Coalition and Taliban forces battle throughout Afghanistan


Scores of Taliban fighters and several Afghan officials were killed in fighting throughout Afghanistan. The violence marks the opening of the spring fighting season in Afghanistan as the Coalition and the Taliban surge forces for what is expected to be the toughest year of fighting since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The largest battle took place in the Gereshk district in the southern province of Helmand on March 19. Afghan soldiers and their Coalition advisers conducting "combat reconnaissance in an area of known militant presence" took fire from Taliban fighters and engaged, the US military said in a press release.

The Afghan forces returned fire and routed the Taliban force. Thirty Taliban fighters were killed and one Afghan soldier was wounded in the firefight.

The same day, the Taliban killed a member of parliament, the highway police chief, and three bodyguards in an IED attack on a convoy in Helmand province. MP Dad Mohammad Khan "was known for his long opposition to the Taliban, which dated back to the hardliners' time in government between 1996 and 2001," The Associated Press reported. He served as the province's intelligence chief before being elected to parliament in 2005.

Helmand has been active the past several days. On March 18, a US airstrike killed two senior Taliban leaders in the Now Zad district.

Helmand province is one of the most violent in Afghanistan as the Taliban have taken advantage of local support and the opium drug industry to maintain a foothold in the province. The US Marines killed more than 500 Taliban fighters in Helmand province after surging into the region in 2008.

In the northern province of Jozjan, the Taliban killed several senior district leaders during an ambush, according to a report in Pajhwok News. The Kustapa district leader, the police and intelligence chiefs, and the criminal branch chief along with six policemen were killed in the attack. Jozjan has been one of the most secure provinces in Afghanistan, and the attack indicates that the Taliban insurgency, which has begun to intensify in neighboring Badghis and Faryab, may be spreading north.

In the southwestern province of Farah, the Taliban briefly overran the district of Pushtrud before being beaten back by police forces. Nine policemen and six Taliban fighters, including a commander, were killed in the fighting, Pajhwok News reported.

The violence in Farah province spiked during the summer of 2008. More than 270 Taliban fighters and nine Coalition troops were killed during fighting in Farah province in 2008, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal. The Taliban overran the Gulistan district center in late 2007 and took control of the Bakwa district in May 2008.

In Logar province just south of Kabul, Coalition and Afghan forces killed three members of a Taliban bomb-making cell. More than 3,000 US soldiers have deployed to Logar and neighboring Wardak province to dislodge the Taliban from the region.

Pakistani Taliban leader threatens suicide campaign against US forces

Across the border in Pakistan, one of the three senior leaders of a new Taliban alliance said his group has prepared a suicide campaign that is specifically designed to hit US troops in Afghanistan.

Mullah Nazir, one of the two main Taliban leaders in South Waziristan, told ABC News that US soldiers in Afghanistan "absolutely" were the target of his suicide bombers.

"We have readied suicide bombers for them, they cannot escape us," Nazir told ABC News.

Nazir and North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar put aside tribal feuds and strategic differences with South Waziristan and Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud at the end of February and created the Council of United Mujahideen. Previously, Nazir and Bahadar had feuded with Baitullah due to tribal disputes as well as Baitullah's rising power as the senior leader of the Pakistani Taliban.

The council was formed at the behest of Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. The three leaders had pamphlets distributed throughout North and South Waziristan to announce the formation of the Council of United Mujahideen. The Taliban leaders have "united according to the wishes of Mujahideen leaders like Mullah Muhammad Omar and Sheikh Osama bin Laden," The Nation reported.

The Taliban alliance said it "supported Mullah Muhammad Omar and Osama bin Laden's struggle" against the administrations of US President Barack Obama, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The new alliance further stated it was waging war "in an organized manner'" to "stop the infidels from carrying out acts of barbarism against innocent people" just as Omar and bin Laden were waging war against Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the US.

Nazir was often described by the media and the Pakistani government as a "pro-government Taliban" because he did not advocate fighting Pakistani security forces. This is a perception the Pakistani government has been willing to promote. The government signed a peace agreement with Nazir in mid-October 2008, and the military refuses to conduct operations against Nazir and Bahadar, despite the fact that their forces attack Afghan and Coalition forces inside Afghanistan.

But Nazir openly supports al Qaeda and its leadership. He admitted he would provide shelter to senior al Qaeda leaders. "How can I say no to any request from Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar under tribal traditions, if they approach me to get shelter?" Nazir asked the Pakistani press in the spring of 2007.

