Minimal Interference From Confused And Disoriented Taliban

Coalition troops find ‘minimal interference’ in assault on Taliban

The major coalition assault against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan claimed the lives of two coalition troops, but military officials regard the hours-old push in war-ravaged Helmand province as very promising.

“So far, so good,” said British military spokesman Maj. Gen. Gordon Messenger, who told reporters in London that commanders are “very pleased” with the siege in the Marjah region, a Taliban-dominated agricultural area dotted with villages.

He said key objectives such as securing key bridges and roads were being reached with “minimal interference” by Taliban militants unable to put up a “coherent response.”

“The Taliban appear confused and disoriented,” Messenger said, but tempered his optimism with the reminder that the operation is not yet done.

A U.S. military official confirmed one U.S. Marine was killed in small arms fire, and a British soldier was killed in an explosion.

Taliban leaders flee as marines hit stronghold

American marines landed by helicopter in a pre-dawn assault on the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, seizing two central shopping bazaars and firing rockets at Taliban fighters who attacked from mud-walled compounds.

As the marines secured their first objective, a jumble of buildings at the centre of the farming town, thousands of soldiers moved in on foot.

Harrier jets called in by the marines fired heavy-calibre machineguns at the Taliban. Fighting continued for hours, according to an embedded correspondent. Cobra gunships unleashed Hellfire missiles into bunkers and tunnels.

By nightfall, marines appeared to be in control of the centre of Marjah, home to about 75,000 people. “The Americans are walking by on the street outside my house,” a bazaar resident said. “They’re carrying large bags and guns but they’re not fighting any more.” Asked what he thought of their presence, he said: “I have hope for the future.”

The offensive was aimed at overwhelming the insurgency’s last haven in Helmand province and restoring government control.

Aircraft bombed compounds in southern districts of the town. US marines and Afghan troops swarmed in, searching for foreign fighters after intelligence reports said they had holed up there.

In the north of the city, helicopters landed several hundred marines in narrow alleys amid farm compounds.

At least 20 insurgents were reported killed and 11 were captured. The invading troops confiscated caches of Kalashnikov automatic rifles, heavy machineguns and grenades.

The greatest threat came from the extensive network of mines and booby traps. Assault troops ran into a huge number of improvised explosive devices — homemade bombs — as they tried to cross a canal into the town’s northern entrance. Explosions ripped through the air as marines safely detonated bombs.

Marines used portable aluminium bridges to span the irrigation channels. The bridge over the main canal into Marjah from the north was elaborately rigged with explosives so they unfolded larger bridges from heavy-tracked vehicles to allow armoured troop carriers to cross.

Marine engineers, driving special mine-clearing vehicles called breachers, ploughed a path through fields on the town’s outskirts. To clear a minefield, they launched rockets and deployed cables of plastic explosives designed to ignite roadside bombs.

Civilians said the Afghan troops were searching homes, a concession to conservative tribal sensitivities. Searches by foreign troops, particularly of homes with women, have infuriated traditional Pashtun residents.

“The troops are going house to house in my street,” said Haji Abdul Mukadasa, a 48-year-old father of 13. He said the Afghan troops asked that all the women be put in one room, then searched the house while the “foreigners” waited outside.

He said he knew a young man who had been fighting with the Taliban but went home and took off his black turban when the offensive began. “They searched his house, and he said, ‘No, I am not Taliban, this is my wife, this is my father’.” Residents said most senior Taliban had fled the city.

See also:
Vertical envelopment – leapfrogging into Marjah
Surprise tactic in Afghanistan offensive befuddles Taliban
First stage of operation Moshtarak declared a success
Marines Drive Into Afghan Stronghold
British spearhead allied offensive in Afghanistan
British soldier dies as Operation Moshtarak blitzes enemy insurgents
Two Nato troops and British soldier killed in Operation Moshtarak
Operation Moshtarak Update
Marja offensive a test for NATO’s ability in uprooting Taliban
A Test for the Meaning of Victory in Afghanistan
IEDs: The Big Marjah Challenge
Bombs, booby-traps slow US advance in Afghan town
Operation Moshtarak: U.S. leads 15,000 troops against 1,000 Taliban
Operation Moshtarak

Marjah, now open under new management.

