Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

MARINES GO INTO ACTION; Operation to Flush out Taliban Fighters First Combat Role since the Falklands War

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

MARINES GO INTO ACTION; Operation to Flush out Taliban Fighters First Combat Role since the Falklands War

Article excerpt

Byline: HUGH MUIR;ROBERT FOX

HUNDREDS of Royal Marines have gone into combat in eastern Afghanistan.

Men of 45 Commando went into action, their first since the Falklands War, to "search and clear a high mountain valley," the Ministry of Defence said today.

They are targeting former Taliban and al Qaeda strongpoints and were flown in by Chinook helicopters.

The men are specialists in mountain warfare and are said to be expecting fierce resistance.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram said the capture of Osama bin Laden remains a "prime objective".

Announcing the operation, commanding officer Brigadier Roger Lane said " significant numbers" of commandos are now operating alongside soldiers from the US and Afghanistan.

He said: "When we arrived it was clear that the war in Afghanistan was not yet over. The hunt for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters goes on. We said that we would be here for the long haul and we stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States and our other coalition allies in the global war on terrorism and that's exactly what we are doing."

Lt Col Paul Harrdine said the operation began several days ago.

He said there is concern that as the snow on the mountain passes melts, al Qaeda fighters will feel able to resume fighting. There is also a concern that local warlords have once again begun to assert themselves.

He said: "It is a very difficult operation. They are working at altitudes of nine and a half thousand feet. The ground is very rugged and the terrain is mountainous.

"It is very cold at night and there are strong winds and rain. Oxygen is very thin and they are carying a heavy burden. But morale is high.

They are up to it and I am confident they will do a great job."

He said evidence has already been found that the mountain region they have been sent to was recently used by al Qaeda fighters The men of 45 Commando are part of the Arbroath-based 3 Commando Brigade. …

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