Al Qaeda runs terror camps inside Nazir's tribal areas and helps to finance his operations. The US routinely targets Nazir's tribal areas. In July 2008, Abu Khabab al Masri, the chief of al Qaeda's weapons of mass destruction program, and his staff were killed in an airstrike in Nazir's tribal areas South Waziristan. Last fall, one of Nazir's senior deputies threatened to attack Pakistani military forces if the government did not stop US airstrikes in the tribal areas.



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READER COMMENTS: "Coalition and Taliban forces battle throughout Afghanistan"

Posted by Marlin at March 20, 2009 6:03 PM ET:

This article makes it pretty clear why the Taliban are interested in attacking Gereshk.

Over the last year, Gereshk has become one of the most stable areas in Helmand and is now considered by many to be the economic centre of the Helmand province. Major Johansen describes the bazaar as full of life, the traffic as more and more chaotic, and the construction of compounds as increasing. All are signs of an increased sense of security and optimism in the area.

ISAF: Gereshk is now a thriving economic centre in Helmand

Posted by KnightHawk at March 20, 2009 8:10 PM ET:

""We have readied suicide bombers for them, they cannot escape us," Nazir told ABC News."
---
Whats wrong with this picture?

Am I missing something, ABC News can get an exclusive interview with this a-hole but we can't (or chose not too) turn is lights out?

Posted by Millen at March 21, 2009 12:06 PM ET:

It's da final countdown..

Posted by Render at March 21, 2009 3:00 PM ET:

Here we go. Saddle up.

GAME
TIME,
R

Posted by Midnight at March 21, 2009 8:41 PM ET:

It seems to me that this may be the one article written here that answers it's own questions. In the light of all things I have to wonder what will happen to Russia if this war is lost. We threw a lot on those wonderful scales of justice, as we know them. Can they handle more? As we know it, it looks as if it is coming hard on anyway.

Those scales wonderful, wonderful scales of justice.
Someone who I once know hated Muslims said that to me, I plan on revisiting that idea.

Posted by Libertyship46 at March 22, 2009 11:37 AM ET:

Bill states that, "The violence marks the opening of the spring fighting season in Afghanistan as the Coalition and the Taliban surge forces for what is expected to be the toughest year of fighting since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001." We have been in Afghanistan now for almost eight years now and what has it gotten us? Yet another "Spring Fighting Season," as if we should expect this just like we should expect another bumper crop of corn. We should also be wondering if this is just another Spring offensive, or something larger, like a Tet-type of offensive. Are the Taliban rolling the dice here to try and convince us that our presence in Afghanistan is going to continue giving us diminishing returns, or are they just doing this to annoy us in hopes that we will tire of this worthless plot of sand and just leave? Maybe they are trying to do both.

In any case, few people here or in Washington are even mentioning today what our end game is going to be in Afghanistan. Why are we still fighting there? If we are trying to totally eliminate the Taliban, forget it. Religious jihadists have been in that part of the world for centuries and the United States is never going to be able to totally eradicate them. Are we trying to make Afghanistan a vibrant, functioning democracy, like Indiana (notice I didn't say like its next-door neighbor, Pakistan, which calls itself a democracy but is really a disaster)? Please, these people have been fighting tribal wars here for about two thousand years and they are not about to stop now.

I really believe that I'm in the Lord Roberts school of thought. We should have gone into Afghanistan with massive force and killed, yes killed (not captured and sent to Guantanamo), as many of the Taliban and al Qaeda as possible. Then, once they were decimated, we should have left as quickly as possible. We would have avenged 9/11 and maybe even have killed Osama bin Laden (if we had enough US troops, and not a bunch of worthless Afghan "allies"). Then we should have left them to their miserable selves, allowing them to keep playing polo with a goat's head (one of their favorite passtimes, by the way). People would then say, " Well, then the Taliban and al Qaeda would simply regain power and then threaten us all over again." That would be hard to do if most of them were dead. But, let's say they did come back into power. They would then present themselves as another good target for us to bomb heavily and to attack yet again.

That brings me back to Lord Roberts. The British firmly believed in what was known as "Punitive Expeditions," and Lord Roberts was a master at this. He was one of the only Westerners to successfully defeat the Afghans and then leave. He understood that Afghanistan wasn't worth the trouble, but that making a hard military point was worth the trouble. And he did it exceedingly well. Why can't the United States do the same thing today? If we had done the job right back in 2001 and 2002 in Afghanistan, we would have inflicted huge losses on the battlefield against the Taliban and al Qaeda. And then we could have stated to them that if they took up arms against the United States ever again, we would return and totally lay waste to their country, sparing none of them. Sounds too harsh? If your enemy really, really, believes you will carry through on your threats, then they will leave you alone. Authors like Ralph Peters and Michael Sheuer are big believers in Punitive Expeditions, especially when it comes to Afghanistan, and I agree with both of them.

