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Bill Delaney: Operation Ptarmigan

CNN's Bill Delaney
CNN's Bill Delaney  

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- British commandos are taking the lead in a new military operation launched Tuesday. It aims to flush out Taliban and Al Qaeda troops in unspecified areas of eastern Afghanistan.

CNN Correspondent Bill Delaney spoke to CNN Anchor Kyra Phillips from the Afghan capital of Kabul.

DELANEY: Operation Ptarmigan is now a combat mission in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, led primarily by 45 Commando [unit] of the Royal British Marines, focused now, we are told, primarily on a former Taliban and al Qaeda base area in the eastern mountains of Afghanistan. No further specifics about just where all this is happening.

This is the first combat mission in this battle here in Afghanistan since the big Operation Anaconda in early March. There are several hundred troops involved in all of this, American and Afghan troops as well-- this is a coalition operation.

The American and Afghan troops described as in support roles, but of course for all the soldiers involved this is difficult and dangerous work to ferret out and try to wipe out the hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters still in these mountains.

Now these confrontations that are likely to take place in the next several weeks -- several hundred soldiers are already involved. There will be several hundred more as time goes on -- are not likely to be the kind of full on confrontations we saw in Operation Anaconda. Al Qaeda and Taliban are scattered now. We expect more sporadic encounters with them.

British Brigadier Roger Lane stresses that there is much work here in Afghanistan still to be done.

Among weapons being brought to bear on all of this, big 105 millimeter howitzer -- brought up to the confrontation lines in eastern Afghanistan. All this, very significant for the British Royal Marines. This is their first combat mission since the Falkland War in 1981.

PHILLIPS: As the Royal British Marines move in, I think families back here at home are wondering, does that mean U.S. soldiers get to come home?

DELANEY: No indication of that at all. General Tommy Franks has said in recent weeks that he did not anticipate major operations by American forces here on the scale of a new kind of an Anaconda operation. But, certainly, this is a coalition operation, as I said, and Americans involved in all of it, and all of it very difficult and dangerous work. And all of it very much ongoing for months if not years to come.




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