned to the Grenadier Guards. Archie at War.

    Archie fought with the Grendier Guards. They were in barracks in Warley, London District, and their training took place at the Guards depot in Caterham, Surrey. In September 1914 they came under the command of the 20 th Brigade, 7 th Division.

    In October 1914 they landed at Zeebrugge. Then they joined the 4 th Battalion in France on 16 th March 1915. Archie was wounded at Festubert during the Second Battle of Ypres 1 on the 16th May, 1915.

    It is interesting to note that Archie s elder brother Frank enlisted on 4th June 1915 perhaps as a response to Archie being wounded. He was living at 79 Freedom Road with his wife and 4 children. He served with the 9th Battalion Yorks & Lancs in France and was discharged in December 1917 with neuritis which he claimed to have been caused by standing in water in the trenches.

    He was awarded the war badge. In 1920 Frank and his family emigrated to Australia. Archie was transferred to a Military Hospital in Bolougne and stayed there until he was evacuated home to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, London on 13th June 1915 and was nursed on Milward Ward.

    London Hospital On examination he had an entry wound approximately 3 above the left ear and an exit wound at the back of his head. He had a loss of movement in his right arm, could lift his shoulder a little but not the arm. He could understand what was meant when signs were used.

    When asked his name he could answer but could not articulate Sheffield as his place of residence. He knew what he wanted to say but his answers were difficult to decipher but it transpired that his answers were always correct. He could easily carry out commands.

    He could use the usual facial expressions and grimace except on the right hand side of his body. He appeared contented, unemotional, was placid and slept well. He had no fits, no headaches and no vomiting.

    On 17th June he was operated on by Mr F.S. Kidd who found that the left half of the skull behind the entry wound was cracked with pieces varying in size from mere splinters to pieces nearly as big as the palm of his hand. Archie died of his wounds next day 18th June 1915.

    His Post Mortem found that he had massive infection through his wound. His family were informed the same day of his death and his body was released to the family for burial. The Sheffield Daily Telegraph printed the following on 25th June 1915.

    Sheffield Soldier s Funeral One of the many tragedies of the war had its closing scenes in the funeral at Walkley Cemetery, Sheffield, yesterday afternoon, of Private Archie Shelley of the 1st Grenadier Guards. Private Shelley was wounded in France on May 16th, and after lying unconscious for four weeks in hospital at Boulogne, he was removed, with some slight hope of recovery to the London Hospital at Whitechapel, where he succumbed to a shattered brain on Friday last. The deceased soldier came of a family of which many members have served in the Forces, his father, who died some years ago, being in the militia, and one of his brothers having recently joined the 3rd Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment.

    He was only 24 years of age, and had joined the Grenadiers on the outbreak of war last August. He was one of five sons of Mrs. M.A.Shelley of Camm Street, Walkley.

    The family has long been a well-known and respected one in Walkley, and several hundred people assembled at the cemetery to pay their tributes of respect and of sympathy with his widowed mother and her family. Members of the family present were Mrs Shelley (mother), Mr & Mrs George Shelley, Private and Mrs Frank Shelley, Messrs Charles and Fred Shelley, Mr and Mrs John A. Harrison and Miss Shelley.

    Mr Jennett represented Councillors Appleyard and Crowther (who wrote regretting their inability to attend), and the Walkley Reform Club, and members of the Neepseend Gas Works Cricket Club and other of the associations with which the deceased was connected were present. A detachment from the Royal Army Medical Corps attended as a guard of honour, and saluted the body as it was carried to its last resting place, while four of their numbers acted as bearers. The service was taken by the Rev.S.T.G.

    Smith, Vicar of Walkley, who gave an address pointing out the example which had been set by the fallen soldier by doing his duty, which all could follow whether they were called upon to fight or to stay at home. Besides those from Mr Shelley s own relatives and friends, floral tributes had been received from the staff of the London Hospital, the Walkley Reform Club, fellow workers at Neepsend Gas works, and the Neepsend Gas Works Cricket Club. Sheffield Gas Works Memorial In Memoriam notices were placed in the local newspapers in subsequent years.

