Afghanistan – Taliban leaders targeted in Afghan led operation

On Wednesday (21 April, 2010), local Afghans in the Gizab region of Oruzgan province took part in an apparent uprising against Taliban insurgents operating in their community.

In response to the local action, the Australian Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) and its Afghan partner unit, the Provincial Police Reserve deployed to the area. On arrival, the forces were engaged by insurgents with small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades. The Australian and Afghan force reacted and used close air support to effectively neutralise the insurgent attack. The combined Afghan/Australian force remains in the location.

The Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Mark Evans, said that the action of the Gizab people was a strong indicator that the current ISAF strategy of population protection was starting to show positive results.

„Our policy of protecting the people and targeting insurgent networks is having the effect of building confidence in local communities.

„This action has demonstrated the adaptability and flexibility of our forces. We were able to quickly react to the needs of the local nationals and support them in their actions against the insurgents.

„The SOTG and the partnered Afghan force fought shoulder to shoulder with the Gizab locals against the Taliban insurgents well into the night until they were soundly defeated.

„The decisive battle has since set the conditions for the remaining residents of Gizab to stand up and resist the Taliban. Encouragingly, there are elements of the community where there is increasing dissatisfaction and levels of angst directed at the Taliban.

„This recent action also shows that there is very good partnering and a high degree of cooperation with the Afghan National Security Forces in Oruzgan province,“ Lieutenant General Evans said.

A middle level Taliban leader, Mullah Rahmattulah and a number of other insurgents were believed to be killed in the engagement.

According to the Commanding Officer of the SOTG, Lieutenant Colonel P, a significant proportion of his unit will spend ANZAC Day in Gizab, on the battlefield, like their forefathers 95 years ago.

As the operation is ongoing further information is not available. However, Defence has received no reporting to suggest that there have been any civilian casualties, collateral damage or rules of engagement issues resulting from ADF involvement in this operation.

In a separate operation by the SOTG earlier in the week and in another part of the province, a significant cache of ammonium nitrate, a key component of improvised explosive devices, was found. Four hundred kilograms of the banned fertiliser and a small number of weapons were destroyed.

This operation follows several successful operations conducted recently by Australian Special Forces and their Afghan partners to disrupt the Taliban insurgency.

On 12 April 2010, insurgent leader Mullah Faqir and three other insurgents were captured and detained during a joint clearance operation in the Mirabad Valley region of Oruzgan Province.

Last month the Special Operations Task Group, and their partnered Afghan Police colleagues, captured key insurgent Improvised Explosive Device coordinator Mullah Janan Andewhal and a number of other individuals involved in the construction and placement of Improvised Explosive Devices.

Media note: Lieutenant General Evans is available for a limited period for interviews.

Media contact: Defence Media Liaison: (02) 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664

Australian Ministry of Defence