09 Jun. 2009
PR# 2009-412

ANSF, ISAF smash Taliban drugs factories

KABUL, Afghanistan - International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan National Army (ANA) troops have destroyed a major Taliban drug centre in a series of night raids in Helmand.

In two separate helicopter-borne strikes, around 450 troops from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, and 100 ANA soldiers, found and destroyed more than 5500 kg of opium paste in a large and well coordinated air-land operation.

The operation destroyed ten narcotic manufacturing facilities, and as well as the opium security forces confiscated 220 kg of morphine, more than 100 kg of heroin, 148 kg of cannabis plus a range of chemicals used in the drug production process - including 5800 kg of ammonium chloride and 2500 kg of sulphur. Also found were eight AK-47 machine guns, three pistols, and 900 rounds of ammunition.

The operation was backed by British and Canadian helicopters and multi-national fast aircraft including US jets flown from USS Eisenhower in the Gulf. British Royal Engineer Improvised Explosive Device (IED) experts and Royal Artillery forward air controllers were also involved.

Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Cartwright, the Commanding Officer of 3 SCOTS, said: “This has been an important operation against the illegal narcotics industry and represents a significant setback for the insurgency in Helmand Province. The Jocks of 3 SCOTS Battle Group simply provided the wider security to the professional and courageous Afghan security forces who have destroyed a considerable amount of narcotic material."

“The link between the insurgents and the narcotics industry is proven as militants use the money derived from the drug trade as a principle source of funding to arm themselves with weapons and conduct their campaign of intimidation and violence. By destroying this opium and the drug making facilities we are directly target their fighting capability. The operation has been well received by the Afghan people.”

The Jocks and the ANA had to battle through fierce defence from the Taliban firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns as they landed late at night on 31 May in the Upper Sangin Valley, 20km south of Kajaki.

The troops fought off the assault, quickly uncovering several heroin manufacturing ‘laboratories’ which included a large quantity of opium in the villages of Nangazi, Banekza and Sar Puzeur.

Sergeant Rab McCready, a platoon sergeant, said: “Landing on a hot [under contact] helicopter site at night could have been dangerous and confusing. I was very proud of the way the Jocks gripped the situation. The training just kicked in.”

Led by soldiers from the ANA, the joint forces searched compounds for narcotic manufacturing facilities, drug caches and illegal weapons. 

In temperatures of 45 degrees, the Battle Group continued into the following day before extracting from the desert in the early hours of 2 June, after spending more than 30 hours on the ground.

A second airborne raid was launched three days later, starting late at night on 5 June in the same area around the villages of Chahardah and Bustanzay, and was completed the following morning.

Lieutenant Harry Pierce, 7 Platoon Commander, Bravo Company, said: “This was the hardest operation we’ve conducted, a real test of endurance. The Afghans led the break-in and they were on the ball. The Jocks were outstanding in confusing and complex terrain and against well conceived and 360 degree insurgent attacks."

Corporal Paul Innes from Ballingary, Fife, a section commander in 7 Platoon, said: “The toughest acts of being an infantry soldier were tested in the op – dealing with a casualty, locating and fixing an enemy sniper and having the guts to cross open ground under fire. It was a test and we passed.”

Private Shaun Goldworthy, 19, from Glenrothes, said: “The enemy were no more than 80m away as we landed. You could hear them talking and the rounds landing as soon as the helicopter left.”

One 3 SCOTS soldier received a gunshot wound to the arm. He was attended to by Private Stuart Turner, 29, from Aberdeen, who is reservist working with 3 SCOTS.

Pte Turner said: “I was about 10m away when he went down. When I got there he had already started treating himself. The important thing was to get him out of contact, which was made harder because we couldn’t locate the enemy sniper. Fortunately our doctor wasn’t more than 100m away and got to him pretty quickly."

Second Lieutenant David Parsons, 1 Platoon Commander, A Company, 3 SCOTS, explained why Afghan soldiers played such a prominent role in the operation.

Parsons said: “On all operations we try to have the Afghan soldiers leading from the front. We always aim for them to go into the compounds first as they naturally understand the local customs and culture better than us, and to avoid compromising any religious and social sensitivities. Not only will people living in the compounds be more able to engage with their own people and understand what is going on, but by us focusing on supporting the ANA with greater force protection and specialist knowledge, we are also continually building a lasting, working relationship between the ANA and the local populations."

Sergeant Eddie Nichol, 36, from Downfield, Dundee, said: "It's what we've trained for and we are well prepared and enjoying the challenges out here. The Jocks are doing a great job despite incredibly harsh conditions."
 
Corporal Tommy Brady, 28, from Kirkton, Dundee, said: "I've been in the army for over 11 years and this is certainly the pinnacle of everything I have done to date. It's hugely challenging and particularly with the heat and the weight we carry, but we are well prepared and have the right kit to complete the job."
 
Private John Mitchell, 29, from Hilltown, Dundee, said: "It's mentally and physically challenging out here and certainly the hardest thing that I have ever done, but camaraderie is brilliant and that's what keeps us going."
 
Private Barry Dougan, 18, from Cambuslang, Glasgow, said: "The country is slightly different to how I imagined. I never realised quite how dominant the heroin industry was here and I have been surprised how closely the local population rely on it."
 
Private Andy Ross, 19, from Ardersier, Inverness, said: "It's tough being away from home, friends and family, but at the same time it is good to be doing the job that we are trained for and feel like we are making a difference. It's been rewarding to interact with the Afghan people, who are generally happy to see us and it does feel like we are making progress."
 

Notes to Editors:

 

The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS), took over as the Regional Battle Group (South) on 10 April. 3 SCOTS took over from 42 Commando Royal Marines as the battalion responsible for supporting a variety of operations across the whole of southern Afghanistan, not just those of the main UK Task Force in Helmand province.

The battalion is based within Camp Roberts at Kandahar Airfield and works directly to the Dutch-led divisional headquarters known as Regional Command (South), part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Kandahar is home to the personnel of seven ISAF nationalities and contains a huge array of supporting equipment.

Contact Information ISAF Public Affairs Office
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