    Archie was the first member of Walkley Reform Club to die in service during the First World War. By Julie Clarke Like this: Like Loading... Related About Bill Bevan Bill Bevan is an archaeologist, writer, photographer and heritage interpreter.

    References ^ Battle of Ypres (

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  • Association (Regimental) Calendar of Events Updates - The Royal ... *** Association (Regimental) Calendar of Events Updates *** Hello Association Members, The following events (dateslocationstimings etc) have been updated. Please note accordingly: Sun June 1 2014 Sorrel Day Change of CO Parade Unit (Family) Barbecue FYA 13:00 hrs Red BeretCap Badge, Regimental JacketBlazerCrest, Tie with Medals, Grey Slacks, Black Walking Shoes Be prepared to fall in to parade (March past). Thurs June 5 2014 2736 RRCACC Annual Cadet Review FYA 19:30 hrs Red BeretCap Badge, Regimental JacketBlazerCrest, Tie with Medals, Grey Slacks, Black Walking Shoes.

    NOTE: There s no RegimentUnit TrainingAdmin for this Thurs night, therefore the Association Meeting (Potluck) will be moved to Thurs June 12 2014. Thurs June 12 2014 Royals Summer Routine Admin Night Association Meeting Warrants & Sergeants Mess- 20:00 hrs Business Casual Pot Luck after meeting All are welcome. Thurs June 26 2014 Royals Summer Routine Admin Night Association EXEC Meeting Officers Mess 19:30 hrs Business Casual EXEC meeting to review household Admin status and plan for the upcoming events in the FallWinter (Sept Dec 2014).

    Sat Aug 16 2014 Warriors Day CNE FYA 09:30 hrs Red BeretCap Badge, White Short Sleeve Shirt, Double Breast Pocket, With Epaulets, R Regt C Association slip ons, Regimental Lanyard, With Ribbons, Name Tag, Grey Slacks and Black Parade andor Walking Shoes.

    Please pass onto anyone I missed.

    Thanks, Regards, WO (Ret d) Glen Moore CD, PresidentThe Royal Regiment of Canada Association

  • B

  • Back to Work The Official British Army Blog Back to Work 2 October 2012 by britisharmy emma peacock Follow Musician Emma Peacock who plays flute and piccolo in The Band and Bugles of The Rifles. She has been in the band for a year and a half, having completing Phase 1 training at ATR Pirbright and Phase 2 at The Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall. Returning to the fight We ve returned to work after a few weeks leave; on our second day back at work, after some admin and some practice, we were back into the swing of things and getting dressed ready for our first engagement.

    This was the Army Training Regiment s boxing night in Winchester. Unfortunately there was an injury so we didn t get to play. The next day some of the band had fun playing some big band music and then our band PTI, Corporal Jessup, had us out in our boots, doing beet-up training for our upcoming AFT (Annual Fitness Test).

    The first Friday back we played at a Pass-Off Parade in our home camp. There were five troops for this parade, and a lot of guests. That weekend a few of us volunteered to help out 7 Rifles TA bands for a charity engagement.

    General Sir Nick Parker was there to see the two bands work together and he and the rest of the guests seemed to be pleased with the joint effort. Montacute House Tattoo Next there were a lot of rehearsals, running up and down hills and some sore muscles! We also did our annual Montacute House Tattoo.

    The rehearsals went well and then we got to relax for a few hours around the grounds. The Tattoo itself went smoothly and the audience seemed to really like the mass finale, consisting of us, HMS Heron Royal Naval Volunteer Band, Somerset Army Cadet Force Silver Bugles and The Pipes and Drums of The Wessex Highlanders. Montacute House Tattoo Friday was a busy day for us.

    It started with a very early start to get to The Army Training Regiment, Pirbright for a Pass-Off Parade. There was only one platoon on parade, so the inspecting officer got a chance to talk to everyone, meaning it didn t go any quicker than usual. After the Pass-Off Parade we waited around for a few hours then got back on the coach and went to Walton-On-Thames to play at an ABF fundraising Sounding Retreat.

