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Friday, 29 August 2014

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Cumbrian army regiment’s success against the Taliban

The massive military operation in Afghanistan being spearheaded by hundreds of infantry soldiers from the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment is going “very well”, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

Afghanistan photo
A soldier from Somme Company the 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment. © UK MOD Crown Copyright 2010

Troops have unearthed large quantities of IEDs and bomb-making equipment during the first three days of the operation and only encountered “limited” amounts of small arms fire with the Taliban.

Work is now focusing on reassuring locals that the military effort to oust Taliban insurgents will help the region.

Op Tor Shezada, which translates as “black prince”, has seen soldiers from Somme Company from the first battalion of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment working jointly with the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Royal Regiment of Scotland to push out and clear villages surrounding the town of Sayedebad in central Helmand province.

The MoD said day three had allowed patrols around the town to chat with and reassure locals about the operation.

Yesterday, Captain Brad Pino, 13 Platoon Commander, said: “We had reports yesterday that two insurgents had moved into these compounds to get eyes on to what we were up to and they moved in with weapons.

“So we’ve moved down with the ANA today to go through the compounds, check that there are no signs of insurgents and just ask the locals what they know of it. So we’re out now providing protection for the ANA to go and speak to the local nationals.”

The operation started with soldiers being dropped from Chinook helicopters under cover of darkness on Friday.

The troops, spearheaded by 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, then moved in to clear compounds and establish patrol bases in the area.

On Saturday, they seized large quantities of IEDs and bomb-making equipment as they moved through the area.

An MoD spokesman said: “Operation Tor Shezada is progressing very well.

“Quantities of IEDs have been recovered and shuras (meetings) have been held with village chiefs in an attempt to offer reassurance.”

The operation is intended to push insurgents further from the population centres cleared as part of Operation Moshtarak earlier this year.

UK troops and Afghan forces are clearing insurgents from Sayedebad to the south of Nad-e Ali, in parallel to similar operations by the United States Marine Corps in northern Marjah.

Sayedebad sits between Nad-e Ali and Marjah in central Helmand, with 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 and is an important crossing point. Improved security here will increase freedom of movement for locals.

On Saturday Major Simon Ridgway, of 1st Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, said British and Afghan troops faced no more than limited small-arms fire in the initial stages of the operation.

Maj Ridgway acknowledged that once the area has been cleared of Taliban militants, it will then be necessary to prevent them returning after the operation is completed.

“What we need to do is to remove their ability to operate,” he said. “The key thing is their access to weapons, to ammunition, to improvised explosive devices.

“By securing and dominating the area, we reduce the freedom of movement for the insurgent and then, together with the local people – by convincing them that their future will be better under their own local government – collectively we can establish security that stops the insurgent having the ability to influence and intimidate.”

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