UK Marines end Operation Snipe
BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- British Royal Marines have completed a two-week hunt for Islamic rebels in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.
While the 1,000-strong British-led force did not come across any al Qaeda or Taliban fighters, British military officials declared Operation Snipe a military success.
"It is true to say that we did not encounter the enemy during this operation," said Brigadier Roger Lane, the senior commander of the British commandos on the ground.
"The fact that al Qaeda has been forced to abandon one of the most strategically well-placed and easily defended locations in Afghanistan speaks volumes for the military and psychological impact of the coalition's operations."
Lane said the operation had destroyed "a vast arsenal of weaponry" and al Qaeda or Taliban infrastructure by blowing up an enormous cache of weapons stored in a cave complex.
He added: "History has taught us that killing or capturing individual members of a terrorist group, whilst a bonus where it can be achieved, is not always the most effective means to deliver a strategic blow to that group's operational capability.
"Disrupting their planning, destroying their logistic supplies and denying them a safe haven is at least as important, often more so."
The operation ended on Monday, the day after two rockets were found primed with crude water-based timers and aimed at the British forward supply base.
Marine Lt. Col. Ben Curry said the rockets were wired to a water-based timer to allow the assailants to escape before they went off. "(The timer) was dripping," he said.
Curry said: "It was a primitive timer and the way they were lined up was pretty inaccurate.
"But it was a serious incident. We have since withdrawn from the area, as we had planned to do before this incident."
It was the first time that the Marines had been directly targeted in their two weeks of operations.
The rockets were discovered by a local warlord named Sherzaz and were approximately 7 km (4 miles) southeast of the forward operating base, which contained supplies and fuel for the British force combing through the nearby heights.
The firing mechanism was typical of the Afghan mujahedeen, or holy warriors, who forced the Russians to withdraw in 1989 after a 10-year occupation.
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