    This was in a retirement village and after the engagement we were invited into the pub to meet the residents. Pass-Off Parade The following week we had a few days off to make up for the days we missed during our tour of Germany, but once back we were back out running up hills and yet more rehearsing! On the Friday we returned to Pirbright for another Pass-Off Parade.

    The rehearsal for this was slightly longer than usual, but the long stand was good practice for the troops for the actual parade! The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. On Sunday we visited The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

    This was for a church service. For various reasons we didn t have breakfast, but after the rehearsal we all bought healthy snacks from the shop .chocolate, crisps and bacon baps. Before the service there was a short march from NewCollege parade square to the church.

    There was a slightly reduced band for the service as there wasn t enough space, so I had a little time off, but apparently the service went well and someone was blindfolded and jumped off a table! The following Thursday we boarded the coach for an overnight stay in Grantham. This was for a TA POP.

    We had the evening off and a few of the band went into town for a curry and drinks, but it wasn t a late night as we were up the next morning rehearsing.

    It was the band minus the bugles so we marched at heavy pace.

    Despite the rain the parade went well and the troops proudly marched off the square before returning home with their families.

  • Backbench Business 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South, Labour) I congratulate Mr Baron on securing this debate and on the way he opened it. I spoke in the pre-recess Adjournment debate on 17 July about the anger felt in Salford and across Greater Manchester about the Government s decision to axe 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. The Manchester Evening News has run a strong campaign urging the Government to rethink their plans.

    The campaign has attracted 15,000 people to sign petitions, including the petition of 10,000 handed in today to Downing street. Many former Fusiliers from Greater Manchester, including those from Salford whom I am pleased to have met, were on the march today. There is great strength of feeling in our area and today I shall talk about what the battalion means to people in Salford, and to one family in particular.

    We have heard, but it bears repeating, that the 2nd Battalion has a long and distinguished service history dating back to the Lancashire Fusiliers indeed, Fusiliers first took that title in 1685 and have fought in every major engagement since. In 1968, when the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was formed from the four English Fusilier regiments, they inherited from the Lancashire Fusiliers a regimental history steeped in tradition. As the hon.

    and gallant Gentlemen said, the regiment won more Victoria Crosses in the great war than any other regiment: 19 of the heroes of the Lancashire Fusiliers were awarded the VC, including the six Mr Nuttall just described who won the VC in the action at Gallipoli. Many of the regiment s soldiers have given their lives fighting for this country. In 2009, the 2nd Battalion completed a tour in Afghanistan in which it lost seven men killed in action; others were wounded, some very seriously.

    Three of the seven died together in an explosion while on patrol near Sangin in Helmand province on 16 August 2009. One of them was Fusilier Simon Annis, from Salford. Simon and fellow Fusilier Louis Carter were trying to drag their injured comrade, Lance Corporal James Fullarton, to safety after a roadside bomb blast.

    As the pair lifted Lance Corporal Fullarton on to a stretcher, they triggered a second device, causing an explosion. All three soldiers died at the scene. Simon Annis was on his first operational tour.

    He was described by his commanding officer as follows: Always at the heart of whatever was going on, it was no surprise to me that he died whilst trying to save his mortally wounded Section Commander. He should be seen as a shining example to the nation of what selfless commitment really means. Simon was 22 years old and had been married for just one month before he deployed to Afghanistan.

    I met his parents, my constituents Ann and Peter Annis, when the 2nd Battalion had its homecoming parade from Afghanistan later in 2009. Salford people lined the streets to give the returning soldiers a warm welcome, and I was so proud to be at that parade and to meet Mr and Mrs Annis. When the news came through about the axing of the battalion in which her son had served, Simon s mother commented: Simon was so proud to serve in the battalion and now this feels like a smack in the face Lads are still in Afghanistan and dying out in Afghanistan and the Army are talking about cuts and job losses.

    Morale must be at rock bottom. I look at Simon s headstone at his grave and it says 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers . He was so proud to serve in the battalion.

    This week, Mrs Annis told me her thoughts: As the mother of a Fusilier who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his Queen, his country and his battalion, I can only see this decision as a betrayal of trust for the soldiers still serving and to the memory of the brave men who have given their lives while serving in this historically proud regiment. She said that this is a decision that surely cannot be justified with the recruitment figures for the battalion. This can only be seen as cost-cutting rather than restructuring.

