Denial technically true; Achilles update
Last week, western forces from Afghanistan were reported to have crossed the Pakistani border, and captured Mullah Hakimallah Mehsud, a clansman of Baitullah and Abdullah Mehsud, the two leading Taliban commanders in South Waziristan. Yesterday, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force spokesman denied any involvement in operations inside Pakistan. “Contrary to recent press reports, the NATO International Security Assistance Force has not and is not involved in the conduct of any operations inside of Pakistan,” noted an ISAF press release. “” ‘These reports are simply false,’ said Col Tom Collins, ISAF spokesman.” Colonel Collins is technically correct, this wasn’t a NATO led mission, but, as we noted the day the news broke, one conducted by Task Force 145, the hunter-killer Special Operations group created to pursue senior al Qaeda leadership.
The U.S. currently has over 11,000 troops in Afghanistan who do not fall under the command of ISAF. They are deployed largely in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan, and their primary mission is interdicting Taliban and al Qaeda cells and formations. Task Force 145 certainly would not fall under the command of NATO.
Meanwhile, the NATO led ISAF forces are still battling the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. British, Afghan, U.S., Canadian and Dutch forces are engaged with the Taliban in Operation Achilles in northern Helmand province. Two days ago, NATO forces called in close air support to attack Taliban positions in Ghorak. “Ghorak is situated in the northwestern part of Kandahar province and is the general area where the U.S. 1st-508th Airborne Infantry is manoeuvring operating as part of Operation Achilles,” noted the ISAF press release. “This position was part of a wider web of Taliban extremist positions used to conduct operations aimed at de-stabilising the Government of Afghanistan.”
Last week, NATO killed killed Mullah Jamaluddin, “the joint deputy commander of Taliban forces in the Garmsir area of southern Helmand Province,” along with several of his aides in air strikes on March 7. Three Taliban commanders in Helmand province have been since December of 2006.
The Taliban and al Qaeda have stepped up the suicide bombing campaign over the past several days. Yesterday, three suicide bombers struck in Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the south. Only four were killed in the attack however. The bomber in Kandahar struck at the border town of Spin Boldak. He crossed the border from Pakistan.
Today, a suicide attack Khost killed 5 and wounded 38. The terrorist struck at the trailing vehicle in a police convoy. “Four civilians and a policeman were killed,” reports The Associated Press. “Nine of the 38 wounded were policemen… Twelve of the injured were in critical condition.”
Kabul had a scare last evening, as a large explosion rocked Police District 1, the same district where the Presidential palace is located. “One of the haji shops back in the gun bazaar in PD 1 blew up,” reports Tim Lynch, the Vice President of Vigilant Strategic Services Afghanistan, a security company. “The explosion killed about 10 locals. A lot of people thought it was the Serena Hotel getting bombed because when you looked at the blast cloud from our direction the [cloud] looked like it was over the Serena.”
Mr. Lynch also provided graphs of the violent incidents in Afghanistan since the beginning of 2007. The pie graph shows 64 percent of the violence reported in Afghanistan occurs in the Pashtun regions bordering Pakistan, while the bar graph shows Nangarhar, Kandahar, Kunar and Khost provinces lead in incidence of violence. Nangarhar and Kunar provinces directly border Bajaur province, where al Qaeda has established a command a control center and the Taliban rule. Khost borders North and South Wazristan, where the Taliban openly rule and al Qaeda has established terror camps. Kandahar borders Baluchistan, where the Taliban direct operations into the south.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.