4,000 UK troops ready for offensive against Afghan Taliban
London: In a bid to participate in the largest military offensive against the Taliban since the Afghanistan invasion in 2001, 4,000 British troops have begun preparing alongside Americans and Afghan troops.
The strike force will storm into some of the most dangerous areas of central Helmand in a series of daring raids, the start date of which is being kept secret.
The offensive, aimed to “break the back” of the Taliban, will dwarf last summer’s Operation Panther’s Claw in which 10 British soldiers were killed and more than 100 injured.
Senior British officers have warned the public to “steel itself” as the casualties could be the highest of any operation in the eight-year war.
“One has to be prepared physically to drive the insurgents out,” The Telegraph quoted Gen Sir David Richards, the Chief of the General Staff, as saying.
The offensive will be the first significant test of the strategy proposed by General Stanley McChrystal, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, for capturing an estimated 1,000 heavily-armed insurgents in the notorious “Green Zone” with help of combat jets, Apache attack helicopters, tanks and drones.
According to intelligence reports, Taliban fighters have laid hundreds of improvised explosive devices in Helmand province.
Sources also warned that British troops deploying to the battlefield by helicopter faced a high “ground to air threat”, with the Taliban attempting to shoot down helicopters.
“Our real concern is that we could lose one or more Chinooks filled with soldiers — that would come close to being catastrophic. The British public needs to steel itself for these casualties. We need the people in the UK to show a great deal of resilience. This is about delivering what could amount to a decisive blow to the Taliban in Helmand,” said a senior officer.
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