WASHINGTON, July 18, 2006 – One coalition soldier was killed and 11 others were wounded yesterday during a battle with Taliban extremists in the Tarin Kowt district of Afghanistan's Oruzgan province, military officials reported. Coalition forces had attacked and destroyed a truck that extremists were loading with mortar equipment. Afterward, coalition and Taliban forces engaged in a pitched battle. Enemy casualties have yet to be reported, U.S. officials said.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our brave soldiers today," U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76, said in a statement. "The men killed and wounded today fought an intense battle against extremists who oppress the rights of women, murder the innocent and harbor terrorists as they did during the Taliban regime. "Our soldier, who sacrificed his life today to prevent such tyranny from returning to Afghanistan, will not be forgotten," Freakley said.
Elsewhere, Afghan National Army and coalition forces detained a terrorist leader and seized a large weapons cache south of Kunduz near the village of Baghlan July 16. Elements of the 2nd Kandak, 1st Brigade, 209th ANA Corps, and coalition forces detained Amir Gul Hassanyar, an area terrorist leader, during a search operation. The terrorist leader is believed to be responsible for numerous attacks using improvised explosive devices, trafficking in illegal weapons and drugs, and engaging in other anti-coalition and anti-Afghan government activities. A detailed search of the compound in which Hassanyar was found resulted in the discovery of 500 17 mm high-explosive rounds, 80 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, 153 rounds of 82 mm mortar rounds, 42 rocket-propelled grenade rounds, 600 rounds of small-arms ammunition, six anti-personnel mines, one 50-pound plastic-explosive bomb, one white Toyota Corolla vehicle, and six Afghan National Police uniforms.
"Gul is a threat to the people and the government of Afghanistan," U.S. Army Col. Thomas Collins, a coalition spokesman, said. "Receiving and disposing of these weapons reduces the danger posed by extremists who would use them to harm innocent civilians and Afghan and coalition forces."
In other news from Afghanistan, U.S. officials announced today that Afghan and coalition forces have seriously disrupted Taliban leadership, facilitators and rank and file fighters throughout southern Afghanistan, but particularly in the Sangin, Musa Qala and Baghran districts of Helmand province. "Afghan and coalition forces have killed numerous low and mid-level commanders that the senior Taliban leadership rely on to intimidate villages, threaten elders and lead small bands of extremists to conduct attacks on Afghan and Coalition forces," Army Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force 76, said.
Mountain Thrust was intended to significantly impact the Taliban network, and Fitzpatrick said the operation has yielded progress. "We went to Sangin, left and returned, each move calculated one step ahead of our common enemy," he said. "We're confident that we're inside their decision cycle and have seen indications of confusion on their part." Afghan and coalition forces are not revealing their next move for security reasons, but are confident they can keep Taliban extremists off balance, Fitzpatrick said.
"By breaking up Taliban cells and bands, Afghan national security forces will continue to build upon coalition successes by employing forces to extend good governance throughout the south," he said. "These actions will improve the security and stability in the southern provinces, which opens the door for the construction of more infrastructure, more employment, economic development and a better life for the Afghan people."