Monday, June 22, 2009

UK troops clear Taliban stronghold - PA

British troops in Afghanistan have carried out one of the biggest air operations of modern times, the Ministry of Defence has said.

Operation Panther's Claw secured a number of canal and river crossings to establish a permanent International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) presence in what was previously a Taliban stronghold.

The assault was carried out by Scots soldiers on one of the last Taliban strongholds in Helmand Province in the run-up to presidential elections.

Twelve Chinook helicopters, supported by 13 other aircraft including Apache and Black Hawk helicopter gunships and Harrier jets, dropped more than 350 troops from the Black Watch into Babaji, north of Lashkar Gah, when the operation began just before midnight on Friday.

The troops were followed by Royal Engineers and explosive teams who spent the last two days building checkpoints - soon to be permanently occupied by the Afghan National Police - on the main routes in and out of the area to hinder movement by insurgents.

The insurgents launched a number of attacks against the Black Watch but each was fought off and the Scottish troops have secured three main crossing points: the Lui Mandey Wadi crossing, the Nahr-e-Burgha canal and the Shamalan canal.

They also found 1.3 tonnes of poppy seed and a number of improvised explosive devices and mines before they could be laid.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Richardson, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said the find demonstrated the link between the insurgency and opium production "which brings so much misery to the streets of the UK".

He said: "This operation has been achieved in many ways due to the arrival of extra US troops into the south of Helmand, which has provided ISAF with a massive increase in capability which we believe will significantly change the balance in the province."

The operation is the latest in a series over the last few months where UK and ISAF forces have taken and held ground in Helmand.

1 comment:

  1. Special reports will be produced next week from Helmand where our Afghanistan correspondent will be the first British journalist - without the military - in Lashka Gah since one year... Interested? Here are a few stories he can report on:

    1. First commercial flights in 30 years into Helmand, onboard an Antonov-24 from Kabul to Lashkar Gah. The president of Ariana Airlines insist it's only a matter of times before he opens the route to Heathrow.

    2. Town at the tip of the spear: Exclusive report from the heart of Helmand. What do ordinary people think about the British, the Taliban, and their anxieties about the American military surge. We should speak to families displaced by fighting and people who've had relatives killed in the fighting,

    3. History repeating itself. Afghans are quick to remind the British of their three bloody defeats under the Raj, but bizarrely, in Lashkar Gah, they have fond memories of the Americans. The town was largely built on US aid dollars in the 1950s as Moscow and Washington competed for influence. It used to be called Little America. There are rows of 1950s houses built for American development staff. Today that aid infrastructure is used to irrigate the poppy fields. It remains to be seen if American dollars can wean these people off poppies and the Taliban.

    ALSO hoping to get:

    1. Governor Mangal (who insists Helmand's not as bad as we think).
    2. The chief of the police.
    3, Taliban prisoners in jail
    4. Women prisoners in jail
    5. Afghan district chiefs cowering in Lash because they are scared to go into the field.
    6.People outside the courthouse, bemoaning state justice, and praising the rule of the Talibs.
    7.Bazaar gossip. Conspiracy theories are rife in Helmand. Many seemingly sane people think the Brits are supporting the Taliban.

    Want more? Please leave your comments and give us your ideas on

    [Global for me wants to empower its users to instigate professional journalistic coverage of stories, issues and current affairs that are not already available through conventional news sources or which, in your view, require more detailed attention.]