Our War: Caught in the Crossfire Our War


Our War: Caught in the Crossfire

Starting in 2009, the story of 2nd Battalion Princess of Wales regiment as it learns new rules of fighting brought in to protect civilians. By 2010 the war is very different.


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Transcript


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This programme contains very strong language and some scenes which some viewers may find upsetting.

0:00:020:00:09

4am in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

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In the town of Sangin, a British soldier filmed a routine patrol.

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A civilian interpreter was with him.

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RADIO: 'Follow me to...'

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They were about to come face to face with the horror of hidden explosives.

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EXPLOSION

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An IED had been triggered.

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The British soldier was blown almost 50 feet through the air,

0:01:020:01:05

but wasn't badly injured.

0:01:050:01:07

Shavar, are you OK? DISTANT SHOUTING

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His interpreter lost both his legs.

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He was another civilian caught in a conflict

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that was claiming more innocent lives than ever before.

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Nine years of IED attacks, air strikes and gun battles

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had turned the war into a nightmare and devastated Afghanistan.

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If it was ever going to end, something had to change.

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This film meets some of the soldiers who started trying to make that change.

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A 23-year-old captain who led one of the youngest platoons sent to Afghanistan in 2009.

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Man down! Man down!

0:01:480:01:50

They fought with new rules which put them in greater danger.

0:01:500:01:53

'We have to show control...'

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and we have to show, ultimately, restraint.

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A major who fought to set up a school...and paid with his life.

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And a young captain who struggled to train a new army...

0:02:070:02:11

GUNFIRE

0:02:110:02:13

Oi! Watch where you're fucking shooting!

0:02:130:02:15

..but found it dragged more people into the crossfire.

0:02:150:02:19

EXPLOSION

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Pull back!

0:02:260:02:27

No modern conflict has been recorded like the one in Afghanistan.

0:02:280:02:32

Come on, men!

0:02:320:02:33

It's life and death. Do not walk!

0:02:330:02:36

Young soldiers take their cameras to the front line

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and film the war as only they can see it.

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This is Afghan camera, I'm here with the sergeant major.

0:02:420:02:45

I've been fucking smacked in the eye by shrapnel.

0:02:450:02:47

This war has been fought for ten years, and thousands of hours

0:02:490:02:53

of this uncensored footage have been held by the Ministry of Defence.

0:02:530:02:57

GUNFIRE Fucking hell!

0:02:570:02:59

-Where's it coming from?

-Don't know!

0:03:000:03:02

Now, the MOD and the young soldiers have allowed us

0:03:020:03:07

to use that footage to tell their extraordinary stories.

0:03:070:03:11

This, ladies and gentlemen, is fucking war.

0:03:140:03:17

As you can see, very cosy, that's our room.

0:03:360:03:39

This is where we're living for the night, but it's not too bad.

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And if we leave the cooking area

0:03:450:03:48

and take a walk over to where our chicken is getting gutted...

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Mmmm.

0:03:540:03:56

Small, why are you doing it?

0:03:560:03:59

In January 2009, the 2nd Battalion,

0:04:060:04:11

the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, arrived in Helmand Province.

0:04:110:04:15

2 Platoon warriors. DJ, Ollie Hunter, Dominico.

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2 Platoon, A Company were one of the youngest groups to enter the war.

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So young, they were known as the Kindergarten Platoon.

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Definitely we earned that title, without a doubt.

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Everyone just noticed how young we looked,

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especially compared to the other countries there.

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All the Americans and that, they're all very big men.

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I was only young - 17, about to turn 18.

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I think I'd been on holiday to France when I was young.

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I hadn't really been anywhere, so it was brand new.

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I was 23 when I went out.

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I had such an easy life at university - drinking,

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where the biggest decision I had to make was pizza or curry.

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It was constantly going through my mind -

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am I going to be good enough? Do I know enough?

0:05:170:05:21

Am I going to be able to successfully command the blokes?

0:05:210:05:25

Thursday, February 19th 2009.

0:05:310:05:33

Patrolling in Nad-e Ali.

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Say hello!

0:05:370:05:39

Hello!

0:05:390:05:41

Salaam.

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The platoon's mission was to clear the Taliban

0:05:430:05:46

out of the villages around Nad Ali.

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But they had been ordered to fight in a different way to those who'd been there before.

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They weren't there just to beat the Taliban.

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They had to hold back and put the safety of the people first.

0:05:560:06:01

Say hello to them, Craig.

0:06:020:06:04

SPEECH INAUDIBLE

0:06:040:06:08

It's really just a matter of making the people feel secure in that area.

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Showing a constant presence if you can.

0:06:150:06:18

And really trying to keep them away from the fighting.

0:06:180:06:21

The men set out to work with the local people...

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GUNFIRE

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..but were quickly dragged into fights in the villages by the Taliban.

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Unfortunately in 2009, especially in Nad-e Ali,

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a lot of them villages were the front lines.

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And we just didn't have the distance between that and the fighting

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to get the aid there and the traffic and to get the bazaars back up and running.

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It's hard to do that when the fighting's on your doorstep.

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GUNFIRE

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The plan to help the people was overtaken by a fight to stay alive.

0:06:590:07:03

There's a fight going on.

0:07:050:07:08

Hold your bits now, Mike!

0:07:080:07:10

We were coming under contact pretty much every day.

0:07:100:07:15

And how did it feel? Well, it's the most scary moment of your life.

0:07:150:07:20

Ollie Hunter, any last words for your bird?

0:07:200:07:22

This is fucking dog shit.

0:07:220:07:24

Suddenly you realise that there's actually an after-effect

0:07:250:07:29

of somebody pulling a trigger, there are rounds landing by your feet.

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I'm fucking going for it!

0:07:320:07:34

LAUGHTER

0:07:390:07:41

Am I a bit close?

0:07:410:07:43

It's a hard area to work in.

