Saturday, February 13, 2010

Helicopter armada heralds Afghan surge

Thomas Harding, The Telegraph

An armada of helicopters lifted a vast force against Taliban strongholds today in the biggest operation ever mounted in Afghanistan.

Wave after wave of helicopters landed across central Helmand marking the start of the major offensive that aims to finally defeat the insurgency.

Two hours before dawn the first Chinooks swept low over the Taliban district capital of Showal disgorging a force of British, Afghan and French troops signalling “D-Day”, the start of Operation Moshtarak. The aircraft swept into landing zone Pegasus at 4am local time with three Chinooks packed with British, Afghan and French soldiers. The Daily Telegraph accompanied the ‘break-in’ force becoming the first journalists onto the ground.

The landings marked the start of the offensive involving 15,000 American, British and Afghan troops in the Marjah and Nad-e-Ali areas.

Hours before midnight the Afghan leader President Hamid Karzai gave his personal approval for the operation to go ahead. It had been delayed for 24 hours as Afghan officials entered last minute negotiations to broker a deal with power-brokers in the area to get the Taliban to lay down their arms.

Brigadier James Cowan, the commander of 11 Light Brigade, in an eve of battle speech told his men they were embarking on an operation that “will clear the Taliban from its safe havens in central Helmand”. “Where we go, we will stay. Where we stay, we will build,” he told to the troops in Camp Bastion.

“The next few days will not be without danger.

“Hold your fire if there is risk to the innocent, even if this puts you in greater danger.

“For those who will not shake our hand they will find it closed into a fist. They will be defeated.

“I wish you Godspeed and the best of luck.”

Landing in the cold, dark night into a ploughed field the soldiers of the 1st Bn The Royal Welsh slogged their way through clinging mud to assault the compounds.

The men picked their way cautiously across the ground constantly checking for the ever-present threat of hidden bombs.

Accompanied by Afghan commandos they seized several compounds.

A few minutes after the initial wave other troops from A Company flew into landing zone Varsity to surround another village.

The airborne attack marked the biggest air assault since the first Gulf War in 1991.

Hours before the landings a special forces raid targeted Taliban redoubts that overlooked helicopter landing sites.

The fleet of helicopters included 11 Chinooks, four American Blackhawks, eight Apache attack helicopters, three Merlin and four Griffin helicopter gunships.

In a pre-operational briefing troops were told that if one aircraft went down it would not mean “mission abort” but that they should be prepared to “quickly rejig” the planning.

British, American and Afghan ground forces also crossed over the Taliban front line pushing the enemy back from areas that they have held for years.

The operation dwarfs the Panther’s Claw assault in the Babaji area last summer in which 10 British soldiers were killed.

Other troops from the Royal Welsh were landed across the area a third the size of the Isle of Wight, some by Canadian Chinooks guarded by Griffin helicopter gunships.

Within two hours the entire assault force was set down across six different landing zones in the northern Nad-e-Ali area referred to as the Cat Triangle that contains a population of 40,000.

To read the full article click here


  1. thanks for this go for it lads and ladys hit them so hard there eyes water! YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN BE SAFE AND SOUND I WILL BE THINKING OF YOU ALL

  2. Thinking of all of you always. All come back safe and sound. It's a necessary horror you have to endure on our behalf. We thank you muchly for it.
    Much love and huggles.
    Sarah x

  3. “Hold your fire if there is risk to the innocent, even if this puts you in greater danger."
    Don't listen to a word of this.
    Shoot first ask questions later.
    That split second delay could mean the difference between living & dying and every British soldier is worth a million Afghans.