British Make Initial Gains Against Taliban

#1
I am posting this here as well as the Afghan thread because I suspect people are not giving that thread the attention it deserves - and this is a very good Story from the front page of America's leading newspaper.

A damned sight better angle than the UK press and its 'we are all doomed lets convert to Islam now ' line.

British Make Initial Gains Against Taliban

SANGIN, Afghanistan — The British Army compound here in a drug lord’s former villa, with its sandbagged windows and lookout posts and shrapnel-scarred walls, is a reminder that until just a few weeks ago Sangin was one of the most dangerous towns in Afghanistan’s most dangerous province, Helmand.

Since their arrival last spring in this lawless region of mountains and desert, British troops have lost 64 men in almost daily combat against a Taliban force second to none in size and ferocity in the country. The insurgents still control half the province, the most serious threat to Afghanistan’s stability.

Yet despite the presence of thousands of Taliban fighters, and some tough fighting still ahead, British military commanders here say they believe they have turned a significant corner. In recent months they have succeeded in pushing the Taliban back and keeping them out of a few strategic areas.

At the same time, they say, popular support for the insurgents is eroding.

“We see it now as a threat that can be countered,” Maj. Hamish Bell, second in command of the British battalion deployed in northern Helmand, said of the insurgency.

The progress in Helmand is perhaps the most important anywhere in the country, military commanders say, given that the province has the largest concentration of insurgents and produces 42 percent of Afghanistan’s opium crop, which has helped fuel the insurgency. If they can get Helmand right, they say, it could pave the way to broader progress against the Taliban.

But while Helmand shows what is possible in Afghanistan, commanders warn that a long, hard fight remains to win back territory from the Taliban, region by region, village by village, and success is not assured. Nearly six years into the war, a third of Afghanistan’s provinces are in the grip of insurgents, a level far worse than it was from 2002 to 2005, the years immediately after the American-led invasion, when the Taliban were toppled and forced to retreat across the border into Pakistan.

Provinces like Helmand, remote from the capital and relatively calm, were only secured by a light American military presence, leaving them wide open when the Taliban chose to return.

In the other southern provinces, Kandahar and Oruzgan, the Taliban presence remains strong. Fighting the Taliban is like pressing mercury or squeezing a balloon, commanders say: as insurgents are suppressed in one area, they emerge in another.

And once pushed back in conventional fighting, the Taliban switch tactics to suicide attacks, roadside bombs and kidnappings. In one measure of the lingering dangers even here, in early July the 14-year-old son of Sangin’s police chief was kidnapped on a road outside town and killed.

But military commanders say the progress in Helmand is an indication that NATO forces have found their stride since last year, when the Taliban staged a spectacular resurgence, taking advantage of the transfer of southern provinces from American commanders to an expanding NATO force.

As NATO forces have become better established and more numerous in southern Afghanistan, American forces have been able to deploy more troops in the east. There, they are also reporting gains in some border areas. All of this has helped NATO forces take the offensive against the Taliban, rather than fighting from their back foot, as they were forced to do last year, and gain local confidence.

“I don’t think the Taliban will come back,” said Abdul Rahman, 45, a paramedic, the only qualified person working in a small private clinic here. “They have been weakened.” Also the people would not support the Taliban anymore, he said.

What has made the difference here, the British say, is a shift in their tactics and a doubling of force numbers, to nearly 6,000 today, with more troops on the way.

When the British paratroopers arrived in Helmand, President Hamid Karzai asked that they focus on preventing small district centers from falling to the Taliban, so grave was the insurgent threat. Surrounded and cut off, the British came under attack up to seven times a day. They used artillery fire to clear an area just for supply helicopters to land.

Over the winter they deployed mobile marine units to push the Taliban back from besieged district compounds and out of the town centers. In spring and summer, they staged sweeping operations, with help from American, Afghan and small Danish and Estonian units.

In May they pushed the Taliban out of the Sangin area. With three companies in the valley, they have since thwarted attempts by the insurgents to reinfiltrate.

“It’s not over but indications are that the uplift in forces and the more offensive mind-set has been successful,” said Maj. Dominic Biddick, 32, commander of Company A of the Royal Anglian Regiment, now based in Sangin. The British base, once virtually under siege, has not taken a single hit in a month, he said.

