Tuesday, June 13, 2006

meanwhile in afghanistan...

quotes and links follow, but the upshot is:
  • NATO and US troops deployments are on the increase
  • karzai is arming the warlords to help defend against the taliban
  • the taliban is the strongest it's been since they were deposed 5 years ago
  • record poppy harvest in afghanistan this season that will supply one-third of the world's heroin trade
NATO defense ministers today reaffirmed their plans to expand the alliance's presence in southern Afghanistan in the face of greater resistance by Taliban fighter and drug traffickers. NATO has been progressively increasing both the number of its troops and its reach in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan operation has emerged as a test of the alliance's ability to respond to security challenges far from Europe.[...] NATO has already deployed 9,700 troops in Afghanistan, and the number is expected to grow to some 16,000. Of that figure, some 6,000 are expected to be posted in the southern part of Afghanistan, one of the most restive areas in the country. (Michael Gordon, "NATO Moves to Expand Presence in Afghanistan," New York Times, June 8, 2006)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Sunday his government will give weapons to local tribesmen so they can help fight the biggest increase in Taliban violence in years. A U.S.-led coalition soldier and seven Afghan civilians were killed in the latest violence in the country's south, which has been hardest hit by the surge in insurgent attacks. Speaking to a group of tribal elders from eastern Afghanistan, Karzai said he did not want to form militias that could clash with rival tribes. "We just want to strengthen the districts to safeguard them from terrorist attack," he said. Although they would not speak for attribution because of the sensitivity of the topic, Western diplomats briefed on the plan said they worried it could fuel factional fighting by giving weapons to forces loyal to warlords with long histories of factional disputes. (Amir Shah, "Karzai: Tribesmen Will Help Fight Taliban," Washington Post (AP), June 11, 2006)

The Afghanistan province being patrolled by British troops will produce at least one third of the world's heroin this year, according to drug experts who are forecasting a harvest that is both a record for the country and embarrassing for the western funded war on narcotics. (Declan Walsh, "UK fears record Afghan heroin output," The Guardian, Tuesday June 13, 2006)

The U.S.-led coalition is unleashing more than 11,000 troops to attack militants in the southern mountains of Afghanistan, the biggest offensive since the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The push starting Thursday by U.S., British, Canadian and Afghan troops aims to squeeze Taliban fighters in four volatile provinces. It will focus on southern Uruzgan and northeastern Helmand, where the military says most of the forces are massed. The offensive comes amid Afghan and coalition efforts to curb the fiercest Taliban-led violence since the hard-line Islamic government was toppled for harboring Osama bin Laden following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. The force of more than 11,000 troops is by far the largest deployed in Afghanistan for one operation since the 2001 invasion. Previous offensives in the country have involved several thousand soldiers.[...] Operation Mountain Thrust will involve about 2,300 U.S. conventional and special forces, 3,300 British troops, 2,200 Canadians, about 3,500 Afghan soldiers and air support troops, Freakley said. There will also be coalition air support.[...] Since the defeat of the Taliban regime in late 2001, the militants have gained strength, [military spokesman Lt. Col. Paul] Fitzpatrick said. "I think this summer the Taliban is stronger than they've been in years," he said. (Jason Straziuso, "Big offensive planned in Afghanistan," Seattle Post-Intelligencer (AP), June 13, 2006)

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