Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Commonwealth in Afghanistan

Michael Yon reports on the "Taliban, the Brits have your jock" operation we read about last week; when you need the very best, look to the Anglosphere.
The top-secret mission was to deliver a new turbine to the Kajaki Dam. The second-largest hydro-electric dam in Afghanistan, Kajaki is designed to operate three turbines, and was originally built with American money in 1953 to provide electricity to Helmand and Kandahar Provinces. But that was another era of the Great Game. Only two out of three turbines were installed, and they fell apart when the Soviet Union pulled out from Afghanistan in 1989.

Since the American-led invasion in 2001, only one turbine was working. The mission’s goal was to drag a second turbine up treacherous roads, and put it online. The operation was of a magnitude large enough to warrant its own name: Operation Oqab Tsuka: Pashto for “Eagle’s Summit.” Some of the younger soldiers, when they heard about the plan to drive a giant convoy straight through Taliban territory, had another name for it: “Operation Suicide.”
U.S. General Dan McNeill, the top commander in Afghanistan, wanted a combat-experienced group to plan and execute the mission, so he chose the commander of the 16 Air Assault Brigade, Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, who said, “We will take that turbine to Kajaki.”

Several British officers, including Major Howard-Harwood, stressed to me that this was not a “British” operation. Yes, it was led by British troops, but USAID (American taxpayers) paid for the parts, installation, and much more. U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) and others would help ensure the convoy made it through. I was briefed on the SOF operations, but will make no comment other than to say that their contribution would be dangerous and essential to success. Afghan, Canadian, Australian and Danish troops also played very important roles. American and British air would provide most of the air cover. The British 3 Para and 2 Para would conduct treacherous and critical combat operations to take pressure off the convoy.
Read it all.

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