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It really is like a bandit country in that area, without a doubt.

0:07:470:07:51

Even the most routine patrol could turn into chaos,

0:07:550:07:58

as Corporal Ollie Hunter and Private Mike McCabe found out.

0:07:580:08:04

Their platoon was walking through a crossroads

0:08:040:08:07

when they came under attack.

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I heard something go over the top of my head

0:08:090:08:11

and it sounded like an RPG, like a "fudd fudd", like that.

0:08:110:08:14

Me and Ollie looked at each other and we were like, "What was that?"

0:08:140:08:18

And as I was walking along I just remember, I just see this figure,

0:08:180:08:22

I can't remember if it was dark or black dish-dash, just pop up.

0:08:220:08:26

I couldn't exactly make out its face but it was kind of a...

0:08:260:08:29

Like, "Oh!" You know, "You're here."

0:08:290:08:32

And then he's opened up with what I believe was a heavy machine gun,

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a PKM.

0:08:370:08:38

GUNFIRE

0:08:380:08:40

And then it just literally went "crack, crack, crack", past me.

0:08:400:08:43

And there must have been about four or five heavy machine guns.

0:08:430:08:47

All the dust round my feet were cracking up.

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And basically we got into this ditch and it was literally like,

0:08:510:08:55

I just wanted the ground to swallow me up.

0:08:550:08:57

Jumped into the ditch, I'll be honest, I started laughing.

0:09:000:09:03

I went to him, I remembering going, "Ollie, mate,

0:09:030:09:06

"they're right there, they're right there."

0:09:060:09:08

And Ollie's going, "Where?" Cos he hadn't seen.

0:09:080:09:10

And the rounds were obviously winging past.

0:09:100:09:13

And I was going, "They're literally right there."

0:09:130:09:16

The patrol was caught in an ambush.

0:09:160:09:18

Although they couldn't see the enemy,

0:09:180:09:20

they were surrounded by an estimated 20 Taliban.

0:09:200:09:23

GUNFIRE

0:09:230:09:25

We decided to make a run for it.

0:09:310:09:33

And I felt like a "fudd" into the side of me.

0:09:330:09:36

And immediately a burning sensation in my leg.

0:09:360:09:39

He burst out going, "Ollie, I think I've been hit, I've been hit, I've been hit."

0:09:390:09:43

Then it turned into a bit of chaos. Everyone screamed out "man down".

0:09:430:09:48

Man down! Man down!

0:09:480:09:50

Where is he? Where the fuck is he?

0:09:500:09:54

In the river!

0:09:540:09:56

You're all right, you're all right.

0:09:580:09:59

'Mike McCabe was in quite a bit of a bad way.'

0:09:590:10:02

Don't look at it! Don't fucking look at it!

0:10:020:10:05

He was trying to look at his wound,

0:10:050:10:07

and the last thing I want is him seeing all that, getting upset.

0:10:070:10:11

I just wanted to get him out into a safe place and deal with him there.

0:10:110:10:15

I remember just turning round to Ollie and I went,

0:10:190:10:22

"Look, mate, I don't want to die in this ditch.

0:10:220:10:25

"Just get me out of this ditch, please."

0:10:250:10:27

Let's go. Let's go.

0:10:310:10:34

Fuckin' out my way!

0:10:340:10:35

GUNFIRE

0:10:390:10:42

You're all right, you're all right.

0:10:430:10:45

Cos I was obviously in quite a bit of shock, some of the lads had to literally

0:10:450:10:49

pin me down and assess what was going wrong with me

0:10:490:10:52

before anything happened.

0:10:520:10:54

I remember them ripping open the trousers.

0:10:540:10:56

Amazingly, although he'd been shot twice,

0:10:580:11:00

Mike wasn't seriously injured.

0:11:000:11:03

One bullet had grazed his leg,

0:11:030:11:05

and another had been caught by his body armour.

0:11:050:11:09

I suppose when you think you're going to get injured,

0:11:090:11:12

you get this idea that you're going to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger

0:11:120:11:16

and Rambo, or something like that, where you kind of look at it

0:11:160:11:19

and go, "Yeah, stitch me up with a... I don't need anaesthetic."

0:11:190:11:23

But when it actually happens to you, kind of a bit of a different situation!

0:11:230:11:28

McCabe and the rest of the platoon

0:11:340:11:37

now faced the real test of their new orders.

0:11:370:11:40

Straight down this road, the tree line south.

0:11:400:11:42

Roger!

0:11:420:11:44

They may have wanted payback,

0:11:440:11:46

but they still had to put civilian safety first.

0:11:460:11:50

Stand up, keep your head down.

0:11:500:11:52

That meant only firing when they were fired upon,

0:11:520:11:55

and even then only when they could see exactly what they were shooting at.

0:11:550:12:00

Is he withdrawing? Is he withdrawing?!

0:12:000:12:03

It was called Positively Identifying the enemy, or PID-ing.

0:12:030:12:08

And it wasn't easy.

0:12:080:12:11

GUNFIRE

0:12:110:12:13

Is there an element of frustration? Of course.

0:12:310:12:34

When you're being fired at as a platoon and you're

0:12:380:12:40

sat in an amazing position to give the Taliban a bloody nose,

0:12:400:12:43

it's very frustrating when someone says you can't.

0:12:430:12:46

You feel like you're running away.

0:12:460:12:49

I mean, for me, a stupid little private,

0:12:490:12:51

I just want to push on and bark at them.

0:12:510:12:53

But, yeah, in the bigger picture it's probably better

0:12:530:12:56

to do, like, what you're told.

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As the tour went on,

0:13:030:13:05

not only did the platoon get used to the idea of holding back,

0:13:050:13:08

they began to see it as the only way forward.

0:13:080:13:11

'We never once went into a contact guns blazing.'

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It was always very precise.

0:13:160:13:18

We would locate the enemy and close them down in that area.