The British have now been able to focus on their original counterinsurgency plan, which was to create “inkblots,” or secure zones around the main towns, and gradually expand security outward. In this way they are starting reconstruction projects in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, the town of Gereshk on the main road, and now Sangin.

Strategically located, Sangin, a rich agricultural town on the banks of the Helmand River, commands access to the north, where most of the Taliban are concentrated, and to the hydroelectric dam at Kajaki, a major United States development project.

The Taliban threat remains even in these secure zones. But Lt. Col. Stuart Carver, who commands the Battle Group North, said, “There aren’t big groups of 50 Taliban roaming around town and taking over big parts of the town.”

The strong British and Afghan security presence in Sangin has for the first time encouraged local Afghans to come forward with information on Taliban movements.

This year, the Taliban have lost ground and men, including some high-level commanders, and are struggling to find recruits among the local population, Colonel Carver said.

NATO officials categorize the Taliban into two types of fighters. Tier one, as they are called, are hardened, ideologically driven men who have come back to fight from their rear base in Pakistan. Tier two fighters are local men who may join the war for a variety of reasons — economic, tribal or religious.

“The biggest change from last year to this year is there has been no tier two mobilization,” Colonel Carver said. “They have tried,” he said of the Taliban.

Still, military officers said, the Taliban never seem short of forces. They have filled out their ranks with foreign fighters, mainly Pakistanis, but also a handful of Arabs and Chechens, as well as Afghans from other provinces, like neighboring Oruzgan.

The military has found Pakistani identity cards on dead fighters, as well as papers and CDs with jihadi propaganda in Chechen and Arabic, one officer said. A large group of men from Pakistan’s tribal area of Waziristan were killed in one battle, Colonel Carver said.

But the weakening of the Taliban is apparent even to local people, like Hayatullah, 29, a farmer who fled northern Helmand last year and now lives near the main British camp, Bastian, in central Helmand.

“The Taliban are not stronger,” he said, “If they were strong, they would come down and fight the British here.”

Sangin, which was a ghost town three months ago, is struggling slowly back to life. Shops have reopened, while others lie in rubble, and the initial silent hostility toward the foreign troops is starting to thaw.

A few tribal elders have asked the military for help in clearing irrigation channels. Afghan, American and British military medics offered two days of free consultations in mid-July and were swamped by hundreds of people, including dozens of women and children. That was a step toward acceptance, Major Biddick said.

He and other commanders hope that momentum will build.

“I think the big battle was for local support,” Colonel Carver said. “A proportion of the locals now think we are actually going to stay, and therefore they are prepared to throw their cards in with us. Before, they thought we were going to come in, kill a few Taliban and then leave.”

“It has gone from people too scared to even look at you or wave in case someone was watching, now they will talk,” he added. “It’s a step forward that they will talk to you, and it’s a real step forward that they talk to you as if you can solve their problems.”

After a year and half of intense fighting, not all local people are persuaded, however. “We don’t expect good government, only bloodshed,” said Hajji Mullah Fida Muhammad, an elderly man with a white beard. He said he thought the Taliban were still strong enough to win the town again. Others expected them to try again.

“The Taliban is out there, so we expect more fighting,” said Hajji Mullah Salim, 55, a cloth merchant. He had returned to open his shop, but his family was still camping out in the desert for safety, he said.

There is still talk of a Taliban offensive, but NATO commanders are keeping the pressure on the insurgents, and say the danger now is the shift in Taliban tactics, toward roadside and suicide bombs. The guerrilla tactics are threatening enough and can erode local support, as the local police chief, Hajji Ghulam Wali, can attest.

It was his son who was pulled out of a taxi and kidnapped by insurgents on the road from Sangin to the provincial capital. The Taliban commander, Tor Jan, taunted Hajji Wali on the telephone, telling him to quit his job to save his son.

When he refused, they bound his son’s hands and feet with a chain and returned him dead, riddled with 20 bullets. Then, in mid-July, a bomb detonated in the pushcart of a boy as the police chief’s car passed the town bazaar, killing four people, including the boy.

