Plymouth-based 42 Commando and joint forces have hit the ground running on arrival in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, achieving early successes engaging Taliban forces.
42 Cdo RM has undertaken the role of Regional Battle Group South, working directly for the Regional Command (South) HQ in Kandahar . They are the regional task force right across southern Afghanistan , taking in an area of responsibility stretching from the Pakistani border to that of Iran , including Helmand Province .
Their first major action was under the command of Canadian forces Lima Company of the Commando unit which is based at Bickleigh Camp. They deployed into the rural and urban fringe south west of Kandahar City during darkness. This was the unit’s first big convoy through the city and they used night vision goggles and were protected by a helicopter as ‘eyes in the sky’.
Lima Company and a small band of Afghan National Army soldiers entered a potentially hazardous area not regularly frequented by coalition forces. Their mission was two-fold, first to disrupt insurgent activity during the religiously significant period of Ramadan and then Eid; and second to better understand this key area by developing knowledge of the landscape, the buildings, the population and the enemy, to inform subsequent Canadian operations.
Lima Company’s professionalism, their intelligent and dynamic patrolling and their balance in dealing with local nationals countered enemy threats and delivered a positive influence and message of reassurance to a weary population.
As the Royal Marines understanding of Afghanistan and their surroundings deepened it was time for the remainder of the Commando Group to join them – 42 Commando Group and the 3 rd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment surged into an area known to be a Taliban staging post and command and control centre.
The Commandos succeeded in dislocating the enemy’s early warning screen, forcing them to show their position give away an indication of their compounds the Commandos might target. At the same time the advance recce troop seized a sharp ridge that dominated the entire area and supported Afghan troops who were gathering information and insurgent activity.
Meanwhile, Kilo Company (the Black Knights) of 42 Commando landed by helicopter to seize and clear a village and fought a number of actions until they completely overwhelmed the insurgent threat. This success was supported by the watchful eyes of airborne surveillance systems and Apache attack helicopters. The Apaches were called in occasionally for effective air strikes.
The next five days saw sporadic contact only with the enemy- each time successfully dealt with while at the same time a huge amount of intelligence, insurgent kit and bomb-making equipment was uncovered. With the aid of Canadian allies using their tanks to create a new road home, Kilo Company boarded their helicopters once again and the Royal Marines all arrived back at camp safely after a job well done.
The Royal Marines’ operations ranging from clearing insurgent safe havens to assisting in a delivery of voter registration and humanitarian relief before winter, so flexibility is already proving critical. Vital to success is close support to the Afghan Security Forces and engaging the local population, especially when the Royal Marines may well be the first ISAF forces the communities have encountered.