The most extensive operation carried out by British special forces after World War II

The 2001 raid on al-Qaeda’s headquarters in Afghanistan was the largest and most daring operation by the British Special Forces (SAS) in nearly 60 years.

The British Special Forces Air Force (SAS) is considered one of the most elite forces in the world. During the war in Afghanistan in 2001, units A and G of the 22nd SAS Regiment conducted Britain’s largest raid since World War II.

At the end of 2001, British intelligence discovered an opium production facility located about 12 km from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which was used as the headquarters of the al-Qaeda terrorist group and the Taliban fighters. From news sources, they know about 60-100 gunmen are always present to protect this facility.

At that time, The U.S. did not want to send troops to attack this facility because their priority was to find terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden. Washington assesses that there are no high-value targets in the region.

The operation on al-Qaeda’s headquarters was strongly backed by Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister at the time, who saw it as an opportunity to obtain vital intelligence and inflict a blow on the terrorist group.

Operation Trent was the code name for the mission; the mission was a go. At that time, the need for fire support on the Afghan battlefield was still very high, so the U.S. Air Force could only send a few fighters to help.

Despite their reputation for conducting stealthy nighttime raids, SAS special forces must carry out their missions during daylight hours.

Around November 2001, the campaign began. The G team’s eight-man combat crew parachuted the night covertly before the attack to secure the landing zone for the C-130.

After that, teams A and G leaders were brought to the meeting point in two waves by six C-130 mechanical transports.

The plane didn’t touch down, but it flew low enough so that the special forces‘ vehicles could drive out of the hold and onto the ground. About 30 minutes is required for this procedure.

A Land Rover’s engine gave out upon landing, rendering it ineffective, and its three occupants were forced to stand guard.

Some of the group traveled overnight, covering over 200 kilometers to reach the objective. Then they positioned themselves to wait for the right moment to launch their assault.

Before the attack, U.S. Navy F/A-18 and F-14 fighter jets launched airstrikes against the opium factory. At 7 a.m., the vehicle is under the command of S.A.S. special troops, who speed to the target at full throttle.

The al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents saw the convoy’s dust and opened fire with A.K.s and RPG anti-tank guns.

While Team A advanced on the target with the help of American F/A-18 fighters, Team G used machine guns, anti-tank missiles, and sniper rifles to keep the enemy at bay.

Team A then divided into two groups to close the target, applying the strategy of one person shooting and one person moving to neutralize the al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. 

Team A was able to make their way to the enemy headquarters thanks to the firepower of the fighters and their consistent use of covert tactics. They emptied the command center and took all the intel they could find.

After two hours, both task forces returned to the staging location to await pickup by the American chopper. Although four SAS members were injured during the operation, they lived.

Team A secured two laptops and a plethora of crucial documents during Operation Trent, ensuring the success of subsequent raids in Afghanistan.

It was alleged that 73 al-Qaeda and Taliban members were killed in the fighting, although the British military did not provide official data.

Numerous A and G squad members were decorated with medals of valor once the operation was over.