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Afghan & NATO Forces On the Offensive against Taliban
|by Dr. Subhash Kapila|
The tide may be turning in favor of United States and NATO Forces military operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan as exemplified by the swift response to launch a sizeable military offensive to preempt the Taliban to set up a staging area on the outskirts of Kandahar for a major effort to capture the city. Kandahar is the city where the Taliban were established by Mullah Omar acting as a proxy for Pakistan in the 1990s. Kandahar is also the city to which Afghanistan's current President Karazai belongs to. And Kandahar is the prize that Pakistan is seeking from its Taliban prot'g's to reclaim Afghanistan as its strategic backyard. So therefore both symbolically and militarily it is in the fitness of things that US & NATO Forces along with Afghan Forces should launch their first major offensive against the Taliban on June 18, 2008.
Initial reports of the military operations suggest that more than 600 Taliban militiamen who had concentrated in the area of Arghandab, an outskirt of Kandahar were the target of Afghan & NATO Forces military operations supported by combat aircraft and helicopter gunships. Sizeable Taliban casualties are reported in what appears to have been a fierce fight. The sizeable Taliban casualties also seem to be an indicator that the Taliban were not expecting a swift military response from NATO Forces.
The most encouraging feature of the Kandahar military offensive against the Taliban was the employment of the Afghan Army Forces as the major component of the offensive against the Taliban and that they proved effective, unlike in the past. The other major military factor that was encouraging was the employment of air transport for conveying over 600 Afghan Forces to Kandahar area for the planned offensive . This speedy airlift to the operational area seems to have also added to the surprise factor.
Going through the visuals in the media of the Afghan Forces emplaning for the operational area one got the impression that they now appeared to be professional soldiers both in terms of their body language and their weapons and equipment. This is a healthy development as ultimately it are the Afghan Forces who have to progressively takeover the responsibilities for the security of Afghanistan and combat the Taliban as the major threat.
For far too long was the United States was depending on Pakistan to apply restraint on the reemergence of the Taliban and its attempts to both attack NATO Forces and also destabilize the Karzai regime by taking over the rural areas in Southern Afghanistan. The Pakistan Army was double-timing the United States all along for the last seven years or so.
Kandahar was the closest to the Pakistani city of Quetta in Baluchistan Province and had emerged as the main operational and logistics base for the Taliban on their being militarily ejected from Afghanistan by the United States in 2002. The Pakistan Army provided the sanctuaries to the Taliban in the Quetta area from where they ran their attacks on Afghanistan targeting US & NATO Forces.
The United States at long last has realized the double-game that the Pakistan Army Generals was playing with them and one could now expect that the earlier restraint that the United States would employ to restrain their military commanders in Afghanistan for all out military operations against the Taliban would no longer be a binding factor.
In the past US & NATO Forces military operations against the Taliban were small scale operations though heavily supported by aerial combat firepower. This seems to be the first time that a sizeable ground forces offensive has been undertaken and that too with a sizeable Afghan Army component. This could be a trend setter for future offensives against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The United States and the West cannot afford to lose Afghanistan once again to the Taliban. The Taliban is no military dinosaur which is not beatable. All that is required are swift military offensives against them and not letting them get a sizeable geographical foothold in the Kandahar area courtesy Pakistani military and logistics support.
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