Despite the loss of a NATO Chinook helicopter this week with seven servicemen aboard, a British-led thrust to drive the Taliban from strongholds in Helmand province is yielding success, Western military officials said on Friday.
“We’re creating pockets in which the Taliban are caught. We’re just squeezing them,” Lieutenant-Colonel Charlie Mayo, a spokesman for British forces in Helmand, told Reuters.
A force of 2,000 troops, including 1,000 British and 500 Afghan National Army soldiers backed by Danes, Estonians and elements of the elite U.S. 82nd Airborne, launched the operation two days ago to trap Taliban militants north of the Sangin Valley and in the Kajaki dam region, officials said.
Improving security in Helmand, a vast province of deserts, fertile valleys and towering mountains that is the heartland of ethnic Pashtun sympathy for the Taliban, is the aim of “Operation Lastay Kulang,” or “axe-handle” in the local Pashto language.