The problem is that we live in a politically correct type of world today that prevents world powers from using that power they way it should be used, which would then act as a credible deterrent. So what do we do? We now not only have to endure a war but we have to fight this endless war under the guise of "bringing democracy to the poor, opressed, people of Afghanistan." Although Woodrow Wilson would have been proud of this line of thinking, it also means that we're going to be in Afghanistan for a long, long, time.

These people have been opressed for about two thousand years and the US Military isn't going to change that. What the US Military can do, though, is severely punish our enemies and then put the world on notice that, if anyone, anyone, tries to attack us they will suffer the same fate. If we have the political will to follow that path of reasoning, then that will be much more successful then spending another eight years and billions of dollars in a country that really isn't worth much at all.

Posted by remoteman at March 22, 2009 1:18 PM ET:

Libertyship46 hits the nail on the head. Afghanistan holds no strategic value whatsoever. Logistically, fighting there is a nightmare. We should demonstrate our power in no uncertain terms both in Afghanistan and in the tribal belt. Then we should leave.

The locals will never love us. It will be up to them to throw off the shackles of radical islam and move their societies up from the tribal dark ages. The place is a sink hole and we should not be there.

Posted by Sam at March 22, 2009 2:13 PM ET:

'"We have readied suicide bombers for them, they cannot escape us" Nazir told ABC News.'

No, we can't escape your suicide scum, but we can blow them into little pieces of pork in the dozens. Let it rain steel.

Posted by m3fd2002 at March 22, 2009 2:26 PM ET:

There seems to be an attempt by the media to portray the situation in Afghanistan, much like they did in Iraq. Unstability throughout the country. I still remember the media stating daily body counts in Baghdad. What they fail to point out is that these "casualties" , are just common crimes being reported like they were an organized insurgency. If you used the same metrics with the US, it would sound like we had an active insurgency in the US. (35-50) murders per day. Mexico is more violent than Iraq or Afghanistan. The Taliban will never, and I mean never, control all of Afghanistan again. My belief is that we are now primarily engaging Pakistani Taliban inside of Afghanistan. It is a large demographic with lots of potential cannon fodder for the battle field. They are not popular in the areas they control, and we can exploit this by proxy. Use our "Taliban" to engage the Saudi's "Taliban". And get after the real power brokers in Riyadh and Mecca.

Posted by Raj Kumar at March 22, 2009 2:44 PM ET:

People,

I disagree with everyone on this blog who says that Afganinstan has no strategic value. It has a lot of value, we ignored it last time and the end result was 9/11. We cannot and must not repeat the same mistake again.

Now we i.e. West does not have enough boots to be able to able to put down the Taliban ones and for all. So the answer is very simple lets go ask to Indians to borrow about 200,000 soilders from their standing army and lets meld these boots on the ground with our air power and hammer the Taliban once and for all.

Lets pay whatever price the Indians ask for their soilders and if that includes ditching the Pakistani's so be it.

Posted by Render at March 22, 2009 6:58 PM ET:

How would one go about getting 200,000 Indian soldiers and all of their equipment into Afghanistan?

Assuming that miracle of modern transportation can be found, how would one go about keeping those 200,000 troops supplied with food, water, ammo, and fuel?

===

How about the Pakistani government admit that it cannot now and never has enforced a civilized writ of law upon the Tribal Regions and will therefor allow Coalition forces in Afghanistan to conduct hot pursuit and pre-emptive strikes within those regions as they see fit?

===

200,000 (or more) Indians are having a hard time just keeping the Line of Control in Kashmir secure. 200,000 (a lot more) Indians are still struggling with both a Maoist insurgency and an Islamic based terrorist campaign within India itself. 200,000 (give or take) Indians could not prevent Mumbai from happening, on a fairly irregular basis.

Is there any evidence to support a conclusion that India could launch and/or sustain an expeditionary army of that size any where outside of its own borders?

===

"Air power" within Afghanistan is strictly limited by fuel capacity, numbers of aircraft, and numbers of usable air fields.

