Wednesday, September 13, 2006



A British soldier has revealed, in stunning detail, just how hardcore the fighting has been in the Sangin Valley. Total ferocity from the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. The sort of detail we rarely hear about.

From the Independent :

"We are flattening places we have already flattened, but the attacks have kept coming. We have killed them by the dozens, but more keep coming, either locally or from across the border," one said.

"We have used B1 bombers, Harriers, F16s and Mirage 2000s. We have dropped 500lb, 1,000lb and even 2,000lb bombs.

"At one point our Apaches [helicopter gunships] ran out of missiles they have fired so many. Almost any movement on the ground gets ambushed. We need an entire battle group to move things. Yet they will not give us the helicopters we have been asking for.

"We have also got problems with the Afghan forces...many of the police will not fight the Taliban, either because they are scared or they are sympathisers."

The significant events in the Afghanistan front of the 4th World War are coming thick and fast, yet we get no real sense of the desperate battles underway over there from the mainstream media, or government officials.

General James Jones, the Nato military chief, has placed an urgent demand for a further 2,500 extra NATO troops. He also requested helicopters and more armour. NATO has an estimated 25,000 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.

Jones was hitting up the NATO member states for the manpower and gear because the British, Canadian and Australian forces have virtually nothing else in reserve to commit to Afghanistan.

However, at the Warsaw Summit today, Germany, Italy, Turkey and France said they have no spare troops and their peacekeeping commitments in Lebanon have them at next-to-full stretch.

Then there's the deal cut betwen the Pakistan military and militants, believed to be associated with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, that if they promise to stop staging attacks on the border regions with Pakistan, or to cross over into Afghanistan, they will be left free to live in peace.

British troops, as detailed above, have been under a virtual ceaseless attack in the Sangin Valley region.

Here's why they've been caught out by the actions of the Taliban and Afghan militants :

"We did not expect the ferocity of the engagements. We also expected the Taliban to carry out hit and run raids. Instead we have often been fighting toe to toe, endless close-quarters combat. It has been exhausting.

"...when we had to extract a Danish recce group which was getting attacked on all sides; it was bedlam. We have greater firepower, so we tend to win, but, of course, they can take their losses while our casualties will invariably lead to concern back home.

"You also have to think that each time we kill one, how many more enemies we are creating. And, of course, the lack of security means hardly any reconstruction is taking place now, so we are not exactly winning hearts and minds."

And there's this report from the Financial Times that explains how the UK is expected to cope with the lack of new troop commitments from the other NATO countries :

The lack of response makes it more likely that the UK will, in the words of one military analyst, have to “cobble together a battle group” of perhaps 900 troops to augment Nato’s forces.

Canada is reportedly planning to reinforce its contingent of 2,300 with 15 heavy tanks and 300 personnel.

Meanwhile, an internal dispute is mounting over Nato’s tough fighting tactics, which have seen the alliance claim it has killed hundreds of Taliban in an offensive around the southern city of Kandahar this month.

“I have doubts about our military strategy,” said one Nato official, who argued that the alliance could have focused more on development.

The UK Guardian reports that suicide bombings are hitting civilians hard, and hundreds of insurgent fighters have been slain by NATO forces in the past nine days. The problem here is, earlier estimates suggested (probably for Western propaganda reasons) that there were less than 1000 insurgents in total :
Nato's battle to subdue the Taliban in southern Afghanistan intensified at the weekend when the international force said it had killed 94 Taliban fighters in air strikes and ground attacks in the Kandahar region, bringing the toll from nine days of combat to more than 420 deaths.

Further east, in Paktia province, a suicide bomber with explosives strapped to his chest killed the provincial governor, Abdul Hakim Taniwal, his nephew and a bodyguard.

A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the assassination and warned of more.

"We have prepared a group of self-sacrificing attackers," Muhammad Hanif, one of several individuals who claim to speak for the Taliban, told Associated Press.

Mr Taniwal, a former minister of mines, is the first governor to be killed since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.

On Friday, a massive suicide bomb killed 16 people, including two American soldiers, outside the US embassy, underscoring the insurgents' ability to strike in the capital.

Nato's estimate of Taliban deaths - 420 in nine days - accounts for almost half of some earlier estimates of the insurgents' entire force.

If true, the Taliban casualty figures could suggest that either the insurgent ranks have swelled enormously or heavy civilian casualties have been inflicted.

But there's another likely explanation for how half the estimated insurgent fighters could be killed, but the fighting grows only more intense :

The term Taliban now refers to several layers of fighters composed of an ideologically driven hard core surrounded by a mix of hired local guns, drug smugglers and ordinary criminals, he said. Intelligence estimates put the size of the force at "several thousand".

At least the Canadians are having a bit of an easier go of it, after taking heavy casualties in the past month :
Canadian troops are continuing their unchallenged advance as they move to enforce NATO control over the restive Panjwaii district in southern Afghanistan.

For the third straight day Tuesday the Canadians encountered no resistance as they rolled south, approaching the southern front in this fight.

The current calm is a contrast to the ambushes, rocket attacks and constant skirmishes of the previous week....
Finish And Swedish Soldiers In FireFight With Taliban

173 Killed In Suicide Bombings This Year - Civilians Hit The Hardest

BBC Special Report ; Afghanistan Five Years After 9/11