Thursday, February 18, 2010
Sky News has joined British troops in a previously secret mission as they hunted down Taliban fighters who fled their strongholds following Operation Moshtarak.he militants have regrouped and set up a new base after being ousted when US, UK and Afghan troops launched the major offensive last week in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay has been with the Scots Guards in their mission to deny the militants "a place to stay or to kill them".
But he said the mission in southern Nad-e-Ali was "going to be hard" as the Taliban were determined to keep fighting.
After arriving by helicopter during the night, the soldiers set up a temporary camp in a compound and then begun their first patrol during daylight where they were soon fired on.
They engaged with the enemy and were later attacked from three firing points as they made their way back to their base.
A 'javelin' missile, which was used to target one of the Taliban positions, "provided vital cover" for the soldiers.
But Ramsay warned this was "just the start of the mission and it is likely to be hard going".He said the mission is considered "vitally important because the more they (the troops) disrupt the Taliban, the less the Taliban are able to move to the areas where Operation Moshtarak has been a success."
Ramsay said there were three phases for Operation Moshtarak - clearance, hold and build. He said the troops were moving towards the build.
He said in areas that have been cleared of the Taliban, there have been meetings between tribal elders, reconstructing has been happening and there was an attempt to bring about normal life.
He added of the Scots Guards mission: "There are not many soldiers - about 130 or so. They're pretty much on their own, resupplied every now and again so it's going to be quite a tough mission for them.
"But I think they are certainly up for it, they know the terrain, and they know that it is very important for the whole of the Moshtarak operation to be a success."Ramsay said there was still a serious danger from roadside bombs known as IEDs (improvised explosive devices).
He said about 300 metres from the patrol he was on there was a whole field of IEDs protecting three houses the Taliban used as firing points to attack a patrol base and a vehicle checkpoint.
Ramsay went on to say: "The initial phase (of Operation Moshtarak) has been successful and there was not a huge amount of contact with the Taliban. The soldiers squeezed them down to areas like the one I was at."
He added: "It's going to be held up for a while with the threat of these roadside bombs but then if they can sort that out, they can move towards the building phase as soon as possible.
"That is the tipping point - that life gets so much better that the Taliban have lost their foothold in that area forever".