Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan: Earlier this week, Glenn Reynolds reproduced an informal email from Afghanistan, which included an anecdote about the Canadian media maintaining the “Death Watch” (their own words) at Kandahar Airfield. The reporters are restricted to maintaining a presence at the airbase to report on potential deaths or wounding of Canadian soldiers. The soldiers resent the media for this, and the reporters do not like manning the Death Watch as well. They are at the mercy of the news bureaus, who crave the sensational stories.
Tonight I had the displeasure of witnessing the Death Watch in action. An Al Jazeera report, based on an unsubstantiated claim from an unnamed Taliban source, indicated a Canadian soldier was kidnapped in Afghanistan. Reuters repeated the unsubstantiated claim, which later morphed into an unspecified number of Coalition troops. Canada’s Globe and Mail, in a rush to press, misidentified the lead Canadian Public Affairs Officer, Major Scott Lundy, as the “spokesman for NATO Special Forces” (the webmaster later corrected this and removed the reference to Major Lundy altogether.)
The Canadian media rushes into action, trying to get to the bottom of the story which very likely is a Taliban information operation. Cell phones are buzzing, reporters are pressing the public affairs officers for quotes. The Death Watch is in full news-gathering mode. Media outlets in Canadian are requesting live interviews and quick columns from their reporters at the airfield. The Canadian forces are in turn conducting a headcount but discount the reports, as this has happened in the past. If this is a false report, as it likely is, the propaganda machine of al Qaeda and the Taliban has succeeded yet again in manipulating the Western media into doing their bidding. The DeathWatch continues as I submit this post, and Al Jazeera is downplaying the reports of the kidnapping.
Elsewhere in southeastern Afghanistan, there is real news to report, and it is the Taliban that is taking the brunt of the casualties. As the hot and dusty Afghan summer begins, NATO is increasing its presence in Afghanistan, particularly in the Southeastern provinces of Helmand, Uruzgan, Kandahar and Zabul. NATO forces are expected to surge from 9,000 to 17,000 troops by the end of the summer. The U.S. commitment of troops in Afghanistan is expected to decrease by one bridage, as forces are decreased from 23,000 to 20,000 troops. This results in a net gain of 5,000 NATO troops during the summer.
Kandahar Airfield plays an important role in the buildup of NATO forces in the southeastern portion of the country. NATO forces surge into Kandahar Airfield prior to the deployment to the provinces, swelling the base population to over 8,000 at times.
The U.S. Army is patrolling the Arghandab Valley in Zabul province. Zabul remains a major focus of Taliban efforts to dismantle the local police forces. Five police were killed and four kidnapped in the provincial capital of Qalat. Earlier in the week, five police are said to have murdered seven of their brethren and then joined the Taliban. Based on the brutality of the incident, the police were likely Taliban infiltrators rather than defectors.
British forces engaged in their first round of combat in the Naz Zad district of Helmand province, killing five Taliban. Coalition forces (a generalization used when referring to Special Operations units) killed three Taliban. France, Britain, Holland, Canada, America, Australia and a host of other nations have special operations forces operating from Kandahar Airfield.
The Afghan National Army and Police, along with U.S. Army, killed thirteen Taliban while retaking the southern district of Chora in Uruzgan. In the northeastern province of Kunar, two U.S. soldiers were killed during a Taliban suicide attack. Taliban leader Mullah Omar has called for the Taliban to leave the tribal lands and take the fight into Afghanistan
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