31 May 2007

PR# 2007-411

New operation continues despite helo downing

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – The ISAF helicopter that went down Wednesday killing all seven on board had just delivered troops who are involved in Operation Lastay Kulang in northern Helmand province.

“Initial reports are that enemy fire may have brought down the helicopter, although the incident is still being investigated,” said Lt. Col. Angela Billings, ISAF spokesperson.  “The thoughts and prayers of all of ISAF are with the friends and families of those who died,” she said.

“We are saddened, but not deterred,” said Billings.

Despite the loss, ISAF is continuing this latest operation with about 2,000 troops working to stop Taliban extremists' attempts to control the Upper Sangin Valley, she said.

Operation Lastay Kulang, taken from Pashto meaning “axe-handle,” is a continuation of the progress made during Operation Achilles.  Launched in March in Helmand province at the request of the Afghan government, the operation builds on recent ISAF successes, she said.

At 4 a.m. local time Wednesday, ISAF and ANSF moved into an area to the north of Sangin to remove a Taliban extremist force threatening the security and stability of the Lower Sangin Valley, said Billings.

Later Wednesday, night elements of ISAF’s Theater Task Force—an element of the United States’ 82nd Airborne Division—conducted an air assault on Taliban positions to the south of Kajaki Sofja.

Recent successes include a permanent Afghan National Army presence in the Sangin Valley and regular shuras, or tribal meetings, with local officials regarding reconstruction projects. 

One thousand of the troops are British military forces and mentors.  The British-led Helmand Task Force also involves troops from Denmark and Estonia.

Contact Information ISAF Public Affairs Office
Tel: +93 (0)799 51 1155 - Mobile: 0093 (0) 799 55 8291 pressoffice@hq.isaf.nato.int - www.nato.int/isaf/