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Shared in accordance with the "fair dealing" provisions, Section 29, of the Copyright Act.

 

Anxious troops gird for Taliban

Preparations end with rocket fire from insurgents

Brian Hutchinson, Ottawa Citizen, 29 Dec 06

Article Link

 

MAS'UM GHAR, Afghanistan - Canadian troops defending key positions west of Kandahar city poured into this strategic stronghold yesterday and made final preparations for a much-anticipated, head-on clash with the Taliban.

 

The day ended with a forceful reminder that insurgents remain active and are nearby. In early evening, the Taliban launched a volley of rocket and mortar fire just east of Mas'um Ghar.

 

It is believed the attack was aimed at Afghan national army soldiers conducting patrols with Canadian troops in the area.

 

After two loud explosions, return machine-gun fire was heard. All personnel at Mas'um Ghar were ordered to "stand to," and don protective gear before moving inside concrete bunkers or climbing into armoured vehicles.

 

There were no reports of any Canadian or Afghan military casualties.

 

The activity came less than an hour after Canadian battle group commander Lt.-Col. Omer Lavoie had described to reporters plans for the next phase of Operation Falcon's Summit, a campaign by NATO and Afghan security forces aimed at removing remaining insurgents from the area while delivering material aid and relief to war-weary Afghan farmers and their families.

 

Lt.-Col. Lavoie had just returned to his command post at Mas'um Ghar after meetings at Kandahar Airfield. There, he received brigade orders from Maj.-Gen. Ton Van Loon, the Dutch officer now overseeing NATO and Afghan security forces in southern Afghanistan.

 

He spent yesterday afternoon at Mas'um Ghar huddled inside a well-protected bunker with other high-ranking Canadian officers, outlining the latest offensive.

 

Meanwhile, Leopard tanks and LAV-III armoured vehicles rolled into the strong point. Soldiers took the opportunity to clean their gear, take hot showers and stock-up on rations. Some said they expected it would be their last opportunity to refresh until mid-January.

 

Speaking to reporters later, Lt.-Col. Lavoie suggested his troops will engage the Taliban early next week -- after eid al-Adha, the most important

 

Muslim feast, which marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca. Among others, soldiers from Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and a squadron of tanks will be involved.

 

The new battle procedure is "a bit of a mopping-up phase, into areas where there are still remnants of Taliban strongholds," Lt.-Col. Lavoie said. "I can't get into the specifics of where those places are. I'm re-posturing forces now."

 

Operation Falcon's Summit began two weeks ago and involved troops from Canada, the United States, Britain and the Netherlands.

 

U.S. forces appear to have been somewhat more aggressive during Operation Falcon's Summit. Using aerial attacks, they were able to move Taliban fighters out of a large area south of the Arghandab River. The Canadians are responsible for territory north of the Arghandab, in Panjwaii and Zhari districts.

 

"U.S. forces received very little resistance," said Lt.-Col. Lavoie.

 

By taking the area south of the Arghandab, he said, coalition forces are now able to intercept Taliban fighters moving into Kandahar province from the south and from the west, their traditional entry routes.

 

"That pocket is now controlled by (coalition) forces," Lt.-Col. Lavoie added. "(Maj-Gen. Van Loon) now wants to focus on a few of the reported strongholds that still exist in the Zhari and Panjwaii districts."


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