    When I read the names on the Wall of Remembrance at the National Arboretum, I was immensely proud to be the mother of a young lad whose name appears alongside the names of such brave men from the 2nd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. Over and over again I have heard government excuses and reasons why this battalion should be axed, yet I still see no valid reason. She added: I urge you to think and reconsider the decision.

    I strongly support Mrs Annis s views and, together with hon. Members across the House, am asking the Government to reconsider. As Mrs Annis said, the decision to axe the battalion feels like a betrayal of the memory of her son Simon and the other soldiers who have given their lives.

    There is a deep attachment in Salford and across Greater Manchester to the 2nd Battalion, which was formed from the Lancashire Fusiliers and has such a long and proud history of service to this country. It is linked to Salford and, as we have heard, to Bury, Rochdale and Manchester. The loss of the battalion at this time of higher unemployment in our area of Greater Manchester would significantly reduce the opportunities for local people who want to enter a career serving their country, as young Simon Annis did, and it would of course put 600 soldiers and officers at risk of being made redundant.

    I probably do not need to rehearse the key issue in the matter. As we have heard, the 2nd Battalion currently has a very good record on recruitment; it has 523 trained soldiers out of a maximum strength of 532. Brigadier David Paterson, the battalion s honorary colonel, has described it as the strongest in raw manning and deployable strength .

    Surely that is a key factor. He also pointed out that the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers is the only regiment set to grow over the next six months. Brigadier Paterson has questioned the criteria being used to single out the unit for cuts when it is actually in such a strong position for recruitment.

    It seems that officers who understand the situation do not agree with the reasoning behind the decision to axe the battalion. The previous Labour Government s plans meant that the Army would not have ended up with single-battalion regiments. This Government s plans leave regiments such as the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in a weaker position.

    When Patrick Mercer spoke about that earlier, he called it a disgrace. I urge Ministers to reconsider the decision to axe the 2nd battalion. I hope that they will respect its proud history and valour, its current strong recruiting position and, most of all, the sacrifice of fallen Fusiliers such as Simon Annis.

    The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers has had the freedom of the city of Salford since 1974. I and the people of Salford and Greater Manchester are very proud of the 2nd Battalion. Losing it would be a great loss to us.

    They are England s finest.

  • Band of brothers: remembering the fallen soldiers of the SAS news ... A simple wooden sign propped up at the base of a tree, easily missed, points the way, down a rutted track plunging deep into the forest above the village of Moussey, in the Vosges Mountains of eastern France. Stele SAS it reads SAS Memorial. The monument sits by a track, isolated from the world by dense, dark ranks of fir.

    The events of another time linger in this place, the perfect setting for a war crime. Here, in October 1944, members of the Special Air Service, captured by the Germans during a deep-penetration raid into Occupied France named Operation Loyton, were stripped naked, lined up along a ditch and shot. Since being parachuted into enemy territory, they had fought in uniform against military targets and so should have been accorded the protection of the Geneva Convention when taken as prisoners of war.

    But Adolf Hitler had decided otherwise. Under his Kommandobefehl Commando Order captured special forces troops were to be executed following the extraction of useful intelligence. For the men of the SAS fanning out across France after D-Day to prepare the way for the Allied advance, surrender was had they only known it not an option.

    A piper s lament plays as two dozen or so men, some in their eighties, pay their respects. They wear the sand-coloured beret of the regiment, legacy of its birthplace, the Western Desert. Father in heaven, we commend to thy care and keeping comrades we now commemorate, says the senior retired officer present, reciting the regimental prayer for the fallen.

    At every remembrance of their courage and their friendship we give humble and heartfelt thanks. Behind enemy lines: SAS soldiers operated in hostile territory, on occasion driving their Jeeps through enemy lines (WARREN ALLOTT) The berets, removed in respect, are replaced. A bugler sounds Last Post.

