Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Major Nigel Crewe-Read, OC C Coy, 2 Royal Welsh
The armoured thrust through Babiji 20 – 25 JULY
Accompanied by artillery from 52 (Niagara) Battery Royal Artillery, Engineers from 11 Field Squadron Royal Engineers, IED clearance teams, and military civilian reconstruction teams, we conducted a swift night move from Bastion to Forward Operating Base Price. As dawn came the Company was escorted down through the areas that had been liberated from the Taliban. It was obvious that there had been quite a fight to achieve the earlier goals of Panther’s Claw.
Crossing the line of departure, everyone was braced for what could be a very bloody fight. Breaking off the main track to avoid IEDs, the Warriors began to move into the Helmand Green Zone. This was the first time Warriors had ever actually been taken into the complex terrain of the Green Zone which consists of many irrigation ditches, flooded fields, and sprawling compounds. Not easy terrain for 36 tonnes of armour to cross without becoming stuck.
The lead platoon scouted a route ahead with the rest of the Company following behind. Engineer support was integral to the Company and proved useful in fording many of the ditches. Combat aircraft, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Attack Helicopters coordinated by the Artillery provided air cover and overwatch as the Company swept forward.
The first objective, the village of Tabella, was reached at midday and the Company formed up into assault formation. The time for the assault came and the Warriors surged forward across the open bazaar onto the objective. Meeting no enemy resistance, we dismounted from our vehicles and began to sweep through the village to check it was clear of insurgents. Conducting a thorough clearance took time, but by 1700, the village was deemed to be clear of insurgents. A local shura was then conducted with local Afghans to reassure them of ISAF’s good intentions and that ISAF would remain in the area to provide security for them.
At 0600 on the second day, 21 Jul, the clearance of the next village, Bahloy Kalay, started. This was an even bigger objective to clear than the previous village. Three platoons were tasked with this, and they made good progress through the intense heat of the Afghan day. Local Afghans greeted us and proved very friendly offering us refreshments, as well as passing us information and even lending a helping hand to repair a broken down Warrior. By evening the village was clear of enemy fighters and a further 92 compounds had been cleared. Again, a shura was held at 1630 to reassure locals of ISAF intentions.
At 0530 on 22 July, the Company handed over the secured villages to the Light Dragoons battlegroup and moved to clear a route from those villages up to the Welsh Guards Battlegroup in the North West. The Company moved down to a vast cemetery and then turned north to clear the route.
Progress was measured as the Company moved forward with dismounted patrols providing flank security, the IED clearance team working flat out, Engineers providing essential support to cross large irrigation ditches, and the Artillery coordinating the air cover. After a day of hard work the Company paused overnight in a defensive position and then moved forward again at 0500 on 23 Jul. Progress continued to be made and by 1800, the Company had reached the Welsh Guards Battlegroup, linking the two Battlegroups together.
Overall, although the operation had not involved any fighting, it was a great success. Locals stated that the Taliban had run away as soon as they saw the Warriors coming. A total of 198 compounds had been secured, 12 kms of Green Zone had been crossed in heavy armoured vehicles, and the area had been cleared of armed Taliban fighters, allowing the Government of Afghanistan’s influence to begin in this area which had once been the heartland of insurgent resistance.