Tuesday, July 7, 2009
As elections in Afghanistan approach, thousands of British, American and Afghan soldiers are conducting a joint operation to clear the Taliban from an area north of Lashkar Gah and extend security to the area.
As well as American soldiers from the US-led Task Force Leatherneck, who have recently arrived in Helmand province, there are 3,000 soldiers from Task Force Helmand involved in Operation PANCHAI PALANG, or Panther's Claw.
In the latest phase of the operation, hundreds of soldiers from the Welsh Guards Battle Group, Light Dragoons Battle Group and 3 SCOTS (The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland) Battle Group have seized key canal crossing points and other areas.
Sadly, three British soldiers have lost their lives in the operation this weekend and, in an earlier phase last week, the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, and Trooper Joshua Hammond of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment were also killed.
The main aims of the operations are to extend security throughout the areas so as to allow the local population to enjoy a normal life and take part in the forthcoming elections free from intimidation and violence.
The UK operation, with Danish, Estonian and US forces integral to the Task Force working alongside many other nations in support, is taking place in a heavily-populated area between Gereshk, the economic hub of Helmand, and Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital.
By improving security and allowing freedom of movement the operation will also allow reconstruction and development to take place straight after military operations are complete.