Afghanistan: Deja Vu and Misleading Press Releases

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March 27, 2007: In Helmand province, a major target for the Taliban, a four day operation by the Afghan army and police killed about a over 80 Taliban. Ten soldiers and policemen died, and large quantities of weapons and documents were captured. The Taliban are coming back for another "Spring Offensive," but do not appear to have any new tactics that can deal with government air superiority and reconnaissance. NATO and U.S. UAVs and warplanes are able to spot large (more than a half a dozen or so) groups of Taliban gunmen, track them, and lead Afghan or NATO troops to intercept them. Afghanistan is a big place, and the air reconnaissance can only cover a small part of it. So the Taliban, if they are careful (no cell phone or radio use, and if no villagers turn them in), they can muster a few dozen men in one place and make an attack. But once they do that, air power is all over them. Getting away is a big problem. If this years fighting is going to be a repeat of last years, then the Taliban will take a lot of losses, piss off a lot of Afghans, and have nothing to show for it except a lot of misleading press releases.

March 26, 2007: In central Afghanistan, a group of Taliban attacked a district (county) headquarters. Two policemen and fifteen Taliban died as the attack was repulsed. Nearby, police went after another group of Taliban, killing five and arresting 22.

March 24, 2007: A Taliban attack on an American base in the south left a dozen rebels dead.

March 23, 2007: The commander of U.S. special operations troops in the region, ordered a unit of 120 U.S. Marines out of Afghanistan. This was because of the way the marines handled a March 4th incident where they were ambushed with a suicide car bomber and gunfire. The marines were removed from Afghanistan as punishment for their poor performance in the aftermath of the ambush. Meanwhile, in southern Afghanistan, Taliban attacked police in several areas, leaving seven rebels and two policemen dead.

March 22, 2007: Afghan troops and police trapped a large group of Taliban in Helmand province, and killed about 70 of them. The government forces lost seven men. Elsewhere, a Taliban ambush killed 13 pro-government tribesmen (who were guarding six trucks carrying supplies for NATO troops).

March 21, 2007: In Helmand province in the south, police killed 40 Taliban, arrested ten others and captured a safe house used by the terrorists. Three policemen were killed in the operation. The government admitted that, under pressure from the Italian government, it recently released five Taliban in order to get a kidnapped Italian journalist freed. While ransom had been paid to get Italian journalists freed in the past, this was the first time that the government openly caved to Taliban demands. It was done to insure that the Italian peacekeeper contingent remained in Afghanistan. The downside is that it encourages more kidnapping. Italy is unapologetic about paying off the terrorists, a policy Italy has followed for decades. Italy's NATO allies are not happy with this, for their citizens are more likely to be kidnapped next.

 

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