1. Various of British troops in action during Operation Ptarmigan
Bagram air base - 18 April 2002
2. Officers seated
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Brigadier Roger Lane, British Royal Marines
"We have also completed our first operational deployment, Operation Ptarmigan. I had two primary objectives in conducting this operation. First, it was critically important to test all of our procedures under real operational conditions."
4. Cutaway reporters
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Brigadier Roger Lane, British Royal Marines
"A range of documents and other intelligence material was also obtained and is currently being analysed."
Bagram - 18 April 2002
6. Wide shot two Chinook helicopters coming into land
7. Mid shot Chinooks landing
8. Wide shot British Marines leaving Chinook
9. Various marines walking along runway towards base
British Royal Marines have found evidence that Taliban and al-Qaida fighters may have returned to the area where they battled U-S forces last month in Operation Anaconda, according to a British officer.
Eight American troopers were killed during the operation aimed at clearing al-Qaida and Taliban forces from the Shah-e-Kot valley of Paktia province in southeastern Afghanistan. U-S officials estimated that hundreds of fighters had been killed during the operation, although only a few dozen bodies were found.
Pro-U-S Afghan commanders said most of the force fled towards the Pakistani border to regroup and return later.
At a news conference in Bagram on Thursday, announcing the end of a five-day mission codenamed Operation Ptarmigan, Brigadier Roger Lane said there was evidence that some enemy forces had indeed returned but he declined to offer details.If true, al-Qaida forces have adapted techniques used effectively by Afghan resistance fighters against Soviet invaders in the 1980s.
Faced with overwhelming firepower, Afghan forces would break up into small groups and slip away while Soviet planes, tanks and artillery pounded empty positions.
Lane said the Royal Marines also found undiscovered "terrorist facilities", or cave complexes, including one which contained 20-thousand rounds of large-caliber ammunition usually used to shoot down planes. They also found documents, but he didn't release details.
The sweep was the Royal Marines' first major large-scale combat mission in Afghanistan.
About 400 mostly British troops, as well as much smaller numbers of U-S and Afghan forces, dug in a rugged area of high desert and 10-thousand-foot-high mountains that the allies say was a former al-Qaida and Taliban base and a key resupply route for their fighters.
The operation was designed in part to give the Marines, most of whom have never been in any combat situations before, a chance to test their communications systems, evacuation procedures and to make sure the soldiers and the ammunition work properly in high altitude.
Lane said the main British fighting force would be ready to go into action by the end of April.The 1-thousand-700-strong force has been coming in waves in recent weeks and landing at Bagram, a key allied base in central Afghanistan.