Operation Septentrion

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Operation Septentrion
Part of the War in Afghanistan
Date December 16–18, 2009
Location Uzbin Valley, Afghanistan
International Security Assistance Force Taliban
Commanders and leaders
Lieutenant-Colonel Hervé Wallerand
Units involved
 • French Foreign Legion
 • United States Special Forces
 • Afghan National Army (ANA)
 • 750–800 (French Foreign Legion)
 • 200 (United States Special Forces)[which?]
 • (Afghan National Army)

Operation Septentrion was a 36-hour military operation of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a NATO-led security mission, that took place December 16–18, 2009, in the Uzbin Valley of eastern Afghanistan.[1][2][3][4]

A part of the War in Afghanistan, it involved a force of 1,100 troops, including 750 or 800 members of the French Foreign Legion, 200 United States Special Forces and Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers.[1][5]


Sixteen months before the operation, the Uzbin Valley ambush, on August 18, 2008, by the Taliban in the area of Surobi, Afghanistan, had killed ten French soldiers and wounded twenty-one.[3][6]


The operation's purpose was "reaffirming the sovereignty of Afghan security forces in the north of the Uzbeen [sic] Valley", according to a French military spokesperson,[6] as well as to plant the Afghan flag in what was called a key strategic village.[which?][2][4] (While 75 percent of the Uzbin Valley had been under ISAF control, the rest of the valley had been under the control of the Taliban.)[4]


During more than 90 minutes of combat,[2] several US soldiers were wounded,[5] including three serious injuries.[6] The Taliban fighters attacked with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and heavy machine gun fire; for the coalition forces, the French troops used shells,[clarification needed] backed up by French Tigre and US Apache helicopters[2] and fighter jets.[6] At least one Taliban fighter was killed and three were injured, according to Lieutenant-Colonel Hervé Wallerand, who led the operation.[4][6][7]


The French employed what was called the "Mikado strategy" (la stratégie du Mikado), after the game Mikado (known in North America as "pick-up sticks"),[1] because of the need to plan every move carefully with constant awareness that one wrong step could risk everything being lost.[8] In particular, the Mikado strategy emphasizes consulting with local inhabitants in a shura[1] (or consultation) to minimize the risk of local civilians conspiring against the ANA and ISAF forces.[9] For this reason the operation was preceded by "weeks of negotiations with local villagers", according to the BBC News.[3]


In July 2011, the Croix de la Valeur Militaire ("cross of military valour"), a French military decoration, was presented to five Americans – Cpt. Thomas Harper, Master Sgt. David Nuemer, Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Ahern, Staff Sgt. Casey Roberts and Sgt. Ryan Meister – for their service during the operation.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Staff (June 28, 2010). "18/12/09 – Afghanistan: opération " Septentrion ", la stratégie des Mikados (vidéo)" [18/12/09 – Afghanistan: Operation 'Septentrion', the Mikado Strategy] (in French). French Ministry of Defense. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c d Talbi, Karim (December 18, 2009). "Afghanistan: démonstration de force de la Légion, cinq Américains blessés" [Afghanistan: Demonstration of Force of the French Foreign Legion, Five Americans Wounded] (in French). Agence France-Presse (via Google News). Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c Staff (December 17, 2009). "French Troops Spearhead Assault in Afghanistan". BBC News. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d Staff (December 18, 2009). "French Afghan Assault Concludes". BBC News. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Staff (December 17, 2009). "French Troops Lead Afghan Attack on Taliban – Some 800 French Legionnaires Backed by 200 U.S. Special Forces and Afghan Soldiers Have Gone on an Offensive in a Valley in Afghanistan Where the Taliban Killed 10 French Soldiers Last Year, the French Military Said Thursday". Associated Press (via The Seattle Times). Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Staff (December 18, 2009). "French Foreign Legion Launches Afghan Assault". Agence France Presse (via ABC News). Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  7. ^ Staff (December 17, 2009). "800 légionnaires français engagés dans une 'démonstration de force' en Afghanistan" [800 Members of the French Foreign Legion Were Engaged in a 'Demonstration of Force' in Afghanistan]. Le Monde (in French). Retrieved February 7, 2012. 
  8. ^ Durieux, Benoît (October 2010). Le GTIA "Surobi" d'août 2009 à janvier 2010 [The Joint Tactical Group of Surobi from August 2009 to January 2010] (PDF; requires Adobe Acrobat). Les Cahiers du CESAT nº 21 (in French). p. 18. Tout ceci fait un peu référence au jeu du «mikado», ce jeu de baguettes imbriquées où il faut les retirer une à une sans faire bouger les autres. Pour jouer, il faut d'abord bien saisir comment se présente l'équilibre des différentes petites baguettes entre elles. En Afghanistan, c'est exactement la même chose. Si on fait un geste de travers, on risque de tout faire tomber et de perdre. Mais en même temps, parfois, un seul joli coup peut faire régler la situation de manière durable; on peut alors gagner assez vite. 
  9. ^ Forestier, Patrick (November 13, 2009). "Raid de nuit en Afghanistan" [Night Raid in Afghanistan]. Paris Match (in French). Retrieved January 25, 2012. 
  10. ^ Bobbera, Carine (July 28, 2011). "Six soldats américains reçoivent la Croix de la valeur militaire" [Six American Soldiers Receive the Croix de la Valeur Militaire] (in French). French Ministry of Defense. Retrieved January 21, 2012. 
  11. ^ Greenhill, Jim (Army Staff Sgt.) (July 26, 2011). "France Honors National Guard Special Forces for Service in Afghanistan". National Guard Bureau (via the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs). Retrieved January 21, 2012. 

External links[edit]