Canadian Ambush, Kills 72 Taliban Fighters

This seems like a well run operation by the Canadian Army. Results are VERY good!

72 Taliban killed in Canadian-set military trap
Nine-hour battle. No Canadian, few Afghan casualties

Donald McArthur
CanWest News Service

Monday, August 21, 2006

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Less than three hours after taking command of Canada's battle group in southern Afghanistan, Lieutenant-Colonel Omer Lavoie sprang what amounted to a carefully laid trap on Taliban insurgents that left as many as 72 militants dead with Canadian troops suffering no casualties and Afghan forces only a handful.

It was one of the bloodiest days for the Taliban since its ouster in 2001 and by far the most devastating blow coalition and Afghan forces have struck against the insurgency since assuming command of the volatile south three weeks ago.

The lopsided nine-hour battle occurred near the same disputed ground where four Canadian soldiers were killed and 10 injured in fierce fighting little more than two weeks ago. It began about 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Afghanistan's Independence Day, when insurgents picked a fight with Afghan security forces and were met and routed by a NATO aerial and artillery assault that left the bodies of dozens of insurgents in the streets and orchards of Panjwaii -- a Taliban hotbed coalition forces now claim to control.

"The posturing of our forces was very deliberate. The way we postured the forces was based on a high expectation of how we thought the enemy would react to the posture itself," said Lt.-Col. Lavoie, who crafted the plan while working beside Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Hope, the battle group commander he replaced in the hours leading up to the fighting.

"They acted the way that we expected they would act and became decisively engaged and had insurmountable difficulties breaking contact with us."

NATO officials estimate the Taliban's strength in the south at about 1,000 fighters, which, if accurate, would mean nearly 10% of its force was felled in the fighting that continued -- in "troughs and crests," according to Lt.-Col. Lavoie -- into the dark and early hours of Sunday.

"A 10% casualty figure is an extremely big blow to your combat effectiveness," said Lt.-Col. Lavoie.

The Taliban is known to quickly replenish its diminished ranks by paying and arming impoverished male Afghans of fighting age.

Troops with the Royal Canadian Regiment, mostly from Petawawa, suffered no casualties in their first major test since arriving as part of a month-long relief-in-place operation but reports say anywhere from four to seven Afghan police officers and soldiers were killed. Thousands of civilians have been fleeing fighting in the Panjwaii area in recent months and there were no reports of civilian casualties.

Afghan officials said between 60 and 72 suspected insurgents were killed and NATO included those figures in an official statement, which claimed the insurgents in the area had been "defeated."

NATO has generally refused to provide estimates on insurgent casualties and provided no tally after the Aug. 3 battle in Panjwaii where four Canadian soldiers were killed.

Lt.-Col. Lavoie dismissed suggestions the weekend operation, a "deliberate" one, was a form of payback for those deaths and the deaths of other Canadian soldiers in Panjwaii in recent months.

"We don't keep a scorecard and you certainly don't win counter-insurgency operations through any sort of a body count or a tally," he said.

CanWest News Service

"It was to deny freedom of action and freedom of movement to insurgent forces in the area and demonstrate that the Afghan national security forces, and the Canadian forces and NATO forces supporting them, do have freedom of movement and control of the area."

In other fighting this weekend, four U.S. soldiers and an Afghan soldier were killed in separate Independence Day clashes and a British soldier was killed and three wounded yesterday in the southern province of Helmand.

Panjwaii has spiritual and emotional significance to the Taliban and is considered key ground for exerting control on Highway 1, a vital east-west artery, and on Kandahar, the economic centre of southern Afghanistan and the country's second-largest city.

Lt.-Col. Lavoie said the area is now under the control of NATO forces but whether his confidence is enough to convince the hundreds of families who fled their homes to return remains to be seen.

Although he stopped short of saying the battle plan was designed to draw out the insurgents who had been massing in Panjwaii in recent days, Lt.-Col. Lavoie said Canadian and Afghan forces anticipated the Taliban attack and stood ready to meet it fiercely without putting themselves at unnecessary risk.

"I don't like to use the word trap when we're talking counter-insurgency operations but certainly we were postured so that we would not become decisively engaged or commit all of our forces at one time so that we always had the ability to manoeuvre in the battle space," he said.

"We were able to engage the enemy through fire and manoeuvre without ever having to have ourselves backed into a corner."
Bravo boys!


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