Once fully operational the dam will bring electricity to 1.8 million people. But the area around Kajaki, northern Helmand Province, has been the site of regular insurgent mortar attacks over the past two months and civilians have been forced from their homes leaving the dam largely unservicable.
See Related Links >>> for video footage from Kajaki hydro-electric dam, and watch the Royal Marines clear insurgents from the village of Barikju as they mount Operation VOLCANO.
The recent clearance was part of an ongoing operation to create a safe-zone around the dam and allow engineers to re-enter the area and bring the dam back up to full power.
Sayed Rasul, the dam's manager and senior engineer, said:
"The dam needs a lot of maintenance and another turbine in order for it to work more efficiently. Once this happens and the local surrounding area is safer the dam will provide electricity for millions of local Afghans and create jobs for thousands."
Troops from M Company, 42 Commando, have been based in the area of Kajaki clearing compounds for the past six weeks. They regularly receive enemy small arms fire, mortars and rockets from insurgents firing from the villages surrounding Kajaki.
Operation Volcano was mounted to clear insurgents from firing points in the village of Barikju, north of Kajaki.
Surveillance over the past two months had observed numerous enemy forces conducting sentries in two main positions with an administration area to the rear. The village of Barikju is completely deserted except for insurgent forces.
Using the cover of darkness, M Company, with elements of 59 Commando Royal Engineers, Arms Explosives Search Teams and Royal Engineer Search Teams in support, moved into the area of Barikju.
10 Troop M Company conducted the initial break into the well-fortified and high-walled first compound, receiving heavy fire from Taliban rifles, machine guns and Rocket Propelled Grenades. They accomplished this with a mixture of support from mortars and from the air.
Captain Anthony Forshaw, the Officer Commanding for the operation, said:
"Once our lads are in the compounds the walls are very strong providing a good level of protection to us as well as to our enemy from small arms and mortar fire."
Once 10 Troop M Company had gained a foothold within the first few compounds they, along with 11 Troop and IStar (Reconnaissance Troop), systematically cleared the compounds and buildings. During the clearance they continued to receive fire from Taliban forces further in the compounds and from the village of Chinah. This threat was neutralised by artillery support, air assets and 11 Troop's lightweight mortars.
Captain Forshaw said:
"The operation went very well, as planned and with no casualties on our side. We have denied the enemy future use of the area and also destroyed a number of their bunker and trench systems and gathered valuable intelligence for future operations."
The Kajaki hydroelectric dam was built between 1955 and 1975. It was financed jointly by the Republic of Afghanistan and the USA acting through the Afghan Power and Water Authority and the Agency for International Development. The dam currently houses two large turbines, one of which is working and the other requires constant maintenance. Each turbine weighs 80 tonnes.