    The regiment has fulfilled its promise to the men whose names mark the stone Sgts Ralph Hay and Walter Nevill, L/Cpl George Robinson and Ptes Frederick Austin, James Bennett, Reginald Church, Peter McGovern and Edwin Weaver. At least once in five years, every known SAS memorial in the world, be it in the desert of Yemen, the jungle of Borneo or the Falkland Islands, is visited by at least one member of the regiment, serving or retired, and a wreath of dark and light blue flowers these being the regimental colours laid. In keeping with its clandestine role, the regiment does not advertise these ceremonies.

    We are notably close knit, says Lt Gen Sir Cedric Delves, president of the SAS Association. All good regiments will acknowledge the importance of the man, the individual. We feel this keenly, intimately.

    The other thing is that we engage our nation s enemies by employing small teams, wherever the enemy might be found to be most vulnerable. So, for us, there are very many individual actions, spread far and wide. Operation Loyton was one of 54 operations conducted in late 1944 by the SAS Brigade, then composed of three British regiments, as well as one French and one Belgian, aimed at disrupting German communications in France.

    Loyton achieved some success but at a cost. Thirty-one men were listed as missing after the SAS party, starved of supplies and hunted by German troops, withdrew to Allied lines. The missing, it turned out, had been executed after capture, either in France or at a camp in Germany.

    The residents of Moussey also paid dearly for helping the British. Some 140 men arrested by the Nazis never returned. That shared suffering is remembered each time the SAS visit, and the village never fails to welcome its guests with food and wine and speeches expressing gratitude and solidarity.

    The military bugler sounding Last Post in the village churchyard, where more SAS men lie, is a French soldier, not British. At 89, Alex Robertson is one of the last survivors of the post D-Day operations in France, and one of the oldest of those journeying to Moussey. A member of 2 SAS, he owed his membership of David Stirling s band of outlaws partly to colour blindness.

    Born in Dumfries, Mr Robertson was recruited into the Royal Armoured Corps in 1942 but, bored of hanging around camps in northern England, applied to train as a glider pilot. Rejected because of his eyesight, he was offered an alternative. The chap said that there was this regiment forming which needed recruits, he recalls over lunch laid on by the SAS regimental association for the commune of Moussey.

    He said to me, We think it s air supply because it s called the Special Air Service . I was there about a week before I realised what it was about. Aged 19, the callow first lieutenant was attached to the regiment s D Squadron.

    The squadron did not parachute their way into Occupied France, as the men involved in Loyton did, but simply drove their 20 Jeeps through enemy lines in darkness as the Battle of Normandy raged about them. For 250 miles they journeyed, in British uniform, through the heart of enemy territory, often in broad daylight. We started at night but it was too slow, remembers Mr Robertson.

    You can imagine it: pitch black, no lights, following the pinpoint red light on the back of the Jeep in front. It was hell for the drivers. On one occasion, he drove straight past a German convoy, parked up by the road.

    They were all asleep. I just carried on, no problem. Sometimes, I think I dreamt it.

    I wake up and think, Did that really happen? Ambush and sudden death was a constant possibility, and primitive communications meant units could not warn each other of hazards ahead. Was he not scared?

    When you are 19 it somehow doesn t seem to worry you very much. You are always doing something, so there isn t time to think. Mr Robertson s squadron lost seven killed during three weeks behind enemy lines but inflicted some 500 casualties on the Germans.

    One of the seven who lost his life was young David Leigh. There was an ambush and David was very badly wounded, says Mr Robertson. He was taken to a doctor working for the Resistance and was given a bed by the lady who owned the local cheese factory.

    He died there. I remember his feet, still in boots, sticking out of the bottom of the bed. It s a weird thing to think about the size of his feet.

    Why do I think of that? The local population decided that Leigh should be accorded a proper funeral, despite the risk of Nazi reprisal. Spotters were put out on roads as the soldier s body was laid to rest.

    More than half a century later, the ashes of Leigh s widow joined his remains in that grave. We achieved what we set out to do, which was to disrupt communications and lower German morale, says Mr Robertson. When you are a German coming back from Normandy having suffered a pasting and you think you are in a nice easy area and all of a sudden you are getting a dozen Vickers machine guns blasting at you it doesn t do your morale any good.