/looks like a rout

In Your Face Taliban, The Coalition Is Coming To Take Marjah And There’s Not A Damn Thing You Can Do About It

U.S. Announces Helmand Offensive

In a rare break from traditional military secrecy, the U.S. and its allies are announcing the precise target of their first big offensive of the Afghanistan surge in an apparent bid to intimidate the Taliban.

Coalition officers have been hinting aloud for months that they plan to send an overwhelming Afghan, British and U.S. force to clear insurgents from the town of Marjah and surrounding areas in Helmand province, and this week the allies took the unusual step of issuing a press release saying the attack was “due to commence.”

Senior Afghan officials went so far as to hold a news conference Tuesday to discuss the offensive, although the allies have been careful not to publicize the specific date or details of the attack.

“If we went in there one night and all the insurgents were gone and we didn’t have to fire a shot, that would be a success,” a coalition spokesman, Col. Wayne Shanks, said before the announcement. “I don’t think there has been a mistake in letting people know we’re planning on coming in.”

The risks could be substantial, however. By surrendering the element of surprise, the coalition has given its enemy time to dig entrenched fighting positions and tunnel networks. Perhaps worse for the attacking infantrymen, the insurgents have had time to booby-trap buildings and bury bombs along paths, roads and irrigated fields. Such hidden devices inflict the majority of U.S. and allied casualties.

Over the past few months, the new allied commander in southern Afghanistan, British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, has revamped NATO’s coalition strategy in a region that is home to the Pashtun tribes and opium poppy fields that form the ethnic and financial foundations of the Taliban insurgency.

With the first of 30,000 new U.S. troops already on the ground in Afghanistan, Gen. Carter’s plan is to focus on two population centers—Kandahar city, in Kandahar province, and central Helmand province to the west. Combined, they are home to about two million of the estimated three million residents of southern Afghanistan.

Still, the military has taken an unusual step by broadcasting its imminent intention to assault a particular town, Marjah, and its environs. During World War II, civilians and servicemen were frequently reminded that “Loose lips sink ships” and “Enemy ears are listening.” For months leading up to the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944, the Allies went to great lengths to disguise their target.

Similarly, the coalition in Afghanistan normally forbids—at the threat of expulsion—embedded reporters from writing about events before they take place. In this case, though, officials even released the name of the offensive, Operation Moshtarak, and said it would be a joint Afghan-coalition attack. Moshtarak means “together” in Dari, although the bulk of the population in southern Afghanistan speaks Pashto.

See also:
Allies publicly target Taliban
Coalition troops brace for biggest offensive since start of Afghan war
Marines gear up for push into Afghan Taliban enclave
Marines prepare to storm Taliban stronghold
US Marines, Afghan and NATO forces brace for battle in Afghan Taliban stronghold
US marines plan attack on Taleban stronghold
US, NATO, Afghan Troops Planning Major Southern Offensive
Troops Prepare and Publicize Offensive Against Taliban
Afghanistan: US and British to launch biggest offensive since 2001
U.S. Plans Defense of Kandahar

An interesting Coalition strategy indeed, will the Taliban flee in humiliation or flock to Marjah and die en masse? The overhead drones will surely be watching.

/either way, we’re taking the town

The Taliban Is Serious About Winning In Afghanistan, Are We?

It’s bad enough that the Taliban is killing more U.S. and NATO soldiers than ever, using ever more sophisticated tactics, destroying NATO supply convoys at the vulnerable border choke points between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and generally intimidating and terrorizing the civilian population with suicide bombers and mutilations. Now there’s a new twist, the Taliban is using targeted suicide bombings to assasinate high ranking members of the Afghan military chain of command and civilian leadership.

Taliban Kill Spy Official, 22 Others

A Taliban suicide bomber killed at least 23 people including Afghanistan’s deputy intelligence chief Wednesday, demonstrating the insurgency’s reach and its ability to hit a vulnerable Afghan government.

. . .

The slain official, Abdullah Laghmani, helped head the National Directorate of Security, which has been at the forefront of the anti-Taliban fight. Insurgent groups have long targeted Mr. Laghmani, according to Afghan intelligence agents.

