Afghans will be up to the job as we leave Bamiyan, says soldier

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 07:34 20/11/2012
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Lieutenant Conor Yardley, 25, from Oakura

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Improvised explosive devices are never far from the mind of a former Okato College head boy serving in Afghanistan.

Speaking to the Taranaki Daily News from Bamiyan province, Lieutenant Conor Yardley, 25, described his experiences operating in a war zone.

In the past two years seven Kiwi soldiers have died in Bamiyan province with five of those killed by insurgents in August.

When on the roads he always had to be wary of improvised explosive devices.

"It has happened in the area so we have to constantly think about it but obviously if we are vigilant and carry out our drills properly, we will stay safe," he said.

Despite this Lieutenant Yardley said the only real danger he felt exposed to was the elements.

"I haven't really felt in any danger, I guess just slipping on ice," Lieutenant Yardley said.

Bamiyan was one of the safest regions in Afghanistan and the August attacks were further north of where he was located now, he said.

Lieutenant Yardley was on his first deployment to Afghanistan working as a New Zealand Defence Force personal protection officer for the senior military adviser.

"Basically that's a bodyguard for the commanding officer," he said.

That role required him to accompany the commanding officer to all his meetings and escort him in an armoured 4WD.

"So I organise all of our movements, communications, protection, security and all that sort of stuff."

Lieutenant Yardley, on a six- month mission in Afghanistan, arrived in late September.

It snowed for the first time two days ago, with current temperatures reaching minus six degrees Celsius, he said.

Around Christmas it was expected to drop to minus 20C during the day, he said.

"We're planning on it being a white Christmas. We got the first snow yesterday which was quite spectacular."

The Afghan people were hospitable, open and friendly, he said.

"They absolutely love us obviously because of the security that we provide for them and they definitely will be sad to see us go."

The residents of Bamiyan were very anti-Taleban and alerted coalition forces to any suspicious activity, he said.

"We're quite lucky in the fact that the locals don't let the insurgents get away with anything."

After 10 years in Afghanistan, the New Zealand Defence Force was due to leave for good in April, he said.

After that there would be no coalition forces in Bamiyan, only the Afghan National Security Forces and a United Nations presence.

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The ANSF were much better prepared to deal with insurgents than they were before the war, he said.

Lieutenant Yardley, who attended St Joseph's Catholic School in New Plymouth, and was Okato College head boy in 2005, had been in the army since 2006 and worked as a military police officer.

Aside from training exercises his only other international assignment was at the end of 2009 when he was deployed to the Solomon Islands.

Other Taranaki military personnel in Afghanistan included the commanding officer, the head of the European Union police and soldiers in patrols, he said.

There were between 100 and 200 New Zealand Defence Force personnel in Afghanistan but he could not say exactly how many for security reasons.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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