0:13:180:13:21

There was no gung-ho at all.

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you can't do that, you're playing with people's lives and livelihoods.

0:13:240:13:27

Is it really worth destroying someone's home

0:13:290:13:32

and livelihood to kill a couple of Taliban?

0:13:320:13:35

Absolutely not, absolutely not.

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Because I guarantee that that homeowner, with his family,

0:13:370:13:41

are going to be pretty hacked off that you've just destroyed it.

0:13:410:13:44

And you might create another ten Taliban from it.

0:13:440:13:47

We have to show control.

0:13:470:13:50

And we have to show, ultimately, restraint.

0:13:500:13:53

The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment

0:13:570:13:59

left Afghanistan in April 2009.

0:13:590:14:03

Their efforts to start protecting the people hadn't come too soon.

0:14:050:14:10

More civilians were dying in this war than troops -

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6,000 since records began in 2007.

0:14:160:14:19

Two-thirds were killed by the Taliban,

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the rest by coalition forces.

0:14:230:14:26

In just one air strike that went wrong, 90 people were killed...

0:14:300:14:35

60 of them children.

0:14:350:14:37

Too many Afghans were being caught in the crossfire.

0:14:390:14:43

By 2010, everyone had been ordered to fight with the new rules,

0:14:460:14:50

and they'd been given a name - Courageous Restraint.

0:14:500:14:54

These rules were seen as the key to protecting the people,

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and perhaps winning the war.

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Ladies, meet the men of your dreams.

0:15:120:15:16

This is Corporal Howard.

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Zoom out, down. Zoom in.

0:15:180:15:23

In April 2010, B Company, the 1st Battalion Scots Guards arrived in Helmand.

0:15:230:15:29

Note the primitive animals opening pork ravioli.

0:15:290:15:35

How's that working out for you?

0:15:360:15:39

Well, this is to be continued in about five hours' time.

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Captain Neil Gow was one of B Company's commanders,

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and responsible for 32 men.

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My grandfather had been in the army, my father's in the army,

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and I knew that if I didn't join the army

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I'd regret it for the rest of my life.

0:15:550:15:57

I always wanted to go into the infantry -

0:15:570:16:00

to make a difference, to be in the dangerous situations with the guys

0:16:000:16:04

who...let's say in your social circle you might not normally come across.

0:16:040:16:08

Sometimes I think they have a giant Twister sort of thing

0:16:080:16:11

that they spin to decide what we do.

0:16:110:16:13

OK, so if we were a fucking... Oops. If we were a giant Twister,

0:16:130:16:17

would it be right hand on red or left foot on blue?

0:16:170:16:22

-Left testicle on IED.

-Yes.

0:16:240:16:27

The Scots Guards were responsible for a 35km stretch of road

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called Route 601 near Helmand's capital, Lashkar Gah.

0:16:360:16:41

It was a lifeline for the local people.

0:16:410:16:44

Working from two patrol bases -

0:16:480:16:51

Bamba Serai and Attal -

0:16:510:16:53

their job was to train the local police force in Courageous Restraint

0:16:530:16:58

and protect the people, businesses and schools along the road.

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Salaam.

0:17:080:17:10

They smell different, they eat differently,

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they wear facial hair to the sort of extremes.

0:17:170:17:22

We got told certain things not to do, big things on the women.

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You don't talk to the women and that.

0:17:320:17:34

Keep away from talking about religion.

0:17:340:17:38

You can be driving down the road one minute and then they'll just all stop and get out and pray.

0:17:380:17:44

In Glasgow you're not going to see

0:17:450:17:46

somebody stop in the middle of the road, get out and pray.

0:17:460:17:49

But that's just the way that they are.

0:17:490:17:52

And I respect it, the way they are.

0:17:520:17:54

Look at this! You've got Mountain Dew,

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you've got Coca-Cola, Red Bull.

0:17:580:18:02

-Red Bull, yeah.

-Fantastic.

0:18:020:18:04

There you go, lemonade. How much?

0:18:040:18:07

-One dollar.

-One dollar? Bargain.

0:18:070:18:10

Although everything seemed normal, the Scots Guards knew the Taliban were everywhere.

0:18:100:18:15

But the moment they tried to get information about them,

0:18:150:18:19

they hit a brick wall.

0:18:190:18:21

The locals were suspicious.

0:18:230:18:26

It was a frustration when we'd be meeting with people and you'd have people would tell you lies.

0:18:260:18:31

We'd try getting information off them and that, but they told us that as soon as we left where they were,

0:18:320:18:38

the Taliban would just move in and beat them up.

0:18:380:18:41

They were scared because, as anyone would be,

0:18:410:18:44

if two opposing forces are about to have a fight in their back garden.

0:18:440:18:48

It's sort of the mechanic's shot...

0:18:480:18:51

Winning trust was vital for Captain Neil Gow.

0:18:510:18:56

Our platoon commander is now with one of the locals.

0:18:560:19:01

He went out personally and invited local people to a meeting known as a "shura".

0:19:010:19:06

DOG BARKS

0:19:060:19:10

To encourage people to attend, he even sent out some men to protect the route to the base.

0:19:130:19:19

The shura was due for about eight o'clock or so.

0:19:230:19:27

And the idea was just to put a presence on the ground

0:19:270:19:30

so that people felt they were being looked after so they could come and see us.

0:19:300:19:34

One, two, zero, bravo, radio check.

0:19:340:19:36

'I was there on my own with the radio.

0:19:360:19:39

'And I was confident with the guys' abilities on the ground.'

0:19:390:19:43

But straight away the patrol could see something was wrong.

0:19:470:19:50

They were out on the ground for some time, the people never came in.

0:20:220:20:25

I was, like, what's going on? Clearly something's up,

0:20:250:20:28

something's going on with this.

0:20:280:20:30

Something's happened of course.

