|08-28-2006, 02:08 PM||#1 (permalink)|
AKA: Chief Muppet
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Great Britain
Fight with bite
Report: Cliff Caswell
Pictures: Cpl Rob Knight RLC
ELITE troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade have been tightening the noose on terrorists in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province after storming key areas controlled by the Taliban.
Hundreds of soldiers supported by units of the new Afghan National Army (ANA) have been closing down the insurgents’ ability to launch attacks in a series of operations over recent weeks.
Commanders had a stark message for the enemy, which is reckoned to have suffered huge casualties: “Shift your support to the government of Afghanistan, or you will never be safe”.
In the latest UK-led offensive, codenamed Operation Snakebite, more than 500 British and ANA troops boarded Chinook helicopters and poured into the north of the province.
The aim was to intercept the enemy’s command-and-control network around the village of Musa Qaleh.
Harrier jets and attack helicopters were also pressed into action to provide a hammer blow from the air while soldiers faced heavy fire on the ground as they moved into the area.
The ten-hour offensive was hailed a success, smashing the Taliban’s stranglehold over the area and disrupting their ability to impose their will locally by intimidation and violence.
Sapper in Sangin: A Royal Engineer waits with a mouse-hole explosive charge
But the progress came at a price – Pte Andrew Cutts of 13 Air Assault Support Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, was killed during the mission. He had been part of a team keeping the 3 Para battle-group re-supplied with water and ammunition.
Helmand Task Force spokesman Lt Col David Reynolds paid tribute to the bravery and commitment of Pte Cutts.
“Our immediate concern is for the family of the soldier we lost and our thoughts are with them at this difficult time,” he said.
“However, the priority of the operation was to dominate Musa Qaleh and, by disrupting enemy forces, to return stability to the area. This objective was overwhelmingly achieved.”
Village patrol: Members of 3 Para’s pathfinder platoon ride into battle
Lt Col Reynolds admitted that British and Afghan troops had come under ferocious enemy fire during the action around the village, which is in the Sangin Valley. Conditions had also been extreme, with temperatures approaching 50C.
But the soldiers had resolutely pressed ahead with their objectives, responding with “overwhelming firepower and deliberate action to dislocate and disrupt the enemy”.
The operation also showed that British soldiers were not out-gunned or hemmed in by the enemy, as had been reported in some quarters of the UK media, said Lt Col Reynolds.
He added: “Let’s be clear – it was a demanding operation but morale is, has been, and remains high. The guys on the ground are highly motivated, well trained and well equipped.
“Suggestions that British Forces are being outgunned or facing a Rorke’s Drift scenario are incorrect. The operation was hard and intense but the 3 Para battle-group and the ANA, with supporting attack helicopters and RAF Harriers, had overwhelming firepower.
“Our main aim in Helmand, alongside the ANA, is clearly to mount a programme of reconstruction but in the short term we face attacks from Afghanistan’s enemies, who continue to intimidate and kill innocent civilians,” Lt Col Reynolds added. “So we are forced to mount deliberate operations to diminish their ability.”
The Snakebite offensive was the latest in a series of operations in which British troops have clashed with, and inflicted heavy casualties on, the Taliban in key areas of Helmand.
During an earlier action in the town of Nawzad, hundreds of soldiers from the battle-group, backed up by ANA troops, moved decisively against Taliban fighters after the Task Force garrison in the town came under repeated enemy attack. The terrorist fighters put up little opposition before fleeing their positions in the face of the onslaught.
Hole in the wall: A paratrooper from B Company, 3 Para fires a 40mm grenade during the assault
Operation Oqab Qurbani’s key aim was to clear the way to rotate troops in the base. But commanders also hoped that the action would be a step towards creating the conditions for the local Afghan police and troops to assume responsibility for the town’s security.
Army spokesman Lt Col Kevin Stratford Wright said: “Offensive operations must continue across Helmand Province for as long as the Taliban retain the capability and will to launch attacks.
“It is very important that the Taliban realise that they will never be safe until they give up the fight and shift their support to the legitimate government of Afghanistan.”
UK Soldier Magazine
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