LTD,
R

Posted by Vishwa at March 23, 2009 12:05 AM ET:

America must have learnt what a state sponsored/allowed insurgency looks like, both by pak and iran. It were difficult for Indians to hold against all new sponsored/haven'ed insurgency in Kashmir. Hope pak will be tamed by the end of this year, especially its own "autonomous" security agencies.

Pak should be given time limit, for not compliance there should be economic sanctions on it and not a war. Let citizen die of lack of food and oil by sanctions for their non-compliance.

Posted by Raj Kumar at March 23, 2009 3:35 AM ET:

Render,

Yes the indians are having trouble controling their part of Kashmir but again you are shutting your eyes to the problem.

The problem is whether we want to win in Afganistan or not? and what level of pain we are prepared to suffer for this win. Now the issue is that we cannot practice 'total war' that we used against the Axis powers in WWII for a whole host of reasons too numerate to go into here.

On a personal level I want to win Afgansitan war full stop no messing around. I lost friends in 9/11 and I do not want a repeat period.

To me the solution is two fold (1) break up Pakistan, hell we broke up the USSR and they were a lot more powerful than the Government of Pakistan and (2) we ask the Indians to give us 200,000 of their men to tackle the insurgency in Afganistan.

My personal belief is if we do (1) then it takes care of (2) to a large extent.

Posted by Bangash Khan at March 23, 2009 10:27 AM ET:

This has been going on for 8 years. Seems like NATO/US generals have one playbook which they follow every year.

@Raj Kumar

200,000 Indian troops in Afghanistan ? lol!

Posted by Neo at March 23, 2009 10:53 AM ET:

200,000 Indian troops in Afghanistan?

Umm... NO!

Slightly more likely than the next massive influx of Mongolian Yak herdsmen sweeping in off the Central Asian steps.

Posted by Neo at March 23, 2009 11:03 AM ET:

On the other hand, a decade ago who would have thought there would be an American military presence in Afghanistan. I would have bet on the invasion of Yak herdsmen.

Posted by Render at March 23, 2009 4:05 PM ET:

Raj:

You seem to have missed the first two very important questions in my 3/22 6:58pm comment this thread. If you cannot address those two questions then there is little point addressing the rest of the comment regarding 200,000 Indian soldiers in Afghanistan.

===

We can "win" in Afghanistan with the number of troops we currently have in country, provided all of those troops are operating under the proper rules of engagement and have the supplies they need when they need them.

Win in this case means defeat of the Taliban's attempts to retake the country and the extermination or capture of all who are foolish enough to follow al-Q's black flag to a certain and quite pointless death.

By holding Helmand and Kandahar Provinces while eradicating the poppy production from those areas we starve the Talib and their drug lord allies of the bulk of their cash funding. (This is something even the Iranians, who hate the Great Satan, can get behind as they bear the brunt of the damages from each yearly Afghan drug crop.)

No cash = no gunmen (who do not work for free), no arms, no communication gear, and no explosives.

Do note that the Talib and their allies haven't won a single battle, firefight, or skirmish in Afghanistan and that they tend to suffer massive casualties when they do attack Western combat units. They tend to suffer only slightly less massive casualty rates when facing Afghan Army units. (There's a reason why the Afghanistan theatre is sometimes referred to as the "Commando Olympics." We're not playing soccer against the Talib, they're the ball.)

Casualty rates like those the Talib suffer on a regular basis in Afghanistan tend to make recruiting new cannon fodder a good bit more difficult. If nothing else, the prospective gunmen will want more money for what is unquestionably the most dangerous job in the world.

The Talib insistence of enforcing a bizarre 7th century variant of Sharia law upon all who have the misfortune to fall under their control doesn't help with recruiting either.

The Talib and their allies have wantonly and intentionally killed far more civilians just this year alone then the entire Coalition has killed accidentally since 2001 world wide. This too causes recruitment rates to suffer. Not to mention that every single one of those civilians openly murdered (and usually desecrated) by the Talib and their allies has a family, a family that will remember who did what to whom, when, and why.

All the Coalition needs to finish this, this year, is a free hand in the FATA. Not to occupy, just to take care of business and vacate post haste.

Of course if the Talib were to give up every single al-Q member they can lay their hands on, including OBL and Doc Z, we might just bail from Afghanistan in less then six months.

WIDE
OPEN,
R

Posted by Render at March 24, 2009 5:35 PM ET:

Raj: You're more then welcome to come over to my little bloglet. You probably shouldn't have posted your email addy in public here, perhaps DJ could delete that.

OUTLOOK
ERROR,
R

[Note: Deleated. DJ]