Afghanistan: April 18, 2002


On 16 April, elements of the UK's Royal Marine infantry battle group went into action against Taliban forces in the mountains near the Afghani-Pakistan border. The Royal Marine battle group is based on the 650-man 45 Commando (based in Arbroath, Scotland). 

This battalion-sized unit is part of 3 Commando Brigade, which includes 40 Commando (Taunton) and 42 Commando (Plymouth) and is specially trained in mountain / cold-weather fighting. 45 Commando was the first UK unit to specialize in the mountain / cold weather warfare role, during the early 1970s. 

More recently, 45 Commando had been part in the "Swift Sword" training exercise in Oman in November 2001, then returned to Scotland for several weeks of winter mountain exercises before leaving for Afghanistan. 

The four rifle companies and Headquarters Company were joined by the Combat Support and Services Support elements integral to the Commando Group; 7 Battery 29 Commando Regiment (Royal Artillery, equipped with 105 mm light guns), 59 Independent Commando Squadron (Royal Engineers) and elements of the Commando Logistics Regiment. Mobility was provided by three Chinook helicopters of 27 Squadron, RAF ODIHAM.

UK defense experts are already predicting that the Royal Marines' Ptarmigan operation will be "tough" and to expect casualties. Defence expert Michael Yardley 
claims that the Royal Marines are about the best troops in the world for this type of job, their advantage over the Americans being that they can form compact attack units. 

200 Royal Marines from 40 Commando had already deployed with American and Afghan forces already been searching for Taliban and al-Qaida remnants in an area formerly known have been a terrorist base, in what the U.S. military called "Operation Mountain Lion". - Adam Geibel


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