Early Wednesday, Mr. Laghmani was emerging from a mosque in Mehterlam, the capital of Laghman province, about 60 miles east of Kabul, when a man approached and detonated explosives. The blast killed Mr. Laghmani and a number of senior provincial officials, according to Sayed Ahmad Safi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

How the bomber slipped past Mr. Laghmani’s security detail wasn’t clear, Mr. Safi said. Mr. Laghmani, who comes from Laghman, had been at the mosque to discuss security in the province with tribal elders, according to Mr. Safi. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said his group was responsible for the attack, the Associated Press reported.

The insurgents have repeatedly warned Afghans not to work with the government, and they’ve killed high- and low-ranking officials. In recent weeks, they’ve ambushed and wounded lawmakers traveling along a main road south of Kabul; killed a district governor in southern Afghanistan; and slain a number of election workers in the North.

President Karzai called Wednesday’s attack an attempt by the “enemy” to undermine the government. But other “brave and hardworking” Afghans would take the places of those slain, he said in a statement.

The attacks point to an insurgency that is packing a powerful punch as it expands beyond the Taliban stronghold in the south to the eastern border with Pakistan as well as other areas of Afghanistan. Once-peaceful provinces in Afghanistan now see regular insurgent attacks. In July and August, 153 foreign troops were killed, the deadliest two-month period since the war began in 2001.

See also:
Afghan intelligence chief Abdullah Laghmani killed in suicide attack
Afghan spy boss killed in Taliban suicide attack
Blast kills senior Afghan intelligence official
In Afghanistan, suicide bomber kills intelligence official at mosque
Suicide bomber kills 23 in Afghanistan
At least 23 die in Afghanistan blast -spokesman

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, is calling for a change in strategy to counter the increasing Taliban threat.

Danger growing in Afghanistan

Nearly eight years on, the multinational endeavor to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan is in serious trouble. A recent security review conducted by the Afghan government and United Nations agencies indicated the Taliban either control or pose a high risk of attack in 40 percent of the country.

Casualties among Afghan civilians and the International Security Assistance Force — about half of which is American — are rising. August was the deadliest month yet for U.S. forces, as insurgent attacks and roadside bombs claimed 49 American lives.

President Obama has responded to the calls of military leaders to increase troop strength in Afghanistan, deploying an additional 21,000 troops in recent months. Another 4,000 are due before the end of the year.

But as with the surge in Iraq, success in Afghanistan isn’t merely a question of more boots on the ground. It’s also dependent on giving them the right leaders with the right strategy. And it’s dependent on our Afghan partners.

A new strategic assessment from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, calls for a revision of current strategy. The primary objective, he says, should be to earn the trust of the Afghan people and prepare them to take the lead in securing their country.

Temporarily taking towns and villages out from under control of the shadow government of the Taliban isn’t enough to earn the trust of the local population, McChrystal writes in a counterinsurgency document. Areas must be held and the local context changed “so people are more attracted to building and protecting their communities than destroying them.”

The biggest problem, however, may not be the size or strategy of the ISAF force. It may be the Afghan government.

McChrystal’s assessment assumes a timeline of several years before Afghan security forces and government institutions build up operational effectiveness. But mounting allegations of fraud and unexpectedly low voter turnout in last month’s presidential election along with continuing concerns about corruption and drug trafficking raise serious questions about the legitimacy of the government of President Hamid Karzai.

See also:
Afghanistan strategy must change, US commander McChrystal says
Gen. McChrystal calls for overhaul of Afghanistan war strategy
Report: McChrystal says US needs new Afghanistan strategy
Obama to Receive McChrystal Report Wednesday
Obama to get Afghan report on vacation
Obama using 5 measures to assess Afghan report
Top General in Afghanistan Looks to Replace Support Force With Combat Troops
EXCLUSIVE: General mulls more fighters in Afghanistan
Gates hints at US buildup in Afghanistan
Why McChrystal may not get more troops for Afghanistan
How long before Americans demand change in Afghanistan?

All I can say is that Obama had better be prepared to follow his military commander’s advice and do whatever is necessary to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, and he had better not be looking for the nearest exit door to cut and run through.

/giving Afghanistan back to the Taliban and al Qaeda on his Presidential watch, after eight years of sacrificing American blood and treasure to the conflict, will not look good on Obama’s historical resume