CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (July 2, 2008) — U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers and police launched a major operation in central Helmand Province today as forces from Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan (Task Force Leatherneck) and Afghan national security forces moved into towns and villages along the Helmand River valley in an effort to secure the local population from the threat of Taliban and other insurgent intimidation and violence.
Nearly 4,000 Marines and sailors from Regimental Combat Team 3, Combat Logistics Regiment 2 and the MEB-Afghanistan Command Element constitute the bulk of the U.S. forces conducting Operation Khanjar (Strike of the Sword), along with approximately 650 Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police forces. Marine Aircraft Group 40 and Task Force Pegasus, the Combat Aviation Brigade of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, provided assault support and other aviation support for the mission.
Similar operations in Helmand and Kandahar provinces have been underway as part of a concerted effort by ISAF to combat the ongoing insurgency, including Operation Panchai Palang (Panther Claw) initiated last week by Task Force Helmand, the U.K.-led force that operates adjacent to MEB-Afghanistan.
"The operation in Nawa is going to be very effective," said Helmand Gov. Gulab Mangal. "The security forces will build bases to provide security for the local people so that they can carry out every activity with this favourable background, and take their lives forward in peace."
MEB-Afghanistan is a subordinate unit of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force. The combined U.S. and Afghan mission is to provide security for population centers along the Helmand River valley and connect local citizens with their legitimate government while establishing stable and secure conditions for national elections scheduled for August as well as enhanced security for the future.
"What makes Operation Khanjar different from those that have occurred before is the massive size of the force introduced, the speed at which it will insert, and the fact that where we go we will stay, and where we stay, we will hold, build and work toward transition of all security responsibilities to Afghan forces," said Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commanding general of MEB-Afghanistan.