    The history of the SAS during the Second World War is contained in the regiment s War Diary, a series of first-hand accounts of operations that began with attacks on Axis airfields in North Africa and ended in 1945 with reconnaissance patrols in a crumbling Nazi Germany. The diary also contains an account of the small SAS war crimes investigation unit, which continued to hunt down Germans responsible for the murders of SAS personnel even after the temporary disbandment of the regiment at the war s end. As a result, a number of SS and other officers were tried for murder and executed.

    During its five-year cycle of remembrance, the regiment lays 371 wreaths at memorials and individual graves in 20 countries, commemorating 493 casualties sustained during the Second World War and in post-war operations. There are 100 casualties commemorated in France, and monuments adorn places as distant as Sarawak in northern Borneo and the Silent Valley of South Yemen. One of those attending at Moussey is David Joe Seeney, who served in the regular and territorial regiments of the SAS for 29 years.

    As regulars , we couldn t get on this trip because we were too busy, he says. It s nice to know now that we are honouring men who built the tradition of the SAS. The British Army is built on tradition.

    It means that you don t let your fellow soldiers down because you don t do that in the regiment. The reason the SAS is so good is that we never sit back on our laurels and say, We re the greatest . In the regiment we say, How could we have done better on that one?

    Let s look at it and tweak it. Of all the post-war graves adorned by the SAS winged dagger, perhaps the most poignant is the solitary one overlooking the small settlement of Port Howard on West Falkland. Here, in June 1982, towards the end of the Falklands War, Capt Gavin Hamilton met his end.

    The 29-year-old officer was leading a four-man team manning a concealed observation post when they were detected by the Argentine garrison. Though wounded, Hamilton continued to fight, holding off the advancing enemy in an attempt to allow his radio operator to escape before being killed. The Argentine commander at Port Howard described the former Green Howard as the most courageous man I have ever seen .

    Hamilton s bravery earned him a posthumous Military Cross. He lies 8,000 miles from home but is not forgotten. That wreath of dark and light blue flowers will be renewed in due course, stones placed at the edges to hold it there against the ceaseless wind.

    We are determined that none be overlooked, says Lt Gen Delves, for each is of the whole. After the war, Alex Robertson returned to civilian life but never lost touch with his comrades, who would meet in a pub near London s Waterloo station. Some would form the nucleus of 21 SAS, the territorial sister to the regular 22 SAS.

    Lots of people think SAS people are 6ft 5in, stone-age killers, he says. But it isn t like that. I had the privilege of going to Hereford to give a talk at a passing-out parade about four years ago.

    They were just the same as the men I had known it could have been wartime. What is it about them? Difficult to explain.

    You think to yourself, I wouldn t mind having that bloke on my side. If you can t depend on someone, you don t want them. Mr Robertson will keep going, standing to attention at gravesides in obscure places, revisiting the resting places of men who, in most cases, never saw their thirties, and some of whom he knew.

    The Regiment has to be represented, he says, and if I m the last one standing I shall carry on doing it. Next weekend inside the Telegraph Don t miss an exclusive eight-page pullout of extracts from the remarkable SAS War Diary inside Review next Saturday, with a second eight-page pullout in next Sunday s Life section. One of the most astonishing manuscripts to come out of the Second World War, the SAS War Diary is the personal and private history of the SAS regiment from the inside.

    Created in 1946 and kept secret ever since, the diary contains an unparalleled collection of documents, reports, photographs and maps and tells for the first time the full story of the SAS during the Second World War. The publisher, Extraordinary Editions, is creating 22 exemplary editions of the diary (worth 15,000 each) and we have one to give away. Seventy-five per cent of the money generated through sales of the diaries is to be donated to the regiment s welfare fund.

    For further details go to Read More: Article Source 1 References ^ Article Source (

  • Band of the Irish Guards September 14, 2013 In anticipation of its upcoming major exhibition Medicine Hat s War: 1914-1918 opening Summer 2014, the Esplanade Museum is presenting a musical concert featuring the Band of the Irish Guards and the Medicine Hat Allegro Band (under the direction of Mr.

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