May 29, 2009 – Operation Panther’s Claw Taking and holding ground Panther’s Claw was preceded by several other operations carried out by British and Afghan government forces with the purpose of “taking and holding ground” in Helmand Province. Operation Zafar, launched on 27 April, lasted one week and involved more than 200 troops of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police, supported by elements of the Mercian Regiment and The Royal Gurkha Rifles, respectively. The operation succeeded in clearing the Taliban from several villages around Basharan in central Helmand, killing “many Taliban insurgents” according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) at a cost of only “handful” of ANA and British casualties. Zafar 2, launched on 19 May, and lasting four days, saw British troops deployed to secure an area so that a checkpoint—to be manned by Afghan forces—could be built on a key route into the provincial capital Lashkar Gah. On 29 May, soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers engaged and drove out Taliban fighters near the village of Yatimchay, south of Musa Qala. Lt Col Nick Richardson, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, credited the arrival of additional American forces in Helmand with increasing the operational capability of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces in the province and helping to open the way for Panther’s Claw.