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Thread: The Helmand Province (merged thread, not UK or USMC)

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default The Helmand Province (merged thread, not UK or USMC)

    30 April AP via LA Times - NATO, Afghan Troops Target Taliban in Helmand Province.

    Nearly 3,000 NATO and Afghan troops began an operation before dawn today to drive Taliban fighters from a swath of their opium-producing heartland in southern Afghanistan.

    The British-led operation is the latest attempt to extend the control of President Hamid Karzai's government in Helmand province, officials said.

    Military officials said the effort involved about 1,100 British troops, 600 U.S. troops and additional forces from the Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia and Canada. More than 1,000 Afghan government troops also were taking part.

    The troops are targeting Helmand's Sangin Valley, an area near Afghanistan's strategic Ring Road that has "for too long been under the semi-control of the Taliban," said Lt. Col. Stuart Carver, a British commander...

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    Default Top Taliban Commander Is Killed in Clash

    13 May NY Times - Top Taliban Commander Is Killed in Clash by Taimoor Shah and Carlotta Gall.

    The Taliban’s top operational commander, Mullah Dadullah, has been killed in southern Afghanistan, and his body was displayed by Afghan officials in this southern city today.

    The commander was killed in a joint operation by Afghan security forces and American and NATO troops in Helmand Province, the governor of Kandahar, Asadullah Khaled, said. News agencies reported that the Taliban was killed in fighting in the Nahri Sarraj district, a strategic area of Helmand Province that the Afghan intelligence service reported Saturday had been cleared of Taliban after an operation this week. A statement released by NATO confirmed his death...

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Excellent news. He will be replaced, but he was a very experienced field commander who was with Mullah Omar from the beginning. Tough to just replace that sort of experience.

    Also one of the worst war criminals in Afghanistan's recent history, behind many massacres of Hazara and other ethnic minorities.

    edit: CSMonitor analysis that lays out the case for Dadullah being a significant loss for the Taliban. That Mullah Omar could not name an immediate successor also is an indicator here.

    Ahmadi said Omar and his council of top Taliban leaders decided against naming an immediate replacement for Dadullah.

    "Mullah Dadullah was the commander of all the fighting groups. Now all of the mujahedeen will carry on his same type of jihad. They will carry out attacks just as Mullah Dadullah did in his life," Ahmadi quoted Omar as saying.
    New news: Dadullah replaced with his brother, Bakht Muhammad.
    Last edited by tequila; 05-15-2007 at 10:57 AM.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Default Helmand: A Kinder, Gentler Taleban?

    Helmand: A Kinder, Gentler Taleban? - IWPR, 21 Aug.

    Musa Qala, in the north of Helmand province, is unusually peaceful these days. Children are getting ready to go to newly-opened schools, and farmers in this opium-rich region are busy preparing their fields for autumn planting.

    In contrast to the rest of Helmand, security is good in Musa Qala. There is little crime, and the bitter battles that have scarred surrounding areas seem far away.

    Nor do residents live in fear that the Taleban are coming – they are already here.

    “The Taleban control everything in Musa Qala,” said Mohammad Aref, 26, a shopkeeper in Musa Qala bazaar. “They have reinstated some traditions from their old regime of five years ago. They collect food rations from every house, and they drive around in their trucks.

    “But the Taleban don’t treat people badly, the way they did before. They are very calm and they respect people. Everyone is happy with them."

    The Taleban took over Musa Qala in early February, after a tenuous truce brokered by tribal elders collapsed. So far, there is little sign that either the Afghan government or the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, is ready to intervene and change the status quo.

    "We have no plans to recapture Musa Qala," said Ghulam Mahayuddin Ghuri, commander-in-chief of the Third Corps of the Afghan National Army.

    Face to face with the Taleban, residents like Mohammad Aref are making the best of things.

