Showing posts with label Sangin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sangin. Show all posts

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Troubles in Helmand Province

The Taliban have not taken the usual break in fighting during the 2015-2016 winter season. The snow has fallen but the conflict continues in several parts of Afghanistan. One area where the conflict continues is Helmand province in the southwest of Afghanistan. Only two or three of the districts of Hemand province are controlled by the government; the Taliban control the other eleven (?) districts. The Afghan government disputes this assessment; guess it depends on what you mean by district control. Sangin district is noted as the latest to fall -  although the government maintains that it still controls the district and the ANDSF are attempting to (or have) relieve(d) the small district center compound. The Taliban are supported by the Ishaqzai tribe who constitute a sizable part of the population of the province. The U.S. alienated this tribe early in the Afghan conflict pushing them into the Taliban fold. While the Taliban will likely control 95% of Helmand it is doubtful that the Taliban will take the provincial capital Lashkar Gah as the 215th Afghan Army Corps is located there.

ANA and ANP Not Up to the Task. There is still a large amount of corruption, numerous "ghost soldiers and policemen", poor leadership, a lack of coordination among the security forces, and a lack of intelligence. The western nations constant refrain is that the ANDSF are able to stand up to the Taliban - it is obvious that this is not true in some areas of Afghanistan (Helmand for one).

Refugees Flood Provincial Capital. Many Helmand residents fleeing the fighting have gone to Lashkar Gah but safety may be fleeting as the fighting is now at the suburbs of this provincial capital. (The New York Times, Dec 28, 2015).

U.K. SOF units were rushed to the province to shore up the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) - see a UK MoD statement confirming this. See also a news report by BBC News (Dec 22, 2015). According to the UK MoD the UK troops are advisors sent to the former Camp Bastion (now called Camp Shrabak) and they are not engaged in combat (Hmmmm.). There are about 450 U.K. troops throughout Afghanistan in a mentoring and advisory role. Learn more about the UK's involvement in Helmand province in "UK troops in Afghanistan: Timeline of key events", BBC News, December 22, 2015.

U.S.SOF. U.S. Special Forces troops are also deployed to Helmand - most likely advising the Afghan Special Operations Kandaks.

Strategic Importance of Helmand? Well, . . .  it depends on who is talking. The U.S. Marines, U.K., Danes, and a few other nations expended a lot of money and the human toll was significant - so they have some strong feelings about the importance of the province. The Brits lost about 100 personnel in the Sangin area along with many more severely wounded. The U.S. Marines also took significant casualties. How would the loss of Helmand province affect Kandahar, Herat and Kabul? Probably not much in the eyes of some analysts. The biggest loss to the government would be the drug trade revenue taken from corrupt army, police and government officials as well as local power brokers. The Taliban would gain a significant source of revenue and a secure area from which to operate - as well as score an important IO victory. They may also consider moving leadership from the safe sanctuary of Pakistan into Helmand province (or at least spread an IO message that this has happened).

R.S. Says Not So Strategic. Perhaps the biggest indicator of the strategic importance of Helmand is by taking a look at where the Resolute Support Train, Advise, and Assist Commands (TAACs) are positioned. There are six field corps of the Afghan Army located at Herat (207 Corps), Mazer-e Sharif (209 Corps), Laghman province (201st), Gardez (203rd), Kandahar (205), and Lashkar Gah (215th). The 215th does not have an advisory team stationed at the Corps HQs. That should tell you something.
Location of TAACs w/ ANA Corps

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Gen Campbell Praises ANSF in Helmand Op

The ANSF recently completed a months-long operation in Helmand province. Much of the fighting took place in Sangin district. Observers had mixed reviews on the op. Many saw it as a "clearing operation" that is typical of the ANSF. Move into an area in great numbers, establish a presence, get shot at, mix it up with the Taliban, kill and capture some insurgents, take some casualties, clear some IEDs, talk to the local residents, and then go back to the big FOB many miles away. The end result is the insurgency is "disrupted" for the length of the operation and then the insurgents resume their activities once the ANSF departs. Listen to what General Campbell, commander of the Resolute Support mission, has to say about the Helmand operation in "DoD News: Resolute Support Commander Praises ANSF"DVIDS, April 28, 2015.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Operation Zulfiqar - Not so Much

Operation Zulfiqar is now complete. The Afghan government claims that the Taliban have suffered huge losses and much of Helmand province is more secure to include Sangin district. Resolute Headquarters will crank up their Information Operations (IO) machine and issue the usual cheerleader proclamations - posted to Twitter, Facebook, the RS website, and DVIDS. The Afghan military launched Operation Zulfiqar in February in an attempt to secure the northern part of Helmand province and demonstrate the government's resolve to fight in the Taliban heartland. The 'clearing operation' is over. However, as is true in most 'clearing operations' - the 'clearing troops' are now departing the area of operations and the Taliban are moving back into the security vacuum. This is how clearing operations went with U.S. troops for a number of years and the same happens with the Afghan National Army (the ANA have learned well from the U.S.). Large unit formations move into an area for a week to a couple of months, look for insurgents, weapons caches, IEDs, get shot at, suffer casualties, accomplish almost nothing, and then . . . they leave. So they accomplish the "Clear" part of "Clear, Hold, and Build" - but . . . then they leave. And the Taliban filter back in to control the village, the valley, or the district. The corrupt Afghan police who are left guarding the district center(s) are ill-led and ill-equipped to fight the Taliban. So the police 'secure the district center'; which is usually a walled compound where the district governor may show up to work (usually not) and the district chief of police (DCoP) comes to a quiet understanding with the real power in the district - the insurgents. Read more in "Afghan Effort to Secure South Falters", The Wall Street Journal,  April 10, 2015.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sangin Valley Now Cleared - Ready for Elections

A good news story from the ISAF information gurus say that the Sangin Valley is now more safe as a result of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) clearing the valley prior to the elections. ANSF forces from the 2nd and 3rd Brigades of the 215th Corps along with members of the Afghan Uniform Police and other ANSF elements conducted the "completely Afghan-led operation" with only advisor-related help from coalition forces (that would be SFAAT 2-215). The operation took place over a nine day period ending 4 February and was designed to offer a better environment for potential voters and the local populace. Presumably the Taliban will not be able to re-infiltrate into the Sangin Valley in the time between February 4 and April 5 in order to disrupt the elections. Read more in "Afghans clear Sangin Valley prior to elections", DVIDS, February 8, 2014. Learn more about the Sangin Valley here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Endgame for Marines in Afghanistan

A recent news article explores the Marines mission (past, present, and future) in Regional Command Southwest. The article discusses the tough fighting that has taken place over the years, the recent agreement between an ANA brigade commander in Sangin district with the Taliban, and how the Afghans will need to step up to succeed. The Marine strength in RC Southwest is currently about 7,000 (January 2014) but will drop to approximately 4,000 in the spring. At the peak of the war there were 20,000 Marines in the two provinces (Helmand and Nimruz) in 2011 - along with other Coalition partners (Danish and Brits). Read the article - "Afghan war reaches endgame", U-T San Diego, January 11, 2014.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Life in Sangin (Helmand Province), Afghanistan for Royal Marines

The Royal Marines of 40 Commando have returned from a brutal six-month deployment to Sangin - located in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  The unit suffered many dead and wounded comrades.  Many of the deaths incurred were from IEDs.  Read an article about their tour and homecoming - see "Royal Marines speak of horrible reality of life on patrol in Afghanistan", The Guardian, November 17, 2010.