“They committed a terrible crime,” Hajji Wali said of his son’s killing. “Islam does not permit such cruelty.”

Still, he said, the town was safer. The Taliban, he insisted, “have lost morale, they are weak now.”

“Before we could not go to the bazaar, but now they are hiding and cannot go to the bazaar,” he said.

He, like several Afghan officials interviewed in the province, urged the British to press their advantage and finish the Taliban while the insurgents are down.

Wary of the ease with which the Taliban can reinfiltrate areas, the British are moving with care. British commanders said the job now was now to consolidate control of Sangin and Gereshk, rather than pursue Taliban in their holdouts.

“We could deploy and clear the rest but the danger is if we clear the Taliban out we create a vacuum,” Major Biddick, the British commander in Sangin, said. The Afghan government also needs to catch up in deploying more army and police to fill the vacuum, he added.

“This is setting the conditions 12 months in, and Afghanistan will be measured in decades, not years,” the major said. “We realize it is just the tip of the iceberg.”
www.nytimes.com/2007/0...ref=slogin

British Troops front page of the New York Times yet again - making those Manhatten Girls go all warm....Lions with good manners and cute accents... :wink:
 
#2
Good read that also illustrates what a cowardly bunch and the tactics the Taliban use against us and the Afghan people. As the police chief said

“They committed a terrible crime,” Hajji Wali said of his son’s killing. “Islam does not permit such cruelty.”

So its about time that other muslims followed suit and tell these scum that they are traitors to the faith they are supposedly fighting for.
 
#3
Shows two things.
1. The British Army is successful in what it does.

2. What people really want is to be able to get on with their lives and put a bit better food on the table. One irrigation ditch is worth ten F15s circling above, and cheaper too.

Read Loretta Napoleoni -Jihad (I think that's right) about how terrorist organizations get finance and a support base in local populations. Religion is only part of it, the major part is by providing financial services to locals when the state infrastructure fails them. So if you want a cheap loan to rebuild your house that the Israelis knocked over, or simply to buy some tools, then they have the banking system. Then where do your sympathies lie, with the western/capitalist oriented national system, or the lads who helped you build that bedroom for your daughter?

Now Bush is offering millions of $$$ to bolster up the governments of Arabian states with military hardware, the same govts who do sweet FA for the people and at the same time enrich his buddies whilst ensuring their support for the next Republican candidate to maintain their vested interests.

For the same money he could set up a counter-terrorist banking service by giving money at low interest to where it matters, the poor farmers and workers who give their support to the terrorists. The 'war' could be won quite sharply, by removing the support for the bad guys.
His way we prolong it, - and don't tell me he doesn't know.
The road ahead is long for we walk in the shadow of Bushes.
 
#4
Dwarf said:
For the same money he could set up a counter-terrorist banking service by giving money at low interest to where it matters, the poor farmers and workers who give their support to the terrorists.
Excellent post especially the above statement. There are similar wellfare schemes operated in Africa although not with the intention of halting terrorism. The trouble with governments is that they are so detached they can't see the little things and only concentrate on big, grandiose ideas.

No matter where you go in the world people are fundamentally the same. They want, security, rule of law, basic freedom, decent shelter, adequate food, the chance to better themselves and give their children a better future than they have.

Empowerment gives them the ability to chose for themselves. Small schemes such as that which you suggest, but operated on a large scale would have a dramatic effect. It doesn't require the intellectual rigors of brain surgery or rocket science to realise it so why don't these buffoons (which include large aid agencies) put things like this into practice?
 
#5
Possibly because politicians and beaurocrats support those who put them in power, and in Bush's case it wasn't the american people.
 
#6
Well done to all concerned.....
 
#8
Well done one and all stay safe.

Vikings keep up the good work
 
#9
I want to echo what easesprings says 'Dwarfs' comment are telling as well

"Shows two things.
1. The British Army is successful in what it does.

