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British-led Coalition Battle Al Qaeda, Taliban Fighters

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2002 – British forces today launched Operation Condor to support an Australian Special Air Service patrol engaged in combat with al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the mountains of southeast Afghanistan.

"I can confirm that the coalition has made contact with the enemy and that some have been killed," Royal Marines Brigadier R.G.T. Lane said at a press conference this morning. "A number of attacks by air have been conducted."

Australian, British and American ground and air forces are involved in the operation, intended to destroy enemy forces in the area and eliminate any terrorist infrastructure that may be found, British defense officials said.

Ground forces from the United Kingdom's Royal Marines 45 Commandos reinforced U.S. and Australian forces that had engaged May 16 in a lengthy firefight with enemy elements, British officials said. The coalition troops called in air support after they'd come under fire from heavy machine- guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Lane, commander of the Royal Marines Commando 3 Brigade, said he'd deployed the commandos "equipped with the full range of combat power at his disposal by air and road to close with and destroy the enemy in an area historically known to be used by the Taliban." He stressed that this is a coalition effort, with Australian and U.S. forces playing a prominent role.

"Our ability to respond rapidly to such attacks should serve as a reminder that the coalition will not tolerate such activity, and we will hunt the terrorists relentlessly -- and that is wherever they may be," Lane said. "This is vital for the future security and prosperity of this country and all those who live here.

"Operation Condor," he concluded, "together with other coalition operations, will enable the legitimate government of Afghanistan, in partnership with the international community, to build a brighter, secure and more prosperous future for all inhabitants of this country."

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