Battle of Nawzad
|Battle of Nawzad|
|Part of the War in Afghanistan (2001–2014)|
|Approx. 300 Marines
Approx. 105 (Estonian Army) (Estcoy-6 Scoutspataljon "Polar Bears" C-company)
|Casualties and losses|
|Georgia: 30 killed, 6 wounded||Heavy (confirmed losses over 680 insurgents in may 2008 to november 2008)|
The Battle of Nawzad (also called the Battle of Now Zad) (2006–2014) was an ongoing battle between ISAF coalition forces and Taliban insurgents in Nawzad at the center of Nawzad district, in the northern half of Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan.
It was considered to be an example of why the U.S. needed to change its war strategy in Afghanistan, as limited troop numbers hampered ISAF's ability to eradicate the Taliban from the strategically vital south for three years prior to reinforcements arriving in 2009.
Until August 2009, U.S. Marines were locked in a stalemate with the insurgents. British, Gurkha, and Estonian forces fought to similar standstills before the Marines arrived. After several major offensive operations from August through December 2009, ISAF claimed to have regained control over the district and began reconstruction.
The town of Nawzad, the capital of Nawzad district, is situated 65 kilometres north of Camp Bastion and Camp Leatherneck, the two main, adjoined Coalition bases in Helmand province. Surrounded to the southwest and east by mountains, the town consists of a bazaar, one road, and a maze of mud-brick houses and compounds, interspersed with narrow alleys. The local economy traditionally revolves around opium poppy farming. Like much of Afghanistan, Now Zad and the surrounding area were largely peaceful after the 2001 invasion. The United Nations, European Union, and other Western-funded agencies sent staff to Nawzad to build wells and health clinics.
Escalation of fighting
In the spring of 2006, as part of the expansion of the stage three expansion of the ISAF mandate to cover the southern provinces of Afghanistan, a contingent of British troops was deployed to Helmand. At the same time, with American attention focused on Iraq, the insurgency stepped up in the south. The governor of Helmand province, Mohammad Daoud, urged the British commander Brigadier Ed Butler, to defend government positions in Nawzad and Musa Qala, that had come under attack by Taliban insurgents. Butler was at first reluctant to see his small force tied down to fixed positions in remote outstations, but when Daoud threatened to resign over the issue, he relented, and dispatched a small force to protect Now Zad.
During the Helmand Province campaign in 2006, the town began sustaining damage and aid workers fled. By 2007, fighting escalated between Taliban insurgents and contingents of British and Gurkha forces prompted the estimated 10,000 residents to flee. British soldiers, the ISAF force stationed in the village, gave the town the nickname of "Apocalypse Now Zad" in light of the heavy fighting they faced in late 2006/early 2007, and in reference to the Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now. A wall of the compound the soldiers were based in had "Welcome to Apocalypse Now Zad" painted on its side.
Despite their joint efforts however, it was not enough to clear the town of Taliban insurgents and a standstill remained.
At this point in time the total British force was estimated at approx. 82 troops. 37 from 7 Para RHA,5 from C Battery 3 RHA, around 20 troops from Royal Irish and 20 troops from 9 Para Sqn RE, RLC, MFCs from 5 Scots and British Medics. The troops from 7 Para RHA were sent to replace the 100 Estonian troops (Estcoy-5 Scoutspataljon). The 42 troops from F Para Bty, 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery patrolled the area for approx. 6 weeks. The 42 troops from 7 Para RHA handed over to 200 US Marines and 105 Estonians (Estcoy-5 Scoutspataljon) leaving a troop number of around 340 in the town.
Campaign of 2008–2009
Arrival of U.S. Marines
In March 2008, Marines of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines arrived to reinforce the British and Estonian forces. The Marines' mission was to "train police", but they were surprised to discover the town a ghost town.It was like a modern-day battle of Stalingrad. The city was in ruins, mined and dangerous. The fight went to a house and plot of land after. The local police, poorly trained, without ISAF support and being ill-equipped to fight the Taliban fighters, had fled with the townspeople. The Marines' mission in Nawzad soon changed to securing the town so that the people and their police could return, and for the next six months they battled alongside British and Estonian forces (Estcoy-6 Scoutspataljon ("Polar Bears" C-company)) to regain control of the area immediately surrounding the district center. . The small 200-strong Marine company soon found themselves embroiled daily in heavy combat. Ain't no one messing with 2/7 Mortars, "Steel Rain Steel Pain baby."
