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« NeoCon Warmongering: Beware! | Main | Le Locataire Futé au Soleil du Nord 6.7.06 [FR] »

Afghanistan:Coalition of the Killing

Boeing Apache AH-64D gunship in action. (FAS website).

Operation "Mountain Thrust" is the farewell gift of the American-led "Enduring Freedom" coalition operation to the Afghan people.

It is also a poisoned gift to the NATO-allies in the ISAF Coalition of the Willing, who are to replace most of them in Southern Afghanistan. Turning them into a willy-nilly Coalition of the Killing.

Watch the Apaches coming!


1. The New York Times article by an embedded correspondent:
July 8, 2006
A Drive to Root Out the Resurgent Taliban

American and allied troops are engaged in their biggest operation against Taliban forces in Afghanistan since they drove the fundamentalist movement from power in 2001. These photographs were taken over two weeks in June with Charlie Company, Fourth Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, near Hazarbuz, in Zabul Province.
(American miltary arriving at mountain village - photo Hicks/NYT)

The Americans face the hard job of trying to tell local farmers from Taliban insurgents, who have gained strength across southern Afghanistan. The Americans set up a base, then probed into villages. They were soon ambushed. The Taliban can easily persuade or coerce villagers to assist them. They arm the villagers or equip them with radios. Almost any man is suspect.

During one raid, which was typical, the Americans separated the men. Homes were searched, and the men were marched to the base for questioning.

The Americans feel the hands of those who claim to be farmers, to make sure they are rough.
- The men from the village are led away, photo Hicks/NYT -

They check under the men's shirts for calluses from carrying rifle clips, or for bruises from firing rocket-propelled grenades. As often is the case, almost all are released for lack of evidence.

Col. Tom Collins, the American military spokesman in Kabul, said, "We have intelligence that leads us to a certain village where there are antigovernment elements and we take in those we find, screen them, and some are then let go immediately, but they still have to be questioned."

The day after the raid, the Americans were ambushed again, this time at their base. Automatic rifle fire sprayed just inches above a row of soldiers as they lay resting.
- On the road to the American camp, photo Hicks/NYT -

On the final day of the operation, a raid on a village sent several men fleeing for the mountains. They were met by American Ranger Scouts. Three men were captured. They confessed to being Taliban fighters and were brought back to the base to be handed over to the Afghan authorities.

[To be commented]

2. The UK debate on disastrous strategies (The Guardian, July 8 and 4, 2006)

UK has boosted Taliban, admits defence chief

Minister says Afghan mission will be 'very, very difficult and dangerous'
Patrick Wintour and Declan Walsh in Camp Bastion, Afghanistan
Saturday July 8, 2006

Des Browne, the defence secretary, conceded yesterday that the deployment of 3,300 British forces into the Taliban heartland of southern Helmand has "energised" the Taliban.

His sombre assessment came after a week in which a sixth British soldier was killed in the province, and as he prepares to announce next week the dispatch of reinforcements to the country, including extra air cover and engineers.

Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Tootal, the officer in charge of British troops in the region, also admitted the resistance was proving unexpectedly tough. He said: "If we were honest, we didn't expect it to be quite so intense. But at the same time, we have trained for it. "

In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Browne said: "It is certainly the case that the very act of deployment into the south has energised opposition, and the scale of that opposition and the nature of that opposition became apparent when we were deploying". But he insisted the attacks on British troops were foreseen, and the original package had been an impressive fighting force, including artillery, Apache helicopters and paratroopers.

In the first sign of a crack in the effective all-party consensus on the Afghan deployment, the former defence minister Doug Henderson called for British troops to be confined to barracks until the purpose of the mission was clarified.
He told GMTV: "I think until a political strategy has been worked out and agreed ... then in some senses there should be a withdrawal of British troops to barracks". He claimed troops did not know what they were doing or for how long.

But in an interview with the Guardian, Mr Browne warned: "Some opposition politicians cannot resist the temptation to exploit an alleged confusion for short-term gains, but they put at risk our troops on the ground. If the message of confusion, or suggestion that in fact we are there to do something entirely different as a primary purpose, is played back by the Taliban into local communities, and then they think the British troops are coming to starve them or attack them, then that is putting our soldiers at a level of unnecessary risk".

"The objective is clear. It is to let the writ of the Afghan government run in the south, against a background that these provinces have been largely lawless for three decades, leaving the Taliban, drug warlords and militia to act with impunity and brutalise local communities ...

"We have always explained this was going to be very, very difficult and dangerous, and we have also explained that the purpose was to create the security space for reconstruction of the country. People who criticise us have to ask themselves whether they want us to do it at all. There is overwhelming support internationally for this mission. We are doing this not just to secure Afghanistan ... but also to deny that space for al-Qaida to deliver violence back to our communities."

Colonel Tootal denied that troops had been deployed prematurely into remote areas. "We are taking the campaign into the backyard of the Taliban. We are having an effect just by being there. We show support for the government, guarantee security and will be hopefully be at the leading edge of development.

"We came here not wanting to take casualties, but were prepared for the fact that they were likely. That does not mean to say it's not tragic when you lose a soldier, but its part of the business we are in."
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006


Commanders begin to balk at mission impossible

Richard Norton-Taylor
Tuesday July 4, 2006

British commanders raised concerns about the deployment of 3,300 troops to the hostile, opium poppy-growing area of Helmand in southern Afghanistan even before the force had touched ground. They were worried about the confused messages coming from their political masters and their Nato allies about the objectives of the mission.

They were also worried about the optimistic noises from ministers who, military sources say, did not appreciate, or did not admit, the dangers involved. Visiting Helmand in April, the then defence secretary, John Reid, said that ideally British troops would get out "without a shot being fired".

British troops were engaging in fierce and bloody clashes with Taliban fighters within days of their deployment last month. The government says the deployment of British troops has three objectives: to build up the country's own army and security forces; to prevent Taliban and al-Qaida fighters from taking over the country again; and to eradicate the opium poppies which account for 90% of the heroin on British streets.

Military commanders have said that this has led to confusion. For them, the first priority was to set up camp and promote a campaign for hearts and minds. Instead, British troops set up forward bases and searched out Taliban leaders as the US asserted its priorities.

As Lt Gen Sir David Richards, head of the Nato international forces in Afghanistan, said last week: "We've stretched ourselves too far." British commanders in the field have told London they are concerned about the vulnerability of their Land Rovers and a shortage of helicopters for a campaign they appear to have been unprepared for. General Sir Mike Jackson, head of the army, has said that eradicating the poppy harvest now would make the task of British troops even harder.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

[Comments upcoming]

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