UZBEEN VALLEY, Afghanistan: More than 1,100 soldiers, including 800 French legionnaires as well as US and Afghan commandos, launched a major operation Thursday east of the Afghan capital, military officials said.
Five US special forces were wounded, in the fighting in the Uzbeen Valley, a Taliban stronghold where 10 French soldiers were killed in an ambush in August 2008, the officials said.
The operation, codenamed “Septentrion”, was aimed at “reaffirming the sovereignty of Afghan security forces in the north of the Uzbeen Valley,” Colonel Benoit Durieux of the French Foreign Legion said.
It was one of the biggest military deployments by the French army in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.
An official said three of the Americans were seriously wounded, and that the injured had been evacuated by helicopter to the nearby Bagram air base.
“One of them was injured, badly, to the brain and the eye. Another one had his artery cut,” a US special forces officer at camp Rocco, the army’s advance outpost in the valley, told AFP.
At least one militant was killed and three wounded in the fighting, Lieutenant-Colonel Herve Wallerand, who led the operation, said.
Attacked by the insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and heavy machine gun fire, the French troops responded with shells, backed up by French and US attack helicopters. Jets also hit Taliban positions.
US President Barack Obama has pledged an extra 30,000 troops to bolster an international force of 113,000 already fighting a Taliban-led insurgency that has become more virulent and deadly over the past year.