0:20:300:20:31

The other worry was that they didn't get the message,

0:20:310:20:34

but I knew they had because I'd seen so many people,

0:20:340:20:37

and I knew they had spread the word.

0:20:370:20:39

GUNSHOT

0:20:470:20:49

Here we go.

0:20:490:20:50

The patrol listened in to the Taliban's radio...

0:20:570:21:00

..and it told them they'd walked into a trap.

0:21:030:21:07

Here we go.

0:21:090:21:11

Here we go!

0:21:110:21:12

Which way?

0:21:120:21:15

They were very much out in the open.

0:21:260:21:28

They were exposed because that's how the insurgents are going to engage you.

0:21:280:21:32

On their own terms when they'll have the most effect.

0:21:320:21:36

Go on. OK, fellas, move, move!

0:21:370:21:40

Move, guys, move!

0:21:400:21:43

The patrol had been ambushed from three sides

0:21:430:21:46

but still couldn't fire back

0:21:460:21:48

until they knew exactly where the enemy was.

0:21:480:21:52

Yeah, see the two white buildings? Gap in the building.

0:21:530:21:56

Mosque, just to the left of the mosque, two guys in the gap.

0:21:560:21:59

Roger, they are feeling quite pinned down for the moment.

0:22:040:22:08

Do we have any air that's flying by or stationed nearby

0:22:080:22:11

that we can hand over to for a show of force at least, over?

0:22:110:22:14

-Keep going!

-Keep going!

0:22:150:22:17

'It is pretty heart-wrenching. Every sinew of your body is focused on'

0:22:190:22:23

exactly what's going on to try and help those guys on the ground

0:22:230:22:27

do what they need to do to get out alive.

0:22:270:22:29

Fellas, do you all see the blue flag?

0:22:290:22:31

Having identified the enemy, they could at last fire back.

0:22:310:22:35

Rapid fire!

0:22:360:22:38

GUNFIRE

0:22:380:22:40

OK, are you ready? Let's go!

0:22:400:22:42

Have you guys seen it?

0:22:430:22:46

OK, last man, last man!

0:22:460:22:47

Last man.

0:22:490:22:50

Fucking hell.

0:22:540:22:55

Compound straight to our front.

0:22:590:23:01

OK, keep peeling, guys, keep peeling!

0:23:020:23:05

'You do sometimes feel lonely. Cos you're the only officer there.'

0:23:090:23:13

When the crap really hits the fan, it's your neck on the line.

0:23:130:23:16

Two lads just at the entry point...

0:23:180:23:19

The men finally found safety in a local farmer's house.

0:23:190:23:23

Thank you for letting us use your compound.

0:23:260:23:29

We want to give you what you need to be able to work with us and fight the Taliban.

0:23:290:23:34

How long till the air?

0:23:510:23:53

INDISTINCT VOICE ON RADIO

0:23:530:23:57

The fighter jet Neil had asked for arrived.

0:23:570:24:01

JET WHOOSHES OVERHEAD

0:24:010:24:04

But the plane didn't fire.

0:24:100:24:12

Courageous Restraint meant it just used its threat to scare away the enemy.

0:24:120:24:17

The no-show by the locals was a massive disappointment for Neil.

0:24:230:24:27

The Taliban had won this battle.

0:24:290:24:32

There's so much that's out of your control. You might want to

0:24:340:24:36

go in a certain direction but there's a small element...

0:24:360:24:39

the insurgent, for example...

0:24:390:24:41

who clearly intimidate the local population, which put the brakes on any projects you want to take place.

0:24:410:24:47

The Scots Guards carried on trying to meet the local people.

0:24:510:24:55

Yeah, I'm good.

0:25:050:25:07

Little bit hot, but apart from that, OK.

0:25:070:25:10

The main people that we came into contact with was men and children.

0:25:110:25:17

CHILD CHATTERS

0:25:180:25:21

Children were...

0:25:240:25:25

They find us, I suppose it was quite exciting

0:25:250:25:28

having a bunch of soldiers sort of wandering past.

0:25:280:25:31

How's it going, mate? All right?

0:25:310:25:33

Good. You OK?

0:25:330:25:35

How's it going, buddy? Yeah, man.

0:25:350:25:38

I feel most for the kids.

0:25:380:25:41

Cos I hate seeing any kids that are hurt.

0:25:410:25:44

TRANSLATED:

0:25:440:25:47

That's what brings it home, as soon as you go out there you see just the way the kids are.

0:25:540:25:59

It's not like they can put a Playstation on or an Xbox or anything.

0:26:060:26:09

You'd see them flying a kite, they love pens and pencils.

0:26:090:26:13

I remember showing paper airplanes to some Afghan kids.

0:26:160:26:19

That was really funny cos they'd never seen them before.

0:26:190:26:22

Pleased to meet you.

0:26:300:26:32

How old is he?

0:26:320:26:34

'Education is key. I think if you're able to'

0:26:520:26:55

open a school in an area where there has been conflict before,

0:26:550:26:58

it shows without a doubt an increase in stability.

0:26:580:27:02

Schools had become a new battleground in the area of Helmand the Scots Guards were patrolling.

0:27:060:27:12

The Taliban saw education as a threat to their way of life.

0:27:160:27:19

They had intimidated and even beheaded teachers.

0:27:210:27:25

Girls had been attacked with acid on their way to school.

0:27:260:27:30

Hundreds of schools had been closed in recent years, and people were afraid to open them again.

0:27:300:27:37

But there was a school open in the village of Basharan.

0:27:430:27:46

And it owed its existence to a British major called Sean Birchall.

0:27:480:27:55

Major Sean Birchall.

0:28:010:28:02

First time I met him, when I was a day-one, week-one guardsman.

0:28:020:28:06

Arrived at the battalion,

0:28:060:28:08

he was one of the platoon commanders within the Prince of Wales Company.

0:28:080:28:12

And he looked the part, he WAS the part.

