Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Afghanistan: Operation Achilles Continues

British-led forces supported by Canadian, American and other coalition troops launched an offensive early Tuesday to drive the Taliban out of Helmand province. Canada's 42-tonne Leopard C2 tanks have been deployed for action.

Operation Achilles will eventually involve 4,500 NATO and 1,000 Afghan soldiers – one of the largest multinational forces fielded in a single operation in Afghanistan, says NATO's International Security Assistance Force.
Maj.-Gen. Ton van Loon, commander of the alliance's regional command south, said troops will sweep northern Helmand of Taliban extremists, foreign terrorists and warlords involved in the opium poppy trade...

A force of more than 200 soldiers from the Royal Canadian Regiment battle group is supporting the offensive by setting up a blocking position in the Maywand district just inside the northwestern border of Kandahar province. Kandahar province, where Canada's 2,500 troops operate, is adjacent to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. The Gagetown, N.B.-based soldiers are tasked with preventing Taliban militants from retreating through the region, said Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant, the senior Canadian commander. They are also to disrupt bands of local insurgents, including drug lords who control the opium trade...

When asked what would be the most important part of Operation Achilles, a corporal said "keeping your eyes on the ground" – an apparent reference to landmines and irmprovised explosive devices...
Source: Toronto Star.

Photo above: Kabul, Afghanistan, 1978, Nikon 35mm, LP11.07.20, ©Luke Powell, 2002.

Two of the main objectives of Operation Achilles will be to secure as large an area as possible surrounding the Kajaki dam (photo left) and its compounds in Kajaki district. The refurbishing of this dam is vital to reconstruction efforts and to the needs of thousands of Helmand residents. This work as been temporarily stalled due to increased instability and the major threat posed by Taliban military maneuvers focusing on the dam.

The Brits have fought for the last three months in all the areas surrounding the dam, gaining a foothold in the surrounding villages but are still within reach of taliban rocket attacks. The surge in troops will help bring those outer areas under control and will instill enough security at the dam for the work to continue.

From the above Toronto Star article: "The 54-year-old dam controls the headwaters of the Helmand River, part of a watershed that contains almost 40 per cent of Afghanistan's water supply. With only one of its two turbines in operation, the 100-metre- high concrete dam provides only sporadic electricity to some communities. "

+ Taliban claim taking third Helmand district (Nawzad) : Helmand province had been rocked by recent waves of Taliban attacks and counterattacks from patrolling British forces. Two British soldiers were killed Saturday in Sangin, the beginning of three days worth of clashes, by a Taliban rocket. Known Taliban commander Qari Hazarat is said to be responsible for the attack.

A soldier provides security during a training scenario in the Indoor Urban Operations Training Centre.

Soldiers of 32 Canadian Brigade Group can now conduct training in a simulated town, modelled after urban terrain in Afghanistan, at the new Indoor Urban Operations Training Centre, near Downsview Park.

+ The main Taliban website that posts battlefield updates and other related issues has been shut down. The www.alemarah.org, or 'Voice if Jihad' website, used "to disseminate propaganda and claim responsibility for attacks on foreign and Afghan government forces" has gone off the web today which may have been coordinated between NATO commanders and Pakistani officials. The website is thought to have been run out of southwestern Pakistan.

+ U.S. Air Force summary, March 6 - C-130s support Afghan operations: 52 close-air-support missions were flown in support of Afghan and International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, troops, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

Canadian soldiers from the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) are seen aboard a Leopard C2 tank.

"Tanks have psychological impact. They can reach out and touch somebody from a long ways away" -- General Richard J. Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Forces.

+ Air Force heroes: 20 fallen Airmen honored in Afghanistan

+ Operation Achilles: Leaflet airdrop delivers message to Taliban - 3/6/2007

Photo below: No, those are not masked terrorists.

Gunners from 7 Toronto Regiment RCA take a break between fire missions. The balaclavas are a tell tale sign that it is cold out in Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Meaford.

For some this was the first time staying overnight in a tent in the bitter cold. Welcome to Camp Meaford. Battle Group Alpha from 32CBG (Canadian Brigade Group), consisting of the 48th Highlanders of Canada, Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 7 Toronto Regiment RCA and 32 Field Engineer Regiment conducted basic winter warfare, weapons and engineering training.
50 Cal. HMG familiarization, detonating Claymore mines, artillery fire missions, blowing up doors was a big bang for a lot of the new and veteran soldiers. For night activities, troops practiced putting up tents in low light conditions and concluded by firing the C-6 GPMG with the C-2 sustained fire kit while the range was being illuminated by 7 Toronto Regiment RCA.
Source: Canadian Armed Forces.


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