    "People are very happy that the Taleban have brought security," he said. "And they are not forcing families to give them a male fighter, like they used to ..."
    Much more at the link, worth reading in full for a picture of Musa Qala under Taliban control. Some residents are critical, others not so much. Gives an idea how the enemy has adapted to try and regain local support.

    "The Taleban are not forcing people, the way they did before," said Sher Mohammad, 20, a resident of Musa Qala. "But still, people are changing themselves, they are going back to the way they were during the first Taleban regime. For example, instead of playing music in the shops they now play Taleban songs. Women still go out, but not too much."

    ...

    "People are not happy," said one resident, who would not give his name. "Many are afraid to come to the bazaar from neighbouring villages. They are afraid that the foreigners will come and bomb the district. They are afraid of an attack from the air, as well as from ground troops."

    ...

    The Taleban do enjoy broad support among the population, said this resident, but there was an element of fear in the people's acquiescence.

    "The Taleban are very serious in this district, and when they say something, they do it. People give them food, and other kinds of help, not because they are forced to but because they don’t want to upset the Taleban," he said. "People don’t play music at weddings unless they get permission from the Taleban."

    Abdul Bari, another Musa Qala resident, is also disgruntled with the new government.

    "Who knows how much they have changed?" he grumbled. "We can’t watch television, we can’t watch the news, and there are other restrictions that upset us."

    The Taleban are also taxing local businesses, added Abdul Bari, although he would not disclose the percentage or amount ...
    Last edited by tequila; 08-28-2007 at 11:28 AM.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    This level of sophistication is scary and should be a wake up call to those who portray the Taliban as a bunch of red-eyed, bearded fanatics bent on absolute control. They may well be centered on that degree of control but this approach is a win-win. They win by open control and apparent pacification of an area. They win if the government comes in to disrupt that control.

    Tom

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Default Senior Taliban commander killed, Afghan military says

    Senior Taliban commander killed, Afghan military says
    Last Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2007 | 6:37 AM ET
    CBC News

    A wanted senior Taliban commander has been killed in a U.S.-led air raid in the south of Afghanistan, the Afghan Defence Ministry said.

    Mullah Brother was killed in the pre-dawn attack in Helmand province.

    Brother served as a top military commander for the Taliban government until its removal from power in 2001.

    He was also a member of the movement's leadership council, which is led by Mullah Mohammad Omar.

    More...
    More at the link
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    The Jamestown Foundation's Terrorism Focus, 24 Oct 07:

    Al-Qaeda Uses Jaish al-Mahdi to Gain Control over Helmand Province
    A movement called Jaish al-Mahdi (The Army of the Mahdi) has emerged in Afghanistan. The leader of Afghanistan's Jaish al-Mahdi is Abu Haris, an Arab commander who fought during the anti-Soviet jihad in eastern Afghanistan. Afghanistan's newly established Jaish al-Mahdi is a combination of Arab and Afghan fighters. In a statement, the movement noted that at its outset Jaish al-Mahdi enjoyed the support of 250 Arab and Afghan fighters, although it is still ambiguous as to which jihadi party these fighters were involved in during the Afghan wars. Today, the group has been attempting to recruit Afghan youth to help undertake operations and participate in what Abu Haris calls the "jihad in Afghanistan"....

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    Default The attacks in Lashkar Ghah could be revealing

    KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan government troops repulsed a fresh attack late Tuesday by Taliban fighters massed outside the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah in southwestern Afghanistan and killed at least 18 of them, the provincial governor’s office said Wednesday.

    NATO spokesmen said the attack, the second in four days on that city, underscored the growing abilities of the Taliban, who have increased the tempo of their attacks as the seventh anniversary of their ouster from power in Kabul approaches.

    The Taliban threat has led to a wide-ranging review of war strategy in Washington and to insistent calls from American commanders for more troops.

