17 June 2010

Australian Special Operations Task Group deal 'major blow' to Taliban in Shah Wali Kot

The Canberra Times:

The five-day offensive by the Australian Special Operations Task Group and Afghan National Security Force troops, supported by a United States helicopter detachment, was part of efforts to improve security around the city of Kandahar and deny insurgent forces a ''staging area'' on the way to Oruzgan province the primary area of operations for Australia's 1500-strong military contingent in Afghanistan.

The Defence Department claimed the offensive resulted in the deaths of ''a significant number of insurgents''. However, the department refused to issue any estimate of the Taliban casualties, with a spokeswoman asserting the Defence Force ''does not use body counts as a measure of success''.

One clash on the second day of the offensive lasted more than 13 hours, with Taliban fighters using small arms and machine-gun fire from concealed positions to bring sustained fire against the Australian and Afghan government forces.

An Australian soldier was wounded in the arm while an Afghan security force officer was struck in the side. Both were evacuated while under fire and are recovering at the medical facility at the Australian headquarters in Tarin Kowt.

After five days of operations, the Taliban forces reportedly withdrew from the area. Australian troops captured a number of weapons including assault rifles, heavy machine-guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and several radio handsets.

The commander of Australian Forces in the Middle East, Major-General John Cantwell, said the combined Australian-Afghan government operation had dealt ''a major blow to the insurgent forces and their commanders''.

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