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NATO and Afghan troops have launched Operation Achilles

On March 6, NATO and Afghan troops launched Operation Achilles in Afghanistan. The goal is to push Taliban fighters away from the vital Kajaki Dam project, which promises to bring electricity to 2 million people. The Ten O’Clock Scholar sifted through sources to bring us these reports –

Item: The thundering blasts of British artillery late Wednesday night marked the start of what senior officers said was the biggest Royal Marine raid since the Falklands war.

As the guns fired, U.S. paratroops from the 82nd Airborne were dropped into Helmand Sangin valley under cover of darkness. Intelligence reports warned there were up to 350 Taliban in the area with advanced munitions. The warnings included concerns of reinforcement by 120 fighters from the north.

. . .The spearpoint, an armoured column of 250 Royal Marines roared into Sangin in a 33-vehicle convoy travelling at 35 mph down the main highway from the north. . .Royal Marines from 42 Commando were part of the initial assault which included the Estonian armoured infantry company, and Danish recce squadron, all part of the UK task force.

"It was a risk on a route we had never travelled before," said Col Matthew Holmes, commander of 42 Commando . "They wouldn't expect us to jump straight in on the road from the north. They would expect the US forces to lead the attack from the south. It was an opportunity to go for it, and fortune favours the brave."

At 3.30am the convoy hit the town right behind a missile strike from an Apache helicopter which destroyed a Taliban checkpoint before the convoy reached it.

. . .Daylight saw a Canadian 155 howitzer airlifted into the fight.

Item: Taskforce spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Mayo said radio, letters and word of mouth had been used to warn locals before the battle started. "We asked the people of Sangin just to stay away from the fighting so that we could defeat the Taliban quickly." The coalition troops suffered a small number of minor casualties. There were no reported civilian casualties.

Item: On March 24th, in Farah province, some Taliban gunmen attacked a group of Afghan and Indian engineers who were examining a dam which needed some work. Hearing gunshots, over a hundred armed men rushed from a nearby village and attacked the Taliban, killing three and driving the rest away. The villagers understood that the engineering team meant economic progress and jobs.

Item: The Afghan academic year began March 24 as schools opened their doors to more than 6 million pupils, almost doubling the number of students from five years ago. Enrollment rates for girls in some areas is approaching 50 percent.

Item: Sounding a bit like King Alfred, President Karzai decides which groups of Taliban will be attacked, and which ones are open to negotiations.

The Scholar has much more, and notes a primary source was Black Rod.

We note that a 1,000 additional Australian troops are on their way.