HUNDREDS of local soldiers have targeted a Taliban stronghold in one of their biggest operations since arriving in Afghanistan more than a month ago.

The 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh (1 R Welsh), who arrived in the troubled Helmand province in December 2009 from the Dale Barracks in Chester, have been conducting air assault operations in an area known as ‘The Babaji Pear’ because of its distinctive shape on the map.

In total the battalion has more than 300 soldiers drawn from across Wrexham, Flintshire and Chester.

The area where the assault took place is an insurgent stronghold and the troops had been building up to the operation with a series of smaller raids aimed at disrupting insurgents.

Codenamed Operation BAMBIRIK, the Royal Welsh soldiers worked alongside the Afghan National Army during the four-day mission, with the Afghans making up a quarter of the force.

The Afghans are far better at engaging with the locals who up until now have never seen the new Afghan soldiers in this part of Helmand, and officials said they were vital to the success of the operation.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Lock, Commanding Officer of 1 R WELSH, said: “We have been very impressed by them and there is no lack of courage in the Afghan soldiers. They want to get in and push out the Taliban.

“The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police are a key part of our mission. They are excellent fighters and as we progress through the tour we will partner with more and more of them until we are working alongside a full Kandak, which is the equivalent of a British battalion.”