Brits use small force to lure Taliban into a fight
Flying in darkness on board Chinook helicopters soldiers from the 1st Bn Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment descended on the final pocket of insurgency in the Nad-e-Ali district.The Daily Telegraph accompanied troops as they flew into the enemy heartland of the Gulbuddin Strip.The distinctive double thud of a Chinook approaching broke into the predawn silence as the lines of soldiers waited pensively for its arrival at their base.Within minutes the troops of A Company were flying low a over soft landscape of tree-lined paths and ploughed fields.But flares firing from the helicopter's underbelly to deter potential missiles reminded that the land below held some who were hostile.At one minute before "L Hour" the RAF dispatcher held up a single finger. The aircraft swooped left and right then cakes of brown mud flew past the window followed by the thump of landing.Within seconds we were down the ramp and running through dirt to get into the cover of the tree line. Overhead two Apache helicopters searched out the enemy and immediately reports of suspicious movement came over the radio.Using a daring tactic only a small number of troops were used in order to draw out the Taliban fighters rather than scare them off with overwhelming force."We want to capture them, kill them or disarm them so there is a real balance of having just enough of us to get the Taliban drawn into a fight," said Major Phill Moxey, leading the assault. "We could risk overmatching them but they would simply disappear and we could end up chasing ghosts."But patrols entering the notorious Gulbuddin Strip are almost guaranteed an ambush. The insurgents have become adept at using rifle grenade launchers which with a range of 984ft (300 metres) can be deadly if they land on troops inside the confined spaces of a compound.The cluster of compounds sits astride a fertile area predominantly used for poppy growing in the north-east of Nad-e-Ali. It also acts as a staging post for insurgents to mount attacks on patrols or the small bases that border the area.According to intelligence reports British and Afghan patrols are able to penetrate the area "but unable to endure"."Generally patrols are ambushed by SAF (small arms fire), machine gun, UGL (underslung grenade launchers) and hand grenades before they reach the Gulbuddin Strip."The "planned aviation assault" on top of enemy positions yesterday signalled the start of Operation Tor Pishaw (Courageous Cat) that is hoped to drive the insurgents permanently out of the area.
...Getting the enemy to engage is not as easy as it was early in the war when the Taliban would stage ambushes and be wiped out by planes dropping precision bombs on their position. Now they tend to scoot if faced with overwhelming force. With the Apaches overhead the Brit troops should have the firepower to defeat any attacks on their unit.