The access keys for this site are:

Additional accessibility information for Defence can be found in the Defence Accessibility Statement.

Defence

News Article

Afghan troops called forward to complete Musa Qaleh clearance

11 Dec 07

The British military commander responsible for ensuring the town of Musa Qaleh is removed from Taliban hands believes Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers, working with UK and other ISAF forces, are making good progress in their mission.

British troops are working hard to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan   [Picture: SAC Kimberly Waterson RAF] . Opens in a new window.

British troops are working hard to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan
[Picture: SAC Kimberly Waterson RAF]

Brigadier Andrew Mackay, Commander of 52 Brigade, and his Afghan counterparts have taken the decision to call forward ANA troops to clear the centre of the town of any remaining Taliban elements.

In an interview with Sky News the British military spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Eaton, explained the current situation on the ground:

"Brigadier Andrew Mackay, Commander of 52 Brigade, and his Afghan counterparts have made the decision to launch the Afghan Army into Musa Qaleh," explained Lt Col Eaton. "The operation has been going on really since the 7th and has now reached the stage where the final phase has been launched and that will lead to the capture of Musa Qaleh.

"We don't know if Taliban fighters are still present in the town and the operation is proceeding with caution. We are acutely aware that we are operating in difficult terrain. Rather than house to house it's compound to compound. Each compound is surrounded by a thick and high mud wall and we just don't know what lies on either side of of those walls. There are likely to be mines, booby traps, there could well be ambushes. Troops on the ground are finding arms caches but the commander is very content with the way the operation is unfolding at the moment.

"I'm aware that there is an expectation of success but the conditions on the ground militates that we proceed with caution. There is little point in rushing into the middle of Musa Qaleh, taking unnecessary casualties on the way. So caution is the watchword as one would expect from professional soldiers."

When asked about the town having symbolic importance for both sides, Lt Col Eaton explained:

"I think it's important because it represents the insurgency. To the Government it's an act of defiance and to the Taliban it has been the last town that they hold in Helmand. And it's also important to note that it has become a centre of the heroin trade where the insurgency needs money to carry on and the best way of raising money in Helmand is through the drug trade. So we will snuff that out and once we have retaken Musa Qala the Government will be able to reapply it, it's authority and start to redevelop the town to allow it to prosper the way one would expect a town to in a democracy."

"We're entering the final phase and it's completely appropriate that the Afghan Army completes the final act and retake the town."

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Eaton

Lt Col Eaton also explained why ANA troops are the ones going into the centre of Musa Qaleh:

"We're entering the final phase and it's completely appropriate that the Afghan Army completes the final act and retake the town."

He was also asked what plans are in place to keep a small British contingent there to try and prevent the town from falling into Taliban hands once more:

"It will be more than a small British contingent; the responsibility for securing the town will rest with the Afghan Army. They will, of course, be supported by their small mentoring team but there can be no doubt this time the town is going to be garrisoned properly in the way that other towns in the Helmand River Valley have.

"And over the last year we have seen Sangin and Gareshk and now Musa Qaleh fall as the insurgency is gradually unwound. That's not to say we're expecting the insurgency to end quickly because insurgencies are complex. Ultimately the solution is political but we are on the road to success."