2. What people really want is to be able to get on with their lives and put a bit better food on the table. One irrigation ditch is worth ten F15s circling above, and cheaper too.'
"


edited for crap grammar
 
#10
Dwarf said:
For the same money he could set up a counter-terrorist banking service by giving money at low interest to where it matters, the poor farmers and workers who give their support to the terrorists. The 'war' could be won quite sharply, by removing the support for the bad guys.
His way we prolong it, - and don't tell me he doesn't know.
The road ahead is long for we walk in the shadow of Bushes.
No interest surely - to comply with Koran?

Pedantic point aside - a highly sensible post.
 
#11
Not if the mission was to reduce the production of drugs:

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/06/25/asia/AS-GEN-Afghan-Drugs.php

KABUL, Afghanistan: Afghanistan's poppy crop this year could yield even more opium than last year's record harvest because of favorable weather conditions, a United Nations official said Monday.

Afghanistan's opium crop grew 59 percent in 2006 to 407,000 acres, yielding a record crop of 6,100 tons, enough to make 610 tons of heroin — 90 percent of the world's supply, according to the U.N.

msr
 
#12
msr said:
Not if the mission was to reduce the production of drugs:

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/06/25/asia/AS-GEN-Afghan-Drugs.php

KABUL, Afghanistan: Afghanistan's poppy crop this year could yield even more opium than last year's record harvest because of favorable weather conditions, a United Nations official said Monday.

Afghanistan's opium crop grew 59 percent in 2006 to 407,000 acres, yielding a record crop of 6,100 tons, enough to make 610 tons of heroin — 90 percent of the world's supply, according to the U.N.

msr
On a lighter note Im surprised the CDT teams havent paid us a visit yet over in Afghan. Saying that Im sure they will be around for Post Opleave afterwards.
 
#13
Dilfor said:
Dwarf said:
For the same money he could set up a counter-terrorist banking service by giving money at low interest to where it matters, the poor farmers and workers who give their support to the terrorists. The 'war' could be won quite sharply, by removing the support for the bad guys.
His way we prolong it, - and don't tell me he doesn't know.
The road ahead is long for we walk in the shadow of Bushes.
No interest surely - to comply with Koran?

Pedantic point aside - a highly sensible post.
It's a popular misconception that the Koran forbids interest to be paid on a loan. What is forbidden is charging excessive interest or usuary. Here's a link. One of the problems with the Koran just like any other religious text is that it has to be interpreted. There 100 people can read the same thing and think it means 100 different things. Therefore, some can interpret interest as usuary, however in the practical world it's ignored.
 
#14
Garhwal said:
Dilfor said:
Dwarf said:
For the same money he could set up a counter-terrorist banking service by giving money at low interest to where it matters, the poor farmers and workers who give their support to the terrorists. The 'war' could be won quite sharply, by removing the support for the bad guys.
His way we prolong it, - and don't tell me he doesn't know.
The road ahead is long for we walk in the shadow of Bushes.
No interest surely - to comply with Koran?

Pedantic point aside - a highly sensible post.
It's a popular misconception that the Koran forbids interest to be paid on a loan. What is forbidden is charging excessive interest or usuary. Here's a link. One of the problems with the Koran just like any other religious text is that it has to be interpreted. There 100 people can read the same thing and think it means 100 different things. Therefore, some can interpret interest as usuary, however in the practical world it's ignored.
So what interest rate is allowed? My understanding is that interest is banned full stop, but there are various schemes allowed that take its place - and thus the Islamic banking industry, etc.
 
#15
Lloyds TSB offers an Islamic account, but they don't charge or provide interest, in line with the Koran.

It's all about interpretation these days.
 
#16
We've gone a bit off thread and I don't want to take away any of the well deserved credit due to the Vikings (well done lads) but several of the UK banks lend money to Muslims. The way they do it, for example a mortgage, is to add the cost of the house plus the interest and then value the house at that level (for example, house 100K (I'm talking of cheap inner city Leicester here) plus 50K interest - house value 150K). The banks then get their money and the Muslims are happy. They are also exempt any changes in interest rates, of course.
I've just had a Muslim worker withdraw from our pension scheme because it provides life insurance as part of the scheme. Her holy man told her this was against the laws of Islam (apparently you can't make money out of death). Bet it won't stop them taking all the benefits they can when they haven't got a pension fund in their old age.
Sorry to go off thread.....Well done the Anglians, a bloody good read.
 

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