0:28:120:28:15

And, you know, we were inspired by this man.

0:28:150:28:19

He was extremely fit, you know,

0:28:190:28:23

he took pride in his fitness. He was, you know,

0:28:230:28:26

far too fit for my liking

0:28:260:28:28

because he used to try and get me to go to the gym with him.

0:28:280:28:30

You'd see him there, sat on one of them bubble balls,

0:28:300:28:34

curling the biggest weight in there for hours without taking a break.

0:28:340:28:39

You're struggling there to do press-ups and sit-ups.

0:28:390:28:42

It's bionic if you ask me,

0:28:420:28:45

that's the only way to describe him, bionic.

0:28:450:28:48

Bionic Birchall.

0:28:480:28:50

Come out here, this is where we live.

0:28:500:28:53

Into the garden, where the Micks always have their fun.

0:28:530:28:56

And there's the boys, look.

0:28:560:28:59

In 2009, Birchall led IX company, the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, into Helmand.

0:28:590:29:06

So what's your impression of this FOB?

0:29:060:29:09

-Love it.

-Load of bollocks.

-Load of bollocks.

0:29:090:29:12

-No fucking gym.

-No gym?

0:29:120:29:14

RADIO PLAYS BALLAD

0:29:140:29:17

No wonder you're all fucking suicidal, listening to that bollocks.

0:29:170:29:22

Fire! GUNFIRE

0:29:220:29:25

The company had to clear the Taliban from a place called Basharan.

0:29:250:29:29

HEAVY GUNFIRE

0:29:290:29:32

Major Birchall led his men during intense fighting

0:29:340:29:38

and slowly pushed the enemy away from the village.

0:29:380:29:42

By the time the people returned, it became clear that the children

0:29:440:29:48

had no school to go to

0:29:480:29:50

because the Taliban had murdered the head teacher.

0:29:500:29:54

Major Birchall made it his mission to build a new school.

0:29:560:30:01

Major Birchall facilitated and forced people in the right direction.

0:30:010:30:05

He said, "Right, this is taking too long."

0:30:050:30:08

"These people need it now, let's get it done."

0:30:080:30:11

You know he was a can-do, "let's do it now" kind of guy.

0:30:110:30:14

The building of the school began.

0:30:140:30:18

And then, on the morning of 19th June, Sean Birchall went on a routine patrol.

0:30:180:30:25

I commanded the front vehicle, the Mastiff.

0:30:250:30:29

Sergeant Pete Duffy, a good friend of mine, he normally commands one of them Jackals.

0:30:290:30:35

And Major Sean Birchall told him,

0:30:350:30:40

"Take a hike, I'm going in the front of one of these.

0:30:400:30:43

"You command the other one."

0:30:430:30:45

This picture of Sean Birchall was taken just before he set out.

0:30:460:30:51

We travelled down. Basically...

0:30:520:30:56

sort of caterpillaring down -

0:30:560:30:58

one vehicle would be moving, another would be static.

0:30:580:31:01

We continued pushing over

0:31:010:31:05

when there was a large explosion from behind us.

0:31:050:31:09

I didn't instantly think, "How did that happen?"

0:31:090:31:13

What I thought was...

0:31:130:31:15

"Holy shit. What is THAT?"

0:31:160:31:19

And turned round and then see a large...

0:31:190:31:23

You can't see anything, it's just smoke.

0:31:230:31:27

As the smoke started to clear I could see the top of the Jackal

0:31:270:31:32

that Major Birchall was commanding.

0:31:320:31:35

And I could see the gunner pointing down into the water,

0:31:370:31:40

screaming, "There's two in the water, there's two in the water."

0:31:400:31:43

I looked down at the water, I could see

0:31:430:31:46

one closest to me face down in the water.

0:31:460:31:48

I could see the top of his helmet and the back of his armour.

0:31:480:31:51

Further up I could see one bobbing up and down, shouting, kicking and screaming.

0:31:510:31:56

So I knew which one to go for.

0:31:560:31:58

So slid down the bank, dived in the water, grabbed hold of this soldier

0:31:580:32:04

and pulled him to the bank and turned him over, to bring his face out the water.

0:32:040:32:09

And that's when I noticed and saw for the first time

0:32:090:32:13

that it was Major Birchall that was unconscious in the water.

0:32:130:32:17

He was still breathing at that stage,

0:32:170:32:19

and it's when we pulled him on to the banking

0:32:190:32:22

and we managed to get his lower half of his body out of the water

0:32:220:32:25

that you could see his legs from mid-thigh down had been...

0:32:250:32:31

smashed quite badly.

0:32:310:32:33

Did you say anything to him?

0:32:410:32:43

I didn't, no.

0:32:440:32:45

Company Sergeant Major Campbell did.

0:32:490:32:52

He said,

0:32:520:32:54

"Don't you dare leave me, I need you."

0:32:540:32:57

We were half-expecting him to react to that.

0:33:000:33:03

He groaned.

0:33:030:33:05

Continuously, he groaned.

0:33:050:33:08

But...when he said that, everyone knew that was a true statement.

0:33:090:33:14

We needed him. We couldn't lose him.

0:33:140:33:17

We needed him.

0:33:170:33:19

As a major, Sean Birchall was one of the most senior officers to die in the war.

0:33:320:33:37

Soon after his death, the school in Basharan opened.

0:33:390:33:43

There were lots of photos taken of the children.

0:33:450:33:48

There was one in particular where he's taking a knee

0:33:480:33:52

with all of the village children around him, and he's smiling.

0:33:520:33:56

He's achieved this for them, and that's probably why he's smiling.

0:33:580:34:03

They will remember him...

0:34:030:34:05

..for many years to come as the man who came

0:34:080:34:12

and brought education and security to this area.

0:34:120:34:17

By the time the Scots Guards took over the same area,

0:34:180:34:21

the school was thriving, bringing an education to 200 children every day.

