On a recent night raid, a Times photographer captured Afghanistan’s elite forces as they disrupted Taliban operations in one of the country’s most volatile provinces.
SOMEWHERE OVER HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — As the city lights faded and the Soviet-era military helicopter banked over the fields and canals of southern Afghanistan one night in May, the Afghan commandos on board made their final checks, looking at maps and adjusting their weapons before turning on their night-vision goggles.
Their objective: to dismantle a bomb-making factory inside a squat mud-brick house in Chah Anjir, a village in Nadali, a district in Helmand Province that is completely under Taliban control.
Just days earlier, the Taliban had opened an offensive on Helmand’s capital, Lashkar Gah. Afghan government forces had lost ground. The city was under siege. Frantic to relieve some of the pressure on the capital, security officials committed their most elite of the Afghan special operations forces to the province.
21,000 Afghans in the commando forces, with hopes to greatly expand the program.
more than 20 Afghan commandos were killed when their offensive operation to retake a district in the country’s northwest was derailed by a vicious Taliban counterattack.