Written by Bagram Media Center
Saturday, 01 March 2008
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – As he approached the aircraft in the darkness, the rotor wash whipped dust and dirt across his face. However, amid the noise of the rotor, Afghan National Army Spc. Mohammed Ali said all he could hear was his upcoming responsibilities whirling in his head, ‘Run from the aircraft towards the target, breach the door, and clear my sector.’
Ali, an ANA Commando with the 201st Commando Kandak was deployed to Helmand Province by the Afghan Ministry of Defense in response to the increasing attempts by Taliban extremists to terrorize Afghan citizens.
The commandos’ mission was to develop intelligence and conduct a surgical strike against key Taliban leadership and control in Helmand Province. In preparation for their mission, the troops conducted specialized training such as day and night live-fire maneuvers and multiple insertion techniques. Commando leaders examined the most recent intelligence and targeted key individuals for capture.
The mission was ambitious: conduct a night air assault against multiple Taliban command and control centers to capture or kill Taliban leadership targets deep within the Kajaki region. The commandos named the operation, “Say’Laab,” meaning “flood.”
Buses containing nearly 100 ANA troops clad in black body armor and specialized weapons made their way from the 205th ANA camp to Kandahar Airfield where numerous Coalition aircraft awaited with rotor blades churning.
As Ali boarded the aircraft, he said his pre-mission prayers as the high-pitched whine of the engines gave way to the formidable thumping of the rotor blades above. Moments later, a massive formation of transport and attack helicopters lifted off the runway together toward their targets.
As the strike force approached its objectives, Coalition helicopters dropped to just above ground level and increased their speed. Commandos pulled their night vision goggles over their eyes bringing the black ground to green life. In spite of the intense training and mission preparation, the Commandos understood the risks associated with this operation.
Pilots relayed their final checkpoints to the Commandos over radio communications, informed them to ready their weapons, and remove their seatbelts. Seconds later, the helos pitched into multiple landing zones. The Commandos quickly disembarked from their helicopters and quickly closed on their target compounds. As the roar of departing rotor blades filled the sky, Commando assaulters cleared four separate compounds in search of their elusive quarry.
Within minutes of insertion, Commando assaulters seized their intended targets and secured a foothold deep within the city. Despite the advantage of tactical surprise, a fierce battle ensued. The report of multiple weapon systems rang out as insurgents put up a futile defense against the elite Afghan force. Commandos quickly and accurately eliminated threats with small-arms and machine gun fire.
The speed, surprise and tenacity of the assault not only caught the enemy insurgents off guard, but also prevented the escape of a senior Taliban commander.
Throughout the operation, intense anti-aircraft fire filled the night sky. Attack helicopters swarmed over their targets, placing precision-guided munitions and intense machine gun fire on enemy fighting positions. Coalition aircraft flew in support of the Afghan troops aiding in the elimination of enemy caches and drug processing facility.
At mission’s end, multiple enemy fighters were eliminated. The Commandos quickly boarded their aircraft with 11 combatants in custody. On the ground, six enemy vehicles containing thousands of pounds of weapons and munitions, as well as nearly $8 million of illegal narcotics, was destroyed.
As the helicopter assault force lifted off toward Kandahar, Ali shook the hands of his brothers-in-arms with an undeniable certainty that the people of Afghanistan were safer this night, “The daring and complex operation highlighted the capacity of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to strategically deploy elite commando forces across the country to conduct surgical strikes in support of their national objectives,” said Army Capt. Vanessa R. Bowman, a Coalition spokesperson. “The success of Operation Say’Laab reinforced the esprit de corps and operational reach of the nation’s most dedicated warriors. Commandos continue to ensure no safe haven exists for the enemies of freedom and prosperity, and that a brighter future lies ahead for the people of Afghanistan.”