Helicopter armada heralds Afghan surge
An armada of helicopters lifted a vast force against Taliban strongholds today in the biggest operation ever mounted in Afghanistan.
By Thomas Harding in Showal
Published: 1:31AM GMT 13 Feb 2010
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.
It is estimated the enemy strength, which at its highest point reach 300 fighters, may have shrunk to less than 100 with a number melting away from the area before the attack began.
The northern Nad-a-Ali sector, which is being secured by the Royal Welsh battle group, has been under the thrall of the Taliban for several years with the local population suffering intimidation and violence. Schools have been closed and the infrastructure has suffered in the district where the insurgents have set up a shadow government.
But more importantly the area is vital to the Taliban’s income as poppies are widely grown for opium and heroin use.
While corruption is rife in the Afghan government it is hoped that local farmers will be persuaded to grow alternative crops denying the insurgents of the poppy income that sustains their operations.
The central Helmand area is seen as key in winning the counter-insurgency battle in the province as it contains three-quarters of the population and much of the agricultural land.
For weeks the local population has been warned of the impending attack by radio broadcasts and leafleting campaign and have been told to remain in their homes during combat operations.
In Showal A Company plan to push their way up through the town street by street until they seize the bazaar area where Taliban forces are entrenched.
A key iconic moment will come when the joint British and Afghan force removes the white Taliban flag that has been flying from a crane overlooking the town for several years.
“We are expecting the Taliban to say to themselves that we are going to get malleted here and will decide to live another day,” said Major Shon Hackney, A Company’s commander, before the operation launched. “We want to go in without firing a shot if we can but we are also prepared for hard fighting.”
The task force is supported by artillery firepower from all points of the compass. From Camp Bastion, 15 miles away to the north, highly accurate 250lb missiles from the Guided Multi Launch Rocket System are on hand alongside Paladin 155mm American heavy guns at another base.
To the south the 105mm light guns of the 1 Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery are poised to fire and from all directions there are 81mm mortars at various patrol bases on hand.
An armada of bombers overhead include RAF Tornado GR4s, American A10 Warthog and Dutch F16s. In addition armed Predator drones and other unmanned vehicles patrol the skies.
In the coming days the force will carry out “super hot stabilisation” in which they will identify reconstruction projects such as refurbishing mosques or repairing roads to win the support of the locals.
For the first time Helmand will have enough troops – what commanders call “force density” – to contain the insurgency, with an average of one soldier per 25 head of population.
The operation has the full support of President Hamid Karzai who has been personally briefed by the British general in overall command of the operation, Major General Nick Carter.
Lt Col Nick Lock, commanding officer of the Royal Welsh battle group, said: “We are making a big leap forward here.
“Critical to this has been getting everyone on the ground safely as it is clearly a dangerous part of the world.
“My gut feeling is that the Taliban will not put up a fight but if they do then we have enough resources to remove them by force.”
After the area has been secured materials to build a number of patrol bases and checkpoints will be brought in to allow the British and Afghan police and army to tighten their grip on the area as it is expected the Taliban will counter-attack with a guerrilla campaign.
Moshtarak means “together” in Dari and for the first time ISAF troops will be working shoulder-to-shoulder with equal numbers of Afghan security forces.
If the operation is a success it will endorse the new counter-insurgency approach of Gen Stanley McChrystal who has insisted on Afghans taking a lead role and for the Kabul government to endorse the operation.
“The way to defeat the Taliban is to show the people that they are better off being with the government of Afghanistan than they are with what the Taliban have to offer,” Major Gen Carter said.
Strange war this one.ReplyDelete
It is estimated the enemy strength, which at its highest point reach 300 fighters, may have shrunk to less than 100 with a number melting away from the area before the attack began. They have been melting away because NATO has been telegraphing every move.
This is a police action on mega-steroids.
This is one of my favorite parts:
"In the coming days the force will carry out “super hot stabilisation” in which they will identify reconstruction projects such as refurbishing mosques or repairing roads to win the support of the locals.
...the major offensive that aims to finally defeat the insurgency.ReplyDelete
...it is hoped that local farmers will be persuaded to grow alternative crops denying the insurgents of the poppy income that sustains their operations.ReplyDelete
And I hope that I will hit the $100 million Powerball lottery.
I wonder what the scrap value will be of the shell casings left over from this operation.
Should we have an estimate on how many rounds will be fired?
This just in:ReplyDelete
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – A Taliban spokesman says the Afghan insurgents are still in control of the southern town of Marjah amid ongoing fighting with NATO and Afghan forces.
Spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told The Associated Press by phone Saturday that Taliban fighters are holding their ground in the town, a longtime Taliban stronghold and drug-processing area.
Ahmadi said Afghan government claims of 20 dead Taliban fighters were exaggerated. He said two Taliban fighters have been killed and two wounded. He declined to say how many fighters the Taliban have in the area.