    For more: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/16/wo...gewanted=print

    These attacks are interesting for a variety of reasons. First, they go against the Taliban's normal guerrilla warfare operating methods. Second, despite losing a lot of personnel during the first attack, the TB came back for more. Even though they are losing the battles, they appear to be scaring the crap out of the population in one of the only government held areas in Helmand...a place that was considered "safe." Despite losing the tactical battle, they could win the wider strategic IO battle on this...the people could lose more faith in the government, the security forces may become more scared and maybe they will look to change sides, and this could have second and third order effects on the population in urban and rural areas throughout southern and eastern Afghanistan. I'm not saying it's Tet, but on a small scale it could achieve some of the same things, at least in Helmand Province.

    What are your thoughts?

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Honestly I am less concerned by their use of open attacks than I am by their use of parallel/shadow government. See:

    Christian Science Monitor
    October 15, 2008
    Pg. 1

    Shadow Government

    Some Afghans Live Under Taliban Rule – And Prefer It

    By Anand Gopal, Correspondent

    Porak, Afghanistan - After a gang of thieves had continually terrorized an Afghan neighborhood near here months ago, locals decided they'd had enough. "We complained several times to the government and even showed them where the thieves lived," says Ahmad, who goes by one name.

    But the bandits continued to operate freely. So the villagers turned to the Taliban.

    The militants' parallel government here in Logar Province – less than 40 miles from Kabul
    That said, such attacks do speak to a greater willingness to go head to head with the ANA. Hopefully the ANA will continue to meet the challenge.


    Tom

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    Tom,

    I don't think this is about going head to head...I think it's about trying to demonstrate that no place in the south is safe and to convince the population that the government can't protect them...I highlighted this because these attacks are occuring for a reason...not sure what it is, but it has been some time since a provincial capital has been attacked...and repeatedly...

    If the attacks undermine the populations already low opinion of the GOA, then they are successful...and let's face it, the insurgency has more control in Helmand than the GOA does...

    But, we'll see...

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tulanealum View Post
    Tom,

    I don't think this is about going head to head...I think it's about trying to demonstrate that no place in the south is safe and to convince the population that the government can't protect them...I highlighted this because these attacks are occuring for a reason...not sure what it is, but it has been some time since a provincial capital has been attacked...and repeatedly...

    If the attacks undermine the populations already low opinion of the GOA, then they are successful...and let's face it, the insurgency has more control in Helmand than the GOA does...

    But, we'll see...

    I would say we are in agreement. 2 attacks on the ANA serve as a real manifestation of a shadow government. I never worried about "mad mullahs"; I do worry about smart ones

    Tom

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default BBC reporting

    Thought since the UK is the 'lead' nation in Helmand Province, this BBC News story might help: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7671118.stm
    and this one from a different angle: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7674435.stm

    Note the mention of an Afghan policeman shooting an US soldier, in Paktia Province.

    Cannot find reports elsewhere, partly as other news dominates.

    davidbfpo

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    Default Bermel District

    I haven't seen much detail on the recent story about the Afghan police member shooting at and killing an American soldier. I can attest to the fact that engagements between Afghan police and American forces (in many conditions, both day and night) in the Bermel District are not unommon.

    The Afghan police in Paktika (part of RC East), and in Bermel specifically have been "infiltrated," as another story suggests, for many years. COL Pete Johnson, a man I have served with and respect enormously, must be trying to handle a delicate situation with the ANP by being diplomatic.

