According to Berndt Grundevik, the security situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating in general since 2005, primarily in the southern and eastern regions of the country. The situation is calmer in the northern region where Sweden is active, but it has also worsened there in recent years.
“On the whole, things have been calm in the Swedish area in 2008. Fewer improvised explosive devices and roadside bombs were detonated and fewer IEDs were recovered in comparison with 2006 and 2007,” adds Berndt Grundevik.
The Swedish unit in Afghanistan has not previously been exposed to this type of attack.
“The unit has been mentally prepared for attacks of this kind since incidents in the neighbouring provinces have increased over the past six months. We have specifically trained for this course of events.”
The unit continues to work closely with the Afghan police and military in the wake of these incidents and will increase its presence in the area in order to improve security. Its primary task is to contribute to the stabilisation of the security situation.
For soldiers involved in the attacks, it is common procedure to participate in group discussions and follow up on such events.
Efforts are continuously underway to improve the capability for handling unexpected events. According to Berndt Grundevik, one possible way could be to generally improve intelligence by, for example, introducing unmanned aircraft that can fly at night. For medical services, the decision has already been made to reinforce the unit with two APC ambulances.
“The Swedish unit in Afghanistan is carrying out its assignments in an exemplary manner and our training and equipment has been proven to work well,” says Berndt Grundevik.
The following is a fairly detailed account of the latest incidents, during which Swedish ISAF personnel were involved in warfare in their area of responsibility in northern Afghanistan:
Incident 31 October
Three vehicles, of which one was a medical transport APC, were exposed to an IED attack, i.e. a homemade roadside bomb. The incident occurred on the main road in the Jowzjan province, southwest of the city of Aqchah in the Swedish area of responsibility in northern Afghanistan. At 10:45 am Afghan time, around 7:15 am Swedish time, the patrol was on its way to pick up a team of doctors who had been working in the Swedish area. A charge exploded at the edge of the road in front of the third vehicle (a Toyota Land Cruiser with extra protection). No soldiers were injured and no vehicles were damaged.
Incident 7 November
At 12:20 am Afghan time, around 9:00 pm Swedish time, a patrol was fired on south of the city of Aqchah. The patrol was assigned the task of cooperating with various outposts of the Afghan National Army, ANA, and the Afghan National Police, ANP, to enhance security for voting registration in the area. Four vehicles (Toyota Land Cruisers with extra protection) that had visited a police outpost sustained fire. The group returned fire and retreated to Sheberghan, approximately 50 kilometres from the area where the incident occurred. The fire was judged to be of small calibre and accounts estimate that two explosions were heard in the direction from which the fire was coming.
No soldiers were injured. Two vehicles sustained minor bodywork damage after having backed into one another. There was one bullet hole in the roof rack of one of the vehicles. Five soldiers will have their hearing tested after having returned fire without wearing hearing protection.
Incident 8 November
At 12:24 am Afghan time, around 9:00 pm Swedish time, a patrol was fired on south of the city of Aqchah, several kilometres from the location of the previous night’s incident. The patrol was assigned the task of cooperating with various ANA and ANP outposts to show its presence, support security and prepare the transport of medicine to a medical facility in Aqchah. Four ISAF vehicle (two Toyota Land Cruisers with extra protection and two APCs) were part of a column that sustained fire. The group returned fire with both automatic rifles and machine guns and retreated from the area. The fire was judged to be of small calibre.
No soldiers were injured.
One of the vehicles had a mark from small arms fire in the armour on the roof.