The man who cares for goats

The Army has an unlikely secret weapon in the fight against the Taliban – a vet

It may not feature very highly in Nato's counter-insurgency manual but British forces have discovered that one way to triumph in the most vital battle of the Afghan war, winning over the hearts and minds of the local population, is through their goats and sheep.

Capt Miles Malone, an Army vet, has been flown to an area recently retaken from the Taliban to offer treatment on the herds of the farmers. His work will take place alongside other, larger-scale initiatives such as the building of hospitals and roads.

Such has been the benefit of Capt Malone's presence in Helmand that the post will now become a permanent one, with a replacement arriving when the officer leaves at the end of the tour. The numbers of vets in the battlefield may even be increased in the future.

Perhaps inevitably, the vet is being described as "the Herriot of Helmand" by colleagues at the Ministry of Defence eager to promote this positive development among the often bleak dispatches from Afghanistan.

The allusion to the fictional British television character has left many Afghans somewhat puzzled, but there seems to be unanimity among the farmers that Capt Miles is good news and they would be sorry to see him go.

In the seven months he had been based at the main British headquarters in the province, Camp Bastion, Capt Malone has looked after more than 8,000 animals and opened a series of rural veterinary clinics for communities in surrounding areas.

Being flown in by RAF Chinook to Nad-e-Ali, next to Marjah, and picking his way through paths strewn with IEDs (improvised explosive devices) has added another dimension to his work, although one of his tasks at Camp Bastion, he points out, had been to look after the sniffer dogs used by bomb disposal teams.

Capt Malone, 28, from Mount Bures near Sudbury, in Suffolk, said: "These animals are basically the bank accounts of the farmers. Some of these goats are worth $70 each. A lot of people round here are surviving on about a dollar a day, so economically they are extremely important.

"There is very little understanding among the local farmers of veterinary care or basic animal husbandry. So I split my time when I run clinics between treating the flocks and educating the farmers."

The education can be a painstaking process. "There is near-total ignorance about causes and spread of disease, breeding cycles and how milk is produced," he said. "If a goat stops milking, it is said to be 'Allah's will' rather than the fact that it has not bred for 18 months and therefore has no anatomical reason to produce milk."

Speaking at Patrol Base Shaheed which was set up by soldiers of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh, Capt Miles continued: "Having the opportunity for a vet to come down and deliver medication, treatment and also advice to the local farmers has been a real win. In part because it displays our intent to stay here and that our actions are in support of the community. The Taliban just cannot compete."

The Taliban have, in the past, attempted to halt vaccination programmes for villagers by telling people that they were being infected as part of a Western plot. They have not, however, tried the same tactic when it comes to animals.

Mohammed Sharqi, at the agriculture ministry in Kabul, said: "The farmers in Helmand are like farmers in most places, they are shrewd people and they know what is getting them financial benefits. They are not going to let the Talibs interfere with that. This programme should be expanded."

The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad is running a project in Helmand training Afghan nationals to become veterinary technicians.

Suggested Topics
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Analyst / Marketing Database Analyst

£24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Analyst – 2 year fixed term contract – Kent – Circa £55k

£45000 - £55000 Per Annum 31 days holiday, pension, healthcare, annual bonus: ...

**SEN Primary Teacher Serf Unit **

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experie...

Experienced Foundation Teacher

£100 - £222 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting f...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week