NATO has claimed early success in the new offensive on Marjah, described as the biggest joint military operation since the 2001 invasion to oust the Taliban's hard-line government.
That's embarrassing. We've gotta get our guys the hell out of there.ReplyDelete
We're just wasting money, and making fools out of ourselves.
We've done that in Iraq, rufus, and called it success.ReplyDelete
Trouble is, we're still there.
While Afpakistan is really much more important, if one believes we really are engaged in a cultural war, with radical Islamics.
Since that is where they, and the Islamic nuclear capability resides.ReplyDelete
Well, I'm all for going and having tea with them, Rat. I just don't see the need for all the whooping, and hollering.ReplyDelete
Nobody's going to shoot a nuke at us. Our combination of "interceptors," airborne lasers, and stealth airplanes, Plus our Gazillion Nuke counter-strike capability has "put paid" to any ideas like that.
The ISI might send an underwear bomber over, but disturbing the peace down there in whereverthehellitis isn't going to stop any knickerbombers.
We're going to, sooner rather than later, declare victory and come home, anyway; we might as well do it now. Tell the folks that our drones will continue to "hunt" for Osama, and we'll surely kill him, eventually, and it'll be better for the "pristine" Afpaki rocks if we come home, and quit walking on them so much.
We could have a nice parade, and maybe some ice cream.
I've been saying that, for years now, rufus.ReplyDelete
It has not swayed many folks opinion. Especially those in positions of decision.
Bustin' our balls, for nothin', because there is no "War with Islam".
Or those Paki nukes, they'd be our real concern, if we were.
And, as you say, they are of little concern, to US.
Looks more and more like a "War for Heroin"ReplyDelete
Back to the future, in SW Asia.
It is a "strange war", Deuce, because it not a war, at all.ReplyDelete
It is policing, not warfare, that we are engaged in. Makes a whirled of difference, in doctrine.
We should not have our military engaged in police work. it was a mistake in Iraq, a greater one in Afpakistan.
Ha'aretz - Barak Ravid, Jack Khoury - ReplyDelete
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on Saturday spoke out on the peace process, saying that a deal between Israel and the Palestinians should include a swap comprising both land and populations, ...
Feb. 13 (Bloomberg) --ReplyDelete
The euro slid for a fifth week versus the dollar amid concern European Union efforts to avoid default by Greece will undermine the currency region and a report showed the EU's economic recovery almost stalled.
First, eat your own.ReplyDelete
FOXNews - Jake Gibson
The Tea Party Movement, which has fueled the downward spiral of Gov. Charlie Crist's Senate campaign in Florida, is now targeting Republican Sen. Bob Bennett in Utah.
hey DR, have you started writing for Zambia News Look at the spelling!ReplyDelete
Yep, that is the next phase of the propaganda program, Deuce.ReplyDelete
It so aggravates the Friends of Zionism that the entertainment value is immense.
Even if Uncle Blackbird does not find it so. It is the backbone of his comedic reality programing project prospect.
Brent Scowcroft, China Inc's most valuable Player.ReplyDelete
Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, said he is concerned the new policy will be skewed toward promoting business at the expense of U.S. national security.
"This new policy is a giant push by industry to export technology that was developed by taxpayer dollars for defense purposes," Mr. Milhollin said. "This also appears to include a push to decontrol manufacturing technology for defense items, which if carried out, will send high-tech defense jobs overseas."
He added: "If industry gets its way, and we drop controls on dual-use technology, then [other countries] will do the same. It will be impossible to keep dangerous items out of the hands of the Iranians and the Chinese."
Edward Timperlake, a former Pentagon technology-security specialist, said there is broad agreement that export controls need reform, but warned that the national-security risks are proven by the aggressive efforts foreign spies make to steal or illegally acquire U.S. defense technology. These efforts could be made redundant and U.S. counterintelligence pointless if the goods become freely available.
"The counterintelligence challenge has been to stop military technology from falling into the hands of Chinese intelligence agents," Mr. Timperlake said. "And now it is possible that the effort could be undermined by a new policy that puts the entire program in doubt."
The Scowcroft report, "Beyond 'Fortress America': National Security Controls on Science and Technology in a Globalized World," stated that current export controls "now quietly undermine our national security and our national economic well-being."
The panel recommended eliminating export controls on dual-use goods for items available on the international market, and setting up two units to streamline export licensing and appeals.
We don't need no stinkin Intel!
Keith Olbermann on Scott Brown.ReplyDelete
UPDATES AT END OF POST: Joe Scarborough calls Olbermann out for these disgusting remarks -- now including video!
"In Scott Brown we have an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against woman and against politicians with whom he disagrees."
Such was actually said Monday evening -- on national television!!! -- by a person currently employed by one of America's largest corporations, General Electric.