In late 2008, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines arrived to replace Fox 2/7. At the same time, the remaining British and Estonian forces (Estcoy-7 Scoutspataljon) were reassigned to other areas (Wahid) as part of the re-alignment of forces that came with increased US presence in Helmand. Nawzad District remained one of the most violent areas of Afghanistan, with regular firefights and airstrikes by the US Marines trying to solidify control of the still abandoned city. 
On April 3, 2009, elements of 3/8, with artillery support from 3rd bn 8th marines Lima company weapons platoon, 60mm mortar section manning 81mm mortars at the time, and 3/8 weapons company 81mm mortar platoon firing 81mm and 120mm mortars, firing 3236 rounds, conducted a major combat operation against insurgent forces. The Marines bombarded the insurgent front line, with jets dropping bombs and attack helicopters firing rockets into buildings where insurgents had holed up while ground forces raided several targets. From their base, the Marines launched mortars into insurgent fortifications. The attack and other operations during the winter and spring of 2009 succeeded in pushing back the front line by a few hundred yards and creating a larger buffer around the U.S. positions in preparation for future operations as larger forces became available.
On July 2, 2009, 4,000 Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade launched a major offensive, dubbed Operation Khanjar into the province's Taliban-held territory. This offensive and others to follow were a result of reinforcements ordered to Afghanistan by President Obama shortly after he took office, which increased the number of US Marines in Helmand from roughly 2,000 in January 2009 to 10,000 by June.
Coalition offensive operations
In August 2009, Golf Company was reinforced to include approximately 400 US personnel and 100 Afghan National Army Soldiers arrived, the first Afghan Security Force presence in the area in over two years. On August 12, 2009 this combined force launched an attack on Dahaneh, a village of 2,000 about five kilometers southeast of the district center. The village of Dahaneh controlled Dahaneh Pass, the key to the best vehicle route connecting Taliban safe havens in Northern Helmand Province to the more populated agricultural areas further south. After three days of fighting the Battle of Dahaneh the US Marine and Afghan forces gained control of the village, allowing voting in the 2009 Presidential Election. Coalition control of the pass reduced the insurgents ability to reinforce their forces in the district and set the stage for later operations to secure the area.
Operation Cobra's Anger
On December 4, 2009, the Marines pressed into a remote Taliban stronghold with their first major assault since President Barack Obama announced the deployment of 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan against the Taliban insurgency. Operation Cobra's Anger involved 900 U.S. Marines and sailors, British troops and 150 Afghan soldiers and police, pushed into the Nawzad district. In addition to a ground assault, 300 Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines and the Marine recon unit Task Force Raider dropped into the Nawzad valley via helicopters and V-22 Osprey aircraft. This was the first time the Osprey were used in combat operations in Afghanistan. In preparation for the Marine offensive the Taliban planted thousands of homemade bombs and dug in positions throughout the valley at the foot of the craggy Tangee Mountains. There were no reported coalition fatalities in the operation and insurgent loses were estimated as 16 killed and 5 captured.
After securing the district center, the offensive later expanded to Taliban strongholds in outlying villages, including the holdout insurgent stronghold Bar Nowzad. ISAF reported the mission as a success. They claimed that the population began to return to the District Center three years after they fled the heavy fighting and coalition forces cooperated with returned local government leaders to rebuild the city.
2013 Taliban attacks on Georgian Forces
On May 13, three Georgian soldiers of the 42nd battalion were killed when a suicide bomber drove a lorry carrying explosives into their base.
On June 7, a similar bombing took place outside a Georgian military base when a Taliban suicide bomber detonated a small truck laden with explosives. The blast killed seven soldiers and wounded six others. Georgia isn't a full member of NATO therefore they act independently in Afghanistan.
2015 Taliban offensive
In 2015, Taliban captured the city.
- Helmand Province campaign – ongoing ISAF campaign in Helmand Province, Afghanistan
- Operation Khanjar – 2009 offensive into Helmand Province
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- Lima 3/8 Marines in Now Zad – Wall Street Journal slideshow
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- AP News report on Now Zad – June 30, 2009 AP News report on Now Zad
- Marines eligible for presidential, Navy ribbons