0:34:210:34:27

Let's read people's problems,

0:34:330:34:34

because they're always more fun than anything else.

0:34:340:34:38

"Recently my long-term girlfriend has not been spending much time with me.

0:34:390:34:44

"I'm a bit worried that something might be going on. Is it just me

0:34:440:34:48

"or is there something going on between them?"

0:34:480:34:50

Feed an army, that would.

0:34:500:34:53

So you can see here, this is the ANP compound.

0:34:570:35:02

This is where the ANP live.

0:35:020:35:04

This is their compound,

0:35:040:35:06

which is right next door to ours.

0:35:060:35:08

To protect schools and businesses in the future, the Scots Guards

0:35:100:35:14

had to start training a local force, the Afghan National Police, or ANP.

0:35:140:35:19

As you can see here, they're taking a register-type thing.

0:35:190:35:24

The ANP were set up after the West invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

0:35:240:35:30

It was made up of men from the local area.

0:35:300:35:33

They're not a police in the sense that we have in Britain.

0:35:330:35:36

They don't have inspectors that go out looking for clues

0:35:360:35:39

and a couple of police on the beat.

0:35:390:35:41

They're very much a paramilitary organisation.

0:35:410:35:44

They would be expected to take over if coalition troops ever left Afghanistan.

0:35:460:35:51

The problem was, very little was known about them,

0:35:510:35:56

or whether they could be trusted.

0:35:560:35:58

NEWSREADER: It was one of the most shocking of all the attacks

0:36:000:36:03

on British troops in Afghanistan.

0:36:030:36:05

Five comrades shot dead by a rogue Afghan policemen

0:36:050:36:09

who'd been living and working alongside them.

0:36:090:36:13

Just before we went out, that incident

0:36:160:36:19

with the Grenadier Guards where the ANP shot the Grenadier Guards...

0:36:190:36:22

that obviously played on our mind.

0:36:220:36:24

You've got to ask some questions,

0:36:240:36:26

to what extent can these guys be trusted?

0:36:260:36:28

To what extent are they involved with the Taliban, know people in the Taliban?

0:36:280:36:32

And I think the answer is that,

0:36:320:36:34

well, everyone used to be involved in it, cos you had to be.

0:36:340:36:37

And everyone knows someone in it because, well, it used to be a very large beast.

0:36:370:36:42

Just because they were involved, doesn't mean they can't change

0:36:420:36:46

and they can't be a force for good now.

0:36:460:36:48

As the Scots Guards started getting to know the ANP,

0:36:510:36:55

one sergeant quickly stood out.

0:36:550:36:58

Farooq was one of them.

0:37:010:37:03

Bit of a crazy one.

0:37:030:37:05

Because he looked a bit like Borat as well!

0:37:050:37:08

I enjoyed it when he came out on our patrols. It was just the way he was.

0:37:080:37:12

He'd laugh at anything.

0:37:120:37:14

Out on Route 601, Daniel Clarke got to see exactly how Farooq and the ANP did things.

0:37:210:37:27

It was just two civilians on the side of the road.

0:37:310:37:34

They looked a bit suspicious.

0:37:340:37:37

They were in new clothes and that.

0:37:370:37:39

DANIEL CLARKE:

0:37:390:37:42

'Farooq knew they were lying. He could tell they were lying.'

0:37:440:37:48

I thought it was a bit harsh,

0:37:530:37:54

but obviously, Farooq...

0:37:540:37:56

that's the way he deals with things.

0:37:560:37:58

There were some things the ANP could do that British troops couldn't.

0:38:080:38:13

Their local knowledge meant they understood the enemy.

0:38:130:38:18

On this occasion, they spotted signs on the ground for a possible IED.

0:38:250:38:31

These markers were sometimes left by the Taliban to warn the locals

0:38:320:38:36

and remind themselves where devices were hidden.

0:38:360:38:39

But there were some things that the ANP weren't so good at.

0:38:470:38:51

SCOTTISH SOLDIER:

0:38:510:38:54

They needed training in Courageous Restraint.

0:39:020:39:06

The ANP were given a chance to put their training to the test

0:39:160:39:19

when the Scots Guards let them lead their first foot patrol.

0:39:190:39:22

I've got a bad feeling about this one.

0:39:240:39:27

I've already said, haven't I? I've got a bad feeling.

0:39:270:39:30

Daniel Clarke was wearing a helmet camera.

0:39:310:39:35

All we were doing was checking compounds.

0:39:400:39:43

Basically just went through a series of compounds and searched them.

0:39:430:39:48

About 1K away, just down the road from where we'd come from, there was quite a lot of shooting going on.

0:39:520:39:57

DISTANT GUNFIRE

0:39:570:39:59

The ANP decided that they wanted to get involved, so off they went.

0:39:590:40:04

CHICKEN CLUCKS

0:40:040:40:06

GUNFIRE

0:40:140:40:16

RPG.

0:40:210:40:23

The ANP were leading the Scots Guards straight into a fight.

0:40:240:40:29

GUNFIRE

0:40:320:40:34

MACHINE GUN FIRE

0:40:400:40:42

Right, you stay here, I'm off.

0:40:470:40:49

The patrol was now a real test

0:40:580:41:00

of whether the ANP could use restraint in a battle.

0:41:000:41:04

GUNFIRE

0:41:040:41:05

SHOUTS: Hey! Hey!

0:41:070:41:09

Oi! Dickhead!

0:41:090:41:11

Watch where you're fucking shooting!

0:41:110:41:14

Where the fuck's he going?

0:41:180:41:20

GUNFIRE

0:41:200:41:22

The thing with the ANP was, Courageous Restraint

0:41:220:41:25

wasn't really a concept that they understood quite so well.

0:41:250:41:28

I don't think it's really in their mindset.

0:41:280:41:31

After all, they've been doing it for years, and the way they see it

0:41:310:41:35

is they're still alive, so it's good.

