News: 82nd Airborne takes part in "Operation Achilles" in Southern Afghanistan
Story by Army Sgt. Tony J. Spain
U.S. National Command Element Public Affairs
KHANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- At the request of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan's government, soldiers from NATO's International Security Assistance Force and the Afghan National Security Force launched a major operation targeting Taliban and drug traffickers in southern Afghanistan March 6.
"Operations will focus on improving security in areas where Taliban extremist, foreign terrorists and [narcotics] traffickers are trying to destabilize the government of Afghanistan," said Dutch Maj. Gen. Ton Van Loon, commander, Regional Command-South.
"We also intend to empower village elders to take charge of their communities as they have been doing so in other parts of southern Afghanistan, without the influence of Taliban extremists," he said.
Code named "Operation Achilles," the multi-national force operating in the northern region of the Helmand province involves 5,500 Soldiers including, 1000 Soldiers from the Afghan National Security Force and up to 1000 Paratroopers from Fort Bragg's 82nd Airborne Division.
The first elements of the operation reached their positions early March 6 said Van Loon.
Paratroopers from the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, is also playing a key roll in "Operation Achilles."
"Our Paratroopers coordinated a convoy and night air assault in the Ghorak Valley of the Helmand Province," said Army 1st Lt. Mathew Catalono, 1-508th PIR.
"The main effort is actually the British; we are a supporting effort to help isolate and prevent Taliban from escaping," said Army Capt. Tom Reinner, 1-508th PIR.
"This is the largest multi-national combined ANSF and ISAF operation launched to date and it signifies the beginning of a planned offensive to bring security to northern Helmand and set the conditions for meaningful development that will fundamentally improve the quality of life for Afghans in the area," Van Loon said.
Although "Operation Achilles" focus is on improving security conditions, its overreaching purpose is to assist the government of Afghanistan in improving its ability to begin reconstruction and economic development in the area.
"Strategically, our goal is to enable the Afghan government to begin the Kajaki Project," Van Loon said.
Van Loon noted the Kajaki multi-purpose dam and power house will improve the water supply for local communities, rehabilitate irrigation systems for farmlands, as well as provide sufficient electrical power for residents, industries and commerce.
Soldiers from the Afghan National Security Force captured a high-ranking Taliban commander and suicide bomb attack facilitator during the second day of "Operation Achilles" March 7.
Mullah Mahmood was arrested at an ANSF check point as he tried to escape dressed in a burka, a veil worn by Islamic woman here.
"The capture of this senior Taliban extremist is another indicator that a more normal life is returning to the Zahre and Panjwaii districts, and is a testament to the great work the ANA is achieving," Van Loon said.
"Yesterday's security crackdown in Panjwaii is an example of the ultimate goals of "Operation Achilles." With stability provided by the ANA, much needed reconstruction will commence for the people of southern Afghanistan," he added.