September 23, 2007


Operation Groundhog Day: the final assault on a stubborn enemy: 'If Operation Palk Wahel fails, many other things will fail.' (Raymond Whitaker, 23 September 2007, Independent)

British forces are spearheading an offensive this weekend aimed at driving the Taliban out of a strategically vital area of southern Afghanistan. The battle could also decide whether other Nato members are willing to continue fighting in the country.

Some 2,000 British troops, including Gurkhas, are taking part in Operation Palk Wahel ("sledgehammer blow") in Helmand province, the largest for several months. The assault began on Wednesday with a bridge being thrown across the Helmand river to get at Taliban strongholds close to the Kajaki dam, which could supply hydro-electricity and irrigation water to a large area of southern Afghanistan if it is restored. Another 500 American, Estonian, Czech, Danish and Afghan soldiers have joined the offensive, supported by helicopters, attack aircraft and the first large-scale use of Warrior armoured vehicles.

Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Eaton, the spokesman for Task Force Helmand, told The Independent on Sunday that Palk Wahel continued a series of operations since early summer which aimed to free areas from Taliban interference, supply security and create the conditions for governance and development. But Christopher Langton, an Afghanistan expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said the latest offensive was the most significant.

"With winter approaching, there are only another three to four weeks to secure the area," said Mr Langton, a retired colonel.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 23, 2007 8:47 AM
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