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News Article

Afghan flag flies over Musa Qaleh once again

12 Dec 07

The town of Musa Qaleh, in Helmand province of southern Afganistan, once again flies the Afghan national flag today, Wednesday 12 December 2007, having been carefully and comprehensively retaken by Afghan and ISAF forces.

General Mahayadin, Afghan National Army (ANA) stands proud as the National flag is raised in the center of Musa Qaleh [Picture: Cpl Chris Hargreaves RLC] . Opens in a new window.

General Mahayadin, Afghan National Army (ANA) stands proud as the National flag is raised in the center of Musa Qaleh
[Picture: Cpl Chris Hargreaves RLC]

After what has been an intense period of fighting in recent days in and around the town, the area is now secure. Speaking this afternoon Lieutenant Colonel Richard Eaton, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, described the scene:

"The current situation in Musa Qaleh is that it is underneath the Afghan flag," he said. "Midmorning today (Wednesday 12 December 2007) our operations to relieve and recapture Musa Qaleh were concluded with the final phase being an assault into Musa Qaleh by the Afghan Army.

"Over the previous five weeks we have been building up an operation in the area of Musa Qaleh that has seen us disrupt and confuse the Taliban by a number of operational phases.

"This began to build up in earnest about a week ago with a number of British units being involved.  Namely 40 Commando Royal Marines, the Household Cavalry Regiment, and 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, supported by 4 Regiment Royal Artillery and 26 Regiment Royal Logistic Corps as well as all the other logisticians who made it work.

Members of the Afghan National Army search a compound in Musa Qaleh [Picture: Cpl Chris Hargreaves RLC]. Opens in a new window.

Members of the Afghan National Army search a compound in Musa Qaleh
[Picture: Cpl Chris Hargreaves RLC]

"Sub-units who were involved were Right Flank Scots Guards; B Squadron King's Royal Hussars; and 4/73 Special Op Battery who form the Brigade reconnaissance force. We were also assisted by Task Force 1 Fury, which is an American airborne battalion, as well as 3 Kandaks, a battalion-sized formation from the Afghan Army.

"The final phase of the operation, to use an analogy, was that the house was surrounded by a combination of British, American and Afghan forces. American forces kicked down the door and Afghan forces went into the door and liberated Musa Qaleh.

"This was a complex and difficult operation that was well planned, conceived and executed by 52 Brigade and the Afghans. It is the first time that the Afghan Army has been embedded and integrated into an ISAF operation at this scale, and they have done a fantastic job."

The operation itself was particularly complex and required a great deal of coordination and cooperation from all those involved. According to Lt Col Eaton:

"UK troops have been involved in blocking operations, deception operations, disrupting operations; there have been long and difficult moves over difficult terrain; we have been airdropping supplies, we have been flying supplies in by helicopter and we have been driving supplies in over great distances.

Lt Col Richard Eaton in Afghanistan [Picture: SAC Kimberley Waterson RAF] . Opens in a new window.

Lt Col Richard Eaton in Afghanistan
[Picture: SAC Kimberley Waterson RAF]

"The logistics piece has been essential in making it all work and it has all synchronised together in a very well worked up plan.

"The main challenges have been the distance, the terrain, the enemy, and the fire control measures when operating in a relatively small space with a number of friendly forces, as well as integrating the close air support from both fast jets and helicopters."

"The cooperation with the Afghan troops has been very good indeed. General Muhayadan was crucially involved in the planning. He moved his planning team to collocate with Headquarters 52 Brigade in Lashkar Gar."

Now that the operation to retake the town has been completed the focus is switching to the next phase:

"We are as confident as be can be that the Taliban have now been ejected from Musa Qaleh," added Lt Col Eaton.  "There may yet be some who have decided to stay but have put aside their weapons and tried to blend back into the population.

Afghan National Army parade up the streets of Musa Qaleh [Picture: Cpl Chris Hargreaves RLC] . Opens in a new window.

Afghan National Army parade up the streets of Musa Qaleh
[Picture: Cpl Chris Hargreaves RLC]

"However, our information is that considerable numbers have been killed and even more have exfiltrated or slipped away into the hills. Our aim has been not to beat the Taliban but to defeat the insurgency.

"Now that the town is secure, messages are going out to the local people that it is safe to return. Last night the troops who were observing Musa Qaleh saw the lights going on for the first time since they have been in the area, and today large numbers of people began to return to their homes."