Sunday, March 13, 2016

Helmand Province

Helmand Province - District by District. The fight for Helmand province over the past decade has been one of the most costly for both the Coalition and the Afghan government security forces. The British, Danish, U.S. Marines, and others have spent lots of money and lives trying to rest this volatile province from Taliban control. In part, this was successful until the Coalition withdrew its forces over the past two years. The Afghan National Army (ANA) 215th Corps and various police organizations were not up to the task. In addition, the government agencies were corrupt, absent, and terribly ineffective in establishing government functions and providing services. Overall, the Afghan government and security forces failed. Now most of the province is in Taliban hands.

The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) does a comprehensive breakdown of the province - with an examination of who controls how much of each district. The report is in two parts. Read "Helmand: A crisis a long time coming", March 10, 2016 and "Helmand: the chain of chiefdoms unravels", March 11, 2016.

Govt Retreat from Helmand Districts. "Overstretched Afghan forces are pulling back from violent southern districts without a fight, ceding key territory to the resurgent Taliban as part of an unprecedented 'strategic retreat' that has stoked fears government control is slipping." Read more in "Afghan retreat from key districts stokes instability fears"Yahoo News!, March 6, 2016.

Govt Offices in Gereshk Attacked. Taliban militants have attacked government offices in Helmand province. The police headquarters and intelligence agency offices were attacked on March 9th. (Khaama Press, Mar 9, 2016).

Quetta Shura Leaders Now in Musa Qala. Some leaders of the Taliban's Quetta Shura are now in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province taking a prominent role in heading up the conflict with Afghan government forces. Read more in "Taliban Quetta Shura Leading War in Musa Qala of Helmand"Tolo News, March 6, 2016.

Different Perspective of Helmand. Much of the news in the Afghan and international media is about the security setbacks that the ANDSF have suffered at the hands of the Taliban in Helmand province. However, there is another side of the story. Helmand province offers much more than just conflict. Read "As the Taliban Menace Afghanistan, the Helmand River Offers Solace"The New York Times, March 8, 2016.

Alcohol, Helmand, & the Human Domain. Human Terrain Teams (HTTs) were established to help military commanders understand the local environment - specifically the human environment - or human terrain - if that suits you. Members of the HTTs were usually more attuned to the human environment due to their professional degrees, work experience, and time in Afghanistan (most did several back-to-back tours in the same province). However, that is not to say that the HTT pros were not surprised from time to time. One aspect of working with the Europeans (in this case the Danes) is their realistic approach to alcohol in a combat zone (versus the tightly-wrapped, zero-tolerance U.S. military). I will say that with three military trips to Afghanistan followed by three consecutive years as a contractor that I had some preferences; especially after having worked with the French in Kapisa and the Europeans in northern Afghanistan. So . . . back to the news report - "Johnnie Red in Helmand", by Ryan Evans, War on the Rocks,  June 19, 2014.

U.S. Advisors Retraining 215th Corps. The leadership of the 215th Corps was horrible this past year and has since been replaced. Soldiers of the corps did not receive pay, food, ammunition, or leave as a result of poor officership. Military advisors from the 10th Mountain Division are currently in Helmand province providing additional training to the ANA. Read more in "US soldiers retrain Afghan army battling Taliban ahead of poppy harvest", Stars and Stripes, March 10, 2016.

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