    Here's a link to the 30 September attack from the LA Times -

    http://www.latimes.com/news/nationwo...,1343024.story

    Here's a link to the 15 October attack from CBC News in Canada -

    http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2008/1...ussoldier.html

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    The Taliban tried going "head to head" with the non-afghan coalition in 06 & 07 and suffered heavy casualties whenever they tried to mass. Since then they've switched tactics to focus on the ANA. They've had more success there because air support to the ANA is slower and they aren't as proficient as western forces. There's some debate as to the Taliban (Quetta Shura) strategy: Either a concerted effort to take and hold terrain (ie. Musa Qala) or simply to show the ineffectiveness and, by extension, illegitimacy of the central government and coalition. It's probably both, depending on the situation.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Ground truth from Helmand PRT: two civilian views

    An up beat, nay optimistic report by the UK head of the Helmand PRT, which opens with:
    As always, I’m spending plenty of time persuading friends, colleagues, and anyone who will listen, that: no, it isn’t all going fall to pieces after 2014.
    Then there's:
    If people trust their government they will support it – and this, rather than external support, will be the stoutest defence against the threat of relapse into extremism. With this in mind the focus of my team in Helmand has been on boosting the legitimacy of government in the eyes of the people....As we approach 2014 and accelerate our own draw down, we have to be candid about the risks. Our job is to mitigate them to the extent possible, not to be in denial. Many are concerned that the Taliban are poised to retake many districts as NATO troops pull back.
    Link:http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/catrionalain...ent-extremism/

    The author refers to an interview the American, Carter Malkasian who was the District Transition Advisor for Helmand PRT in Garmser for two years and the author of 'War Comes to Garmser'. I have the book, but have too many to read, perhaps one day. The interview is very interesting.

    Amidst it is this passage:
    Today’s government has brought schools and healthcare and just a little freedom for women. I do not think most Pashtuns want to see the Taliban return to power. Nor do I think most Pashtuns see the Taliban as hated enemies. I think that they would prefer peaceful reconciliation to years of war.
    Link:http://www.thedailybeast.com/article...t-the-war.html

    Incidentally there are threads on the USMC in Helmand, the British in Afghanistan and PRT / political advisers.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 05-14-2013 at 03:14 PM.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    An up beat, nay optimistic report by the UK head of the Helmand PRT, which opens with:
    How close to the ground is the head of a PRT?

    It would be interesting to know if those views are shared by those who aren't the head...
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Smoke and Mirrors, Soft Diplomacy

    Unlikely that anyone else feels that way !

    When we pulled out of Eastern Zaire, only the locals were worried and only the command was pumping the BS. As far as we were concerned, seconds following our last wheels up, the place would go to Sierra.

    Not only did it in a big way, it still is going down the tube.

    I just realized why I hate journalists (err, public affairs)
    If you want to blend in, take the bus

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Smoke and Mirrors, Soft Diplomacy Part 2

    Dayuhan asked:
    It would be interesting to know if those views are shared by those who aren't the head...
    and Stan posted:
    Unlikely that anyone else feels that way!
    A lurker has added:
    There was a big, if not huge rift between the PRT and the military from her belief that the Marines, British and others should have focused more of the development side of things. This was counter to many soldiers who believed that their role was to set the security conditions, and the PRT was expected to get out from its warrens in Lashkar Gah and do what they are charged to do.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default 5% support the Taliban returning to power?

    The PRT Head on earlier blogs has twice referred to:
    Our monitoring shows that by the end of 2012, only 5% of people in Helmand reported that they would support a Taliban return to power.
    In January someone asked for details of this polling - no reply to date:http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/catrionalain...tion-building/
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    My sixth grade teacher would have called it an incomplete on my final grade!

    I think we are at over 80 billion dollars and counting, but yet most of the construction is little more than four walls and a roof a decade later.
    The finance folks in DC are doing “high fives” and the soldiers are “smelling the barn”.

    What we’ve done similar in Africa is a band aid with a Western infrastructure not only incomplete but by local means unsustainable. Why in God’s name would we build a road in the middle of nowhere when for centuries they were doing fine without one ?

    We are not bolstering the local government; we are literally financing a political campaign.

    Good lord, that guy is little more than another African dictator in Swaziland with the shortest life expectance rate known to man !

    When we do Exit Stage Left, those four walls and roof will become building material for the guy down the street, or, at the very least, will become a great surface area for graffiti!
    If you want to blend in, take the bus

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