Saturday, February 13, 2010

Deployed A-10Cs involved in major Afghanistan offensive

By Joachim Jacob

A-10Cs, currently combat-deployed to the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, are involved in a major Afghanistan offensive, called Operation Moshtarak.

Please check the following sources:

Nato-led troops launch major offensive in Afghanistan

By Lewis Smith
The Independent
Saturday, 13 February 2010

A major offensive was underway last night in Afghanistan as Nato forces launched a series of attacks designed to drive out the Taliban.

Helicopter-borne US Marines and Afghan troops led the first assault on the town of Marjah, in Helmand province, where they were expected to face up to 2,000 insurgents, including an estimated 100 or more foreign fighters.

The Royal Welsh and the Grenadier Guards spearheaded British elements of the offensive which were concentrated on Nad Ali, Chah e Anjir and Babaji in the Taliban's southern Afghan heartlands.

On the eve of battle Lieutenant Colonel Matt Bazeley, the Commanding Officer of 28 Engineer Regiment, told 200 of the troops under his command: "We are going into the heart of darkness. It is bloody dangerous out there. You will be tested. If things go wrong, no sad moments, no pauses, we regather, recock, and go again. I repeat: much of this operation rests on us."

The launch of Operation Moshtarak marked the largest combat operation by Coalition troops since President Barak Obama announced in December he was sending an extra 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan in a bid to turn the tide against the Taliban.

Commanders had taken the unusual step of announcing the offensive several weeks before operations were begun in the hope that civilians might seek shelter away from the front line.

The long awaited offensive got underway at Marjah which is the biggest town under Taliban control in the south of the country and is regarded as vital to the insurgents' logistical network. Captain Joshua Winfrey, commander of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, which was one of the first units into action, said shortly after 10pm: "The first wave of choppers has landed inside Marjah. The operation has begun."

The attack on Marjah was timed to take place during darkness at 2am local time and the town was illuminated by flares and the explosions of missiles as the assault troops fought their way inside. The town centre was thought to be the first objective of the assault being carried out by 4,500 US Marines, 1,500 Afghan troops and a further 300 US soldiers.

One of the priorities will be, once troops have control of the town and surrounding areas, to provide aid and restore public services. Such tactics are hoped to win the confidence of the townspeople and villagers and erode support for the Taleban.

Pentagon officials said last night that Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai had approved the attack and had been informed of planning for the operation well in advance.

* A British soldier killed in an explosion in Afghanistan yesterday has been named by the Ministry of Defence. Lance Corporal Darren Hicks, 29, from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, was caught in the blast while on foot patrol in the Babaji district of central Helmand province.


Helicopter armada heralds Afghanistan surge

An armada of helicopters lifted a vast force against Taliban strongholds today in the biggest operation mounted in Afghanistan since 2001.

By Thomas Harding in Showal
The Telegraph
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 opulation.

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.


Clearing Operations Commence in Central Helmand

ISAF Joint Command - Afghanistan

For Immediate Release

KABUL, Afghanistan (Feb.13) – The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) announced today that key military "clearing" operations for Operation Moshtarak have begun in central Helmand. These "clearing" operations follow the smaller-scaled "shaping" operations that have helped set the conditions for this new phase of operations.

The combined force comprises the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, International Security Assistance Force Regional Command (South), and Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team. The operations now underway are designed to clear the region of insurgents and set the conditions for GIRoA to introduce increased security, stability, development, rule of law, freedom of movement and reconstruction.

The goal of Operation Moshtarak – a Dari word for "together" – is for the combined force (ANA, ANP, ISAF and the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team) to support the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in asserting its authority in central Helmand, thereby demonstrating the Afghan government’s commitment to the people living there.

The operation is being conducted in line with the wishes of the Afghan government in Helmand. The security forces involved are serving side-by-side, representing partnership in strength.


Operation Moshtarak background info (Official ISAF PDF fact file)

Commentary: In 2001 - short after Nine-Eleven (the terrorist attacks again the Twin Towers in Manhattan), only a few hundred U.S. Special Operations Forces soldiers (especially Green Berets from Task Force Dagger), joined by USAF combat controlers, infiltrated and linked-up on the ground with Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, routed out the Taliban and destroyed a 100,000-man terrorist army - mainly supported by close air support, given by B-52H Stratofortresses, B-1B Lancers, F/A-18 Hornets from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers, and from other U.S. combat aircraft. Such a fast victory was not awaited by a broad public after the Soviet disaster in Afghanistan some years ago. But what's the problem to eliminate these bad guys forever? So I hope, ISAF will win this fight. Eliminate all of the militant Taliban hardliners and remainder Al Qaida terrorists. Afghanistan must become a democratic country.

Forever, please remember the catastrophic terrorist attacks against the Twin Towers on Nine-Eleven.

Either a faked Al Qaida fighter with a russian AK-47 Kalashnikov in hands, or sipmply a brave squirrel?

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