British & Afghan Soldiers Strike at Insurgency in Op ‘Cobra Hunt’
British and Afghan soldiers struck a decisive blow against insurgents in an operation against a Taliban stronghold in the heart of Helmand.
A senior insurgent commander was killed after a strike from an Apache helicopter as soldiers from D Coy 5 RIFLES and their ANSF partners conducted operations in the Nahr-e Saraj district.
In the past two months, the combined forces have pushed the insurgency out of the Babaji area of the district, helping the Afghan police to build new checkpoints and cut off routes used by insurgents to infiltrate the area and increase security.
The responsibility for security of Babaji has been passed to Afghan police and the soldiers are now turning their attention to the Kopak region – an insurgent ‘safe haven’.
In Op Kapcha Shkar Kawel, or ‘Cobra Hunt’, more than 40 Riflemen and ANSF set out to disrupt the insurgency and gather intelligence on Taliban leaders in the area.
After two hours Taliban fighters began to fire upon the troops and were spotted in the act by intelligence assets.
One of the fighters was tracked by a supporting Apache gunship, and when he opened fire on the patrol again the Apache was cleared to engage and fired a Hellfire missile at his position. The 5 RIFLES soldiers and the ANA troops were then able to finish their mission and gather crucial intelligence. It was later discovered that the insurgent killed in the Apache strike was a senior commander in the local area.
Capt Ben Worley, D Coy fire support team commander, who co-ordinates between the infantry and support assets like the Apache said the strike will have damaged the insurgent command structure in the area. “An insurgent of this calibre is hard to find, and this has been a decisive blow to the insurgency here. It was a great start to the operation and will set the conditions for the future of D Coy in the Kopak area.”
Bbr Joe Harris, tactical air controller for D Coy,responsible for the co-ordination of air assets in the area said: “We had tracked this guy for some time before finally getting into position to strike. It was a relief to finally get him as he had been firing at our lads on the ground and could have caused casualties.”
Maj Matt Baker, OC D Coy said: “We clearly took them by surprise because after we hit them with the Apache they just didn’t want to know anymore, and were in a state of shock for about 30 minutes.“ The Afghan police are now in a position to take lead responsibility for security in Babaji. I’ve been genuinely impressed by them and know they are ready to take over.”
Maj Chris Bisset, OC of the UK Apache Squadron said: “This is a good example of why the Apache is deployed to support troops on the ground in Afghanistan. AAC Apaches are flown by Army pilots who have a very good understanding of what the ground commander is trying to achieve. “This insurgent had been attempting to shoot at coalition troops over a sustained period. By closely coordinating with the ground forces, we were able to engage him in a safe area, which then allowed the troops on the ground to return to their primary job of reassuring and protecting the local population.”