0:41:350:41:37

Keep moving! Move!

0:41:420:41:45

The ANP kept doing things their way.

0:41:450:41:49

At one point, Farooq was shooting in the open and there were kids in the fields.

0:41:490:41:55

And did he take that message on board?

0:42:020:42:05

No.

0:42:050:42:06

YELLS:

0:42:080:42:10

If you don't PID your target and you fire upon it and it's not,

0:42:200:42:24

it's innocent, then you're committing murder, aren't you?

0:42:240:42:27

MACHINE GUN FIRE

0:42:270:42:29

Farooq!

0:42:290:42:32

Tell him there's children and that.

0:42:350:42:37

LOW-FLYING PLANE ROARS

0:42:370:42:40

If we didn't have Courageous Restraint, we'd just be as bad as the Taliban themselves.

0:42:540:42:59

Just days later on Route 601, while Daniel Clarke was filming,

0:43:060:43:10

the importance of Courageous Restraint was hammered home.

0:43:100:43:14

We were heading back in, I was in the MAN truck,

0:43:170:43:21

and the ANP had... They'd started firing.

0:43:210:43:25

GUNSHOTS

0:43:250:43:27

Who's firing, Dan?

0:43:270:43:29

'I was trying to get information from my top cover to find out what were going on.'

0:43:290:43:34

And then quite a lot of ANP ran to our left, I think.

0:43:340:43:38

The ANP had accidentally hit a three-year-old girl

0:44:240:44:28

with a rocket-propelled grenade.

0:44:280:44:31

Her injuries were life-threatening.

0:44:310:44:33

It was the first day on the ground for B Company's new medic, Private Stacey French.

0:44:380:44:44

'When I first seen her, she was wrapped in a blanket.'

0:44:460:44:49

She was brought over to me, put on the floor.

0:44:490:44:52

I took the blankets off her and she had serious abdominal injuries.

0:44:520:44:56

She had serious injuries to her left arm as well.

0:44:560:44:59

To see it in your own eyes,

0:45:010:45:04

to see a little girl that size with those kinds of injuries,

0:45:040:45:10

it was a bit shocking.

0:45:100:45:12

Using the most basic of equipment,

0:45:150:45:17

Stacey started trying to save the little girl's life.

0:45:170:45:21

'She was very small.'

0:45:250:45:27

She had dark hair, she had massive brown eyes.

0:45:270:45:30

And she was just so calm and so brave,

0:45:300:45:33

I think that's what kept everybody else calm.

0:45:330:45:35

'We'd done everything that we could, treatment-wise.'

0:45:370:45:41

She kept falling in and out of consciousness

0:45:410:45:44

and the main thing was keeping her awake. I remember her

0:45:440:45:48

holding my hand. She held onto my finger until she went.

0:45:480:45:52

I just remember that.

0:45:520:45:53

A helicopter was on its way from Camp Bastion.

0:45:560:45:59

Then, the ANP managed to find the little girl's father.

0:45:590:46:03

He wants to see the child.

0:46:030:46:05

AFGHAN SOLDIER SPEAKS IN HIS LANGUAGE

0:46:070:46:09

SPEECH INDECIPHERABLE

0:46:090:46:13

'I really did feel for him. I think he started crying'

0:46:220:46:26

and he was confused.

0:46:260:46:29

All he wanted to do, from what I gathered, was take her away

0:46:310:46:35

from all this...

0:46:350:46:36

and let her die peacefully.

0:46:360:46:39

'We just let him know that we were trying to do everything we can

0:46:410:46:44

'and that she's alive and that we'll get her back.'

0:46:440:46:47

It seemed to take ages for the helicopter to arrive.

0:47:000:47:03

I thought it was over half an hour.

0:47:030:47:05

HELICOPTER BLADES WHIRR

0:47:050:47:07

'Obviously it was 15-20 minutes.'

0:47:070:47:09

Come on!

0:47:310:47:33

American medics carried on treating the girl on the helicopter.

0:47:510:47:56

'We did the best that we could do. And we just hoped for the best.

0:47:580:48:02

'Hope that she got the treatment she needed and that she would be OK.'

0:48:020:48:05

'I didn't expect anything as bad as that with a child.'

0:48:100:48:16

That was the first time.

0:48:160:48:17

My first casualty on tour, especially my first child casualty as well.

0:48:170:48:22

The little girl survived.

0:48:290:48:31

But it was a major mistake for the ANP.

0:48:310:48:35

When we explained about the collateral damage

0:48:350:48:37

they've caused, and if they kept doing this that the local people

0:48:370:48:42

are going to be on the Taliban's side and not the ANP's side,

0:48:420:48:45

it finally hit home that they need to start doing something about it.

0:48:450:48:49

They started to become more organised,

0:48:490:48:53

and the Scots Guards saw some signs of improvement.

0:48:530:48:58

'You'd see small changes. At least they were changes.'

0:48:580:49:03

It kind of sunk into them a bit.

0:49:030:49:05

Now and again they would just go crazy,

0:49:050:49:07

but you would see that they were using

0:49:070:49:10

the skills that we were advising them to use.

0:49:100:49:13

They were incredibly brave,

0:49:130:49:15

maybe to a fault.

0:49:150:49:17

They don't have body armour like we do, their weapons aren't as good

0:49:170:49:22

as ours, their vehicles certainly are not as well protected as ours.

0:49:220:49:26

And they live with the fact they take very heavy casualties on a day-to-day basis.

0:49:260:49:30

But just as the ANP were making progress,

0:49:420:49:46

there was a terrible reminder of the dangers they lived with.

0:49:460:49:50

With just over a month to go before the Scots Guards packed up to return home,

0:49:520:49:58

gunshots were heard at one of the ANP bases on Route 601.

0:49:580:50:02

Daniel Clarke was sent to take a look.

