Monday, July 20, 2009
Following a Chinook and Apache helicopter assault on the Babiji region of Helmand Province, troops from The Black Watch 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS) and the Light Dragoons have linked up to continue flushing insurgents out of the area.
This latest assault which is part of Operation PANCHAI PALANG, or Panther's Claw, was part of a strategic push to flush the insurgents out of towns and villages in order to secure them for Afghanistan's Presidential and Provincial elections taking place next month.
The air assault, launched under the cover of darkness and involving four Chinooks and two Apache helicopters, also resulted in the discovery of a large narcotics laboratory in which the soldiers found 750kg of a precursor base chemical required to create heroin and 5kg of a morphine derivative substance.
After securing the site north of Lashkar Gah, and handing it over to Afghan-led counter narcotics police the 140 soldiers from 3 SCOTS continued their advance to clear the land ahead and push north to meet with the Light Dragoon's Battlegroup, who had been working their way down from the Nahr e Burgha canal for the previous two weeks.
Operation PANCHAI PALANG began in June 2009 with the Welsh Guards Battlegroup securing several crossing points along the Shamalan canal and 3 SCOTS doing the same along the Nahr e Burgha.
In doing so they created a 'gated community' allowing freedom of movement for local people but making the movement of insurgents difficult and crucially cutting off their supply routes.
The Light Dragoons Battlegroup moved across the region both on foot and in armoured vehicles, and encountered heavy and prolonged fighting from compounds along the way held by insurgents.
The fighting paid off however, and on the 15 July the 3 SCOTS Battlegroup and The Light Dragoons met up, linking the two areas they have cleared and consolidating their control of a large area of previously Taliban-dominated ground.
The troops met with locals who welcomed the British and Afghan troops. On several occasions they told of how the insurgents had stolen all of their food. One 16-year-old boy spoke of being tortured by the Taliban after they caught him making a telephone call to his family in Lashkar Gah and accused him of spying for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).