Monday, January 18, 2010
Royal Welsh target Taliban in their biggest air assault yet
More than 300 helicopter-borne soldiers have targeted a Taliban stronghold in one of their biggest operations since arriving in Helmand over a month ago.
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, newly arrived in Helmand as part of the Prime Minister’s troop uplift, have been conducting air assault operations in an area known as “The Babaji Pear” because of its distinctive shape on the map.
The “Pear” includes part of western Babaji, the area where fierce fighting took place last summer in Operation Panchai Palang, and north eastern Nad-e Ali district.
Commanders hailed the assault as “extremely successful”, with no soldiers killed or wounded throughout.
The area where the assault took place is an insurgent stronghold and the troops have been building up to this battle group operation with a series of smaller raids aimed at disrupting them.
Codenamed Operation Bambirik, the Welsh soldiers worked alongside the Afghan National Army during the four day mission with the ANA making up quarter of the force.
The British see the Afghans role as vital as they are far better at engaging with the locals who up until now have never seen the new Afghan soldiers in this part of Helmand.
“We have been very impressed by them and there is no lack of courage in the Afghan soldiers. They want to get in and push out the Taliban,” said Lt Col Nick Lock, commanding officer of the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh.
“The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police are a key part of our mission. They are excellent fighters and as we progress through the tour we will partner with more and more of them until we are working alongside a full Kandak, which is the equivalent of a British battalion.
The operation was not with out risk and the troops were engaged in numerous contacts involving small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades. On several occasions insurgents were seen to use children as human shields and locals were herded into the open in an attempt to draw fire.
During numerous shuras few residents criticised the operation but those that did were even handed and placed the responsibility for the fighting with the insurgents.
D Company along with the commanding officer flew into the area at last light, while the Mobility Reconnaissance Force, part of the battalion, together with a platoon of Afghan National Army supported them using a patrol base on the northern edge of “The Pear” as a staging area.
For the Royal Welsh helicopters are the providing them with the ability to get out on the ground. By flying into the heart of Taliban territory the soldiers can avoid the lethal IEDs that surround the patrol bases and disrupt the insurgents where they least expect it.
For the Royal Welsh and the Afghan soldiers that work along side them, there will be no let up in the pace as they continue to take the fight to the Taliban for the rest of their tour.
"The end result will provide lasting security for the local population free from intimidation and violence by the insurgents.
Pictures: Major Paul Smyth