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Coalition Forces Extend Operations in Afghanistan - 2003-03-25

Coalition forces in Afghanistan have expanded operation Valiant Strike in the southern part of the country.

Coalition forces using helicopter gunships launched a dawn air assault in the southern Sami Ghar mountains in Kandahar province.

On Monday, coalition forces recovered more than 170 rocket-propelled grenades, as well as mines and mortar rounds, the third such weapons cache discovered in the area since operation Valiant Strike began.

Colonel Roger King, the spokesman for coalition forces in Afghanistan, says some suspected opposition fighters have been detained.

"A total of four men have been detained since operation Valiant Strike began last Thursday," he said. "A portion of the cache of weapons was transported to Kandahar air base. It will be retained for further use by the Afghan national army."

Elsewhere, a U.S. patrol at the Shkin coalition base in eastern Paktika province came under fire just after midnight Monday. No coalition soldiers were reported injured in the incident.

A number of Taleban and al-Qaida operatives are thought to be active in the remote area, about 140 kilometers east of Kandahar city.

Operation Valiant Strike was launched the same day as military attacks against Iraq, but coalition forces say the timing was coincidental. Colonel Roger King says the operation is being seen as a sign of commitment to Afghanistan by coalition forces.

"Civil affairs personnel who are operating with Task Force Devil reported that villagers were telling them over the weekend that operation Valiant Strike was being taken as proof that the coalition will not leave Afghanistan because of operations in Iraq," said Colonel King.

Colonel King also says he thinks a series of rocket attacks against coalition forces last week were connected to the launch of military strikes against Iraq. But he says the attacks caused no damage and have not affected coalition activities.