If the following "special comment" by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann is considered acceptable discourse on a cable news network today, there really is something very wrong in our nation (video embedded below the fold with transcript)
What those troops doing there for the first place?ReplyDelete
Thomas Sowell: The Fallacy of "Fairness"ReplyDelete
...some years ago, for example, there was a big outcry that various mental tests used for college admissions or for employment were biased and "unfair" to many individuals or groups. Fortunately there was one voice of sanity— David Riesman, I believe— who said: "The tests are not unfair. LIFE is unfair and the tests measure the results."
If by "fair" you mean everyone having the same odds for achieving success, then life has never been anywhere close to being fair, anywhere or at any time. If you stop and think about it (however old-fashioned that may seem), it is hard even to conceive of how life could possibly be fair in that sense.
Sat Feb 13, 08:42:00 AM EST
Doug, did you happen to see the previous post by any chance?
Lately I've been more a carpenter than a blogger.
If I had a 30 yr old body, I'd go back to carpentry full time!
Missed "Worst Kiss Ever?"ReplyDelete
Man, watching two pathological narcissists kissing "each other"
(themselves, in their "minds")
Melody is my creation, Bob. There's a gal with the initials MLD, and I filled in the blanks, and you filled in more."
So did Bob fall in love with an imaginary woman?
WOW! The Airborne Laser just Shot Down a Missile.
Accordingly, that line item will be cut from the 2011 Defense Budget Appropriations."
Success must be punished,
CNN Money's most overvalued cities in AmericaReplyDelete
Doug: So did Bob fall in love with an imaginary woman?ReplyDelete
Naturally there's a real person who posts as Melody, but she's very shy. And Bob loves a good mystery.
I created this perverse person named Teresita,and I did it as a bad joke.ReplyDelete
I created her.
A strange, sexually perverse bitch.
She is my creation.
Just for the hell of it.
How about this for a match made in hell, Teresita plus Rat.ReplyDelete
We are heading to Vegas tomorrow, Melody.ReplyDelete
Blogging isn't worth it.
But I'm glad I met you.
I'll forgive you Bob, you're having a bad day is all.ReplyDelete
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
Bob, that was absolutely out of line. I'm sorry but with my, Barbie trailer trash mouth, you'll never see me use that word. You may have had a falling out with her a while ago but, Jesus Christ, how fuck old are we. You can't let one piece of sarcasm put you a state of psychotic behavior. You can't let a harmless comment with the word, MLD, in it put you off the deep end. Because, if it does, whether it's me or something else then maybe you shouldn't be blogging. The thing is, we have all been there and the secret is to learn how to walk away.ReplyDelete
Now my tofu is burning, thanks.
bob, if you make one more post like the one I just deleted, I am going to delete every single post, good or bad, that you make.ReplyDelete
Do you understand?
In other words, you will be effectively banished from the EB.ReplyDelete
I think you might need to see a doctor.ReplyDelete
Tofu was saved. It was yummy.ReplyDelete
I'm glad I didn't see what Bob wrote, and I hope no one enlightens me. That will make it easier for me to get back on an even keel with my old friend when he remembers his innate dignity.ReplyDelete
T, for me to speak up, which this shy little girl rarely does, you know it was inappropriate. I don't dig that...at all.ReplyDelete
O, ok, I'm sorry.ReplyDelete
But, I do like Melody really really well.
So, give me a break.
We do use bad language, out here in the wheat fields, always have.
It's the way I grew up.
We are heading south tomorrow, so it doesn't matter anyway.
And, it is Red and Even.
And I am a religious man too, and know the Bible better than most.
It just pissed me off.
how fuck old are weReplyDelete
too old, I fear
Bob, have a safe trip.ReplyDelete
Thank you, the Lady of My Mind.ReplyDelete
I think you might need to see a doctor.ReplyDelete
Sat Feb 13, 12:55:00 PM EST
I just saw one, the other day. First time in about five years. Blood pressure was 120 over 80.
She said I was fine.
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
Did you tell her about your depression and temper outbursts?ReplyDelete
Did you tell her about your depression and temper outbursts?
We talked about life after death.
She knew all the near-death literature.
I was surprised.
They are teaching them good in med school these days.
I scored on the very mild side on her depression index, but, she said, everybody does too.
As to temper outburts, I'm really a mild mannered guy, sept when it hits home.
Did Rockefeller read the latest Obama polls and decide to jump from a sinking ship?ReplyDelete
"He says 'I'm for clean coal,' and then he says it in his speeches, but he doesn't say it in here," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. "And he doesn't say it in the minds of my own people. And he's beginning to not be believable to me."
Barry was beginning to not be believable to me about two years ago.ReplyDelete
The first time I encountered his sorry ass.
Whit should have specified the particular type of doctor he was referring to.ReplyDelete
I'm a mild mannered guy myself, 'cept when I occasionally plug my wife in the face.ReplyDelete
...she's learned to live with it.
What a great resource!ReplyDelete