New UK-Afghan Operation Against Taliban

A new offensive involving hundreds of British and Afghan troops is taking place in southern Afghan.

Updated: Jul 31, 2010, 17:04 PM IST

Afghanistan: A new offensive involving hundreds of British and Afghan troops is taking place in southern Afghanistan to try to clear a Taliban stronghold.

Operation `Tor Shezada` or `Black Prince` is being led by the 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster`s Regiment and got off to a "successful" start, military chiefs said.

UK soldiers along with Afghan forces from 3rd Brigade, 215 Corps, are trying to clear an area from Sayedebad to the south of Nad-e-Ali.

The assault is taking place on suspected rebel compounds and is expected to take several days.

The offensive continues the momentum gathered by Operation Mostarak earlier this year, the Ministry of Defence said.

Although significantly smaller than previous offensives in this area, Operation Tor Shezada will push insurgents further from the populated centres successfully cleared by Moshtarak.

Sky`s Stuart Ramsay is embedded with the troops. He said: "Soldiers have been fanning out and moving south from a variety of camps they have in this part of Helmand Province.

"The idea is to try to pressure the areas that the Taliban have been controlling for some time.

"They (the Taliban) are very strong in these areas. There`s a whole series of compounds the soldiers are trying to get to, to secure."

He added: "The operation will try to clear these areas, not only of Taliban but also of IEDs (roadside bombs) that have been such a problem for soldiers and local people as well."

Sayedebad is between Nad-e Ali and Marjah in central Helmand. The area has a small community of around 6,000 Afghans, mostly from Pashtun Ishaqzai and Hazara backgrounds.

The Trikh Zabur canal runs to the south of the area, with a crossing point which allows movement between Nad-e Ali and Marjah. Improved security around this important crossing point will increase freedom of movement for locals.

Spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Lt Col James Carr-Smith, said: "During the early hours, under the cover of darkness, the joint ISAF and Afghan Operation Tor Shezada launched successfully.

"The operation is currently ongoing and reports back from the commanders on the ground say it is progressing according to plan.

"Its aims are very much supported by local Afghans living in and around the area of Sayedebad. They are keen that insurgents be removed so that they can live, work and travel there safely."

He added: "Our intent is such that this activity will increase the distance between the population and remaining insurgents.

"It will further dislocate insurgents and deny them a base from which to attack the Nad-e Ali and Marjah areas, making the local population safer and reducing the threat to ISAF and ANSF troops.

"In time, the operation will enable the Afghan Government to begin development projects in the area, including the planned refurbishment of Sayedebad school, health clinic and bazaar."

The Afghan government will begin stabilisation activities as soon as conditions allow, including the refurbishment of Sayedebad school and health clinic.

The British-run Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand will support this activity with projects of its own, including `cash for work` programmes which employ locals to develop their own communities.

Bureau Report