Afghanistan: March 15, 2002


New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark acknowledged on 15 March that members of the country's SAS (Special Air Service commandos) were in Afghanistan. New Zealand had previously been silent about their contribution, while their special operations forces units recovered valuable equipment and forwarded it for exploitation.

Miss Clark had been silent about the New Zealand SAS was based on a desire to minimize the risk to those serving overseas and to their families left behind, but others said that Miss Clark had been playing domestic politics because she didn't want to split the Government. The Alliance and the Green parties were opposed to New Zealand's involvement in the war against terrorism.

Meanwhile, American and Canadian troops of the Coalition forces in Afghanistan recovered terror manuals and bodies from caves used by Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in their last known Afghan stronghold, while Afghan soldiers continued to secure the Shah-I-Khot valley floor. Allied forces also fired at a group of three or four fleeing Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters, but did not capture them. - Adam Geibel

At the end of Operation Anaconda comes Operation Harpoon, the first Canadian-led operation of the five-month-old Afghan Campaign and Canada's biggest land-based offensive since the Korean War. 

"Operation Harpoon" moved a combined battalion task force of about 500 (mostly Canadian soldiers, with a U.S. infantry company) into the Shah-I-Khot to mop up an estimated 100 rebel fighters left in the vicinity of 'the Whale". The 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, was based in Khandahar and moved by US helicopters in the early morning hours of the 13th. 

Obviously, the mountainous area aircrews dubbed the "Whale's back" resembles the back of a whale emerging from the sea. Also on 13 March, Gul Haider's and Zia Lodin's Allied Afghan units overran three villages and the strategic "whale'' , which U.S. B-1 bombers had pounded throughout the 12th. US Forces spokesman Major Bryan Hilferty said the key to victory had been the capture of the region's highest mountain and "the Whale". - Adam Geibel


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