0:50:050:50:08

'We got told that there was no comms,'

0:50:090:50:11

I think, from that checkpoint,

0:50:110:50:15

so we went down to investigate

0:50:150:50:19

with some ANP.

0:50:190:50:22

When we got there, there was six dead on the roof of the checkpoint.

0:50:300:50:35

What we thought happened was that one of the policemen was crooked,

0:50:490:50:54

he then let some insurgents in,

0:50:540:50:55

who then did the deed, shot everything up,

0:50:550:50:58

killed the guys and stole the car to get away.

0:50:580:51:01

I suppose I felt one of two things. The first is I felt, "Thank God.

0:51:070:51:11

"Something could have happened to my guys."

0:51:110:51:14

Then I thought, "Had my guys been there, WOULD that have happened?"

0:51:140:51:17

Just as the Scots Guards started to trust the ANP,

0:51:190:51:23

the massacre raised more questions.

0:51:230:51:27

At the end of the day, you can't really ever trust anyone totally

0:51:270:51:30

because you don't know what their history or their background is.

0:51:300:51:34

You don't know exactly where their allegiance is.

0:51:340:51:36

They're people at the end of the day

0:51:360:51:38

and they're trying to make their country better.

0:51:380:51:41

And because one guy's messed up, they've all paid the price for it.

0:51:410:51:45

There he is, our cameraman.

0:51:500:51:54

Bye-bye! Look at him, he's getting all emotional.

0:51:540:51:57

Look at him.

0:51:570:52:00

As this day comes to a close, as that zoom comes right to my face...

0:52:000:52:04

we have to reflect on what we've really achieved today...

0:52:040:52:07

B Company, the 1st Battalion Scots Guards

0:52:090:52:12

finally went home after almost seven months in Helmand.

0:52:120:52:16

Another regiment would continue their work with the ANP and the people.

0:52:200:52:26

The people are Afghanistan,

0:52:260:52:28

so if you've made a difference to people's families, lives, happiness,

0:52:280:52:32

in my own mind you've made a difference to Afghanistan.

0:52:320:52:35

I think when we do end up leaving it, I think we'll leave it

0:52:390:52:43

in a better place - hopefully, anyway - than we took it over.

0:52:430:52:46

Good evening.

0:52:580:53:01

Tonight I can report to the American people and to the world

0:53:010:53:05

that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda.

0:53:050:53:11

In May this year, the West finally killed the man whose attack

0:53:120:53:16

on the Twin Towers triggered the invasion of Afghanistan.

0:53:160:53:20

He'd been hiding in Pakistan.

0:53:200:53:24

The war that began as a hunt for Bin Laden

0:53:260:53:28

has now claimed an estimated 15,000 lives.

0:53:280:53:32

To date, 374 of them were British service personnel.

0:53:320:53:38

It has now lasted ten years

0:53:400:53:43

and questions are being asked about whether the war can be won

0:53:430:53:46

and if it has made the world a safer or more dangerous place.

0:53:460:53:50

This series has told the stories of just a few of the soldiers

0:53:550:54:00

who've fought and filmed in Afghanistan in that time.

0:54:000:54:03

I know it might sound weird, but I do miss it sometimes. I do miss it out there.

0:54:050:54:10

Cos seeing some of the footage,

0:54:100:54:12

I was probably at my happiest in the army.

0:54:120:54:15

In Afghan.

0:54:150:54:18

It's very difficult to say to somebody

0:54:180:54:20

who's not been in a similar situation that you enjoyed combat.

0:54:200:54:23

Because it's a drug.

0:54:230:54:25

You get addicted to it,

0:54:250:54:29

and you come back and think, "How can I get in that situation again?"

0:54:290:54:32

Man down! Man down! Man down!

0:54:370:54:39

Where?

0:54:390:54:41

Where, where, where, where, where?

0:54:410:54:43

There's things that I just...

0:54:490:54:52

want to forget about...

0:54:520:54:56

all the bad things that you wish that you can bring back, but you can't.

0:54:560:55:01

Get him on that stretcher properly.

0:55:010:55:04

You do go out to Afghanistan, the romanticism of being at war,

0:55:100:55:14

of doing what you've seen and read about.

0:55:140:55:17

But then, you know, it's a reality check and you do realise

0:55:170:55:22

what we're doing here does have its consequences, things do happen.

0:55:220:55:26

Everyone seems to think "My platoon will stop

0:55:280:55:31

"what's happening in Helmand. My platoon will smash them up.

0:55:310:55:34

"We'll add something to it." But you're not.

0:55:340:55:36

You're just a small little pinprick.

0:55:360:55:38

Or a small prick, whatever way you want to do it.

0:55:380:55:41

We didn't do as much as we wanted to do there.

0:55:430:55:46

I think that's a slight frustration.

0:55:460:55:47

I think we all had images in our minds that we'd be cutting ribbons

0:55:470:55:50

for schools and opening mosques and things like that for the people.

0:55:500:55:54

Was it worth it? Yes.

0:55:580:56:01

Is it worth the human life?

0:56:010:56:06

That will have to wait to see what happens in 25 years.

0:56:060:56:11

Because it's all still too raw right now to answer that question.

0:56:110:56:15

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:56:520:56:55

E-mail [email protected]

0:56:550:56:58

The final part starts in 2009 and tells the story of 2nd Battalion Princess of Wales regiment as it comes to terms with new rules of fighting brought in to protect civilians. Private Mike McCabe is filmed being shot in the leg during a Taliban ambush.

By 2010, the Scots Guards find themselves fighting a very different war - a battle for hearts and minds. They struggle to train a local force, the Afghan National Police, who fight in a reckless and dangerous way.

The risks are hammered home when Guardsman Daniel Clarke films a three-year-old girl who has been seriously injured by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by the ANP. The Scots Guards tour ends in tragedy when six members of the ANP are massacred in their sleep.


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