Battles in Helmand, Afghanistan
Afghan Army and police units, along with the U.S. military are engaged in combat with Taliban forces in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand. The Associated Press states the fighting began after Afghan “police were deployed to the Haji Fateh area to hunt for Taliban rebels” and the Taliban attacked the police forces. Afghan police and Army units poured into the region to engage what is believed to be a force of about 200 Taliban fighters, and U.S. air support, including A-10 Warthog ground-attack aircraft have been pounding the Taliban positions.
Reuters initial report stated there have been four engagements in the area, and twenty Taliban and three police have been killed in the fighting. According to Mullah Mir, Helmand’s deputy provincial governor, “We’re sending more reinforcements. The fighting is still going on.” The latest report indicates “Two well-known Taliban commanders, Mullah Torjan and Haji Nasru, are among those enemy forces who were killed today [during clashes in Helmand],” along with thirty Taliban fighters.
A Taliban spokesman denies their forces took heavy casualties; “speaking by satellite telephone from an undisclosed location, said only two Taliban were wounded.” If he spoke on a satellite phone, or any other phone for that matter, it is highly likely his U.S. intelligence was listening location is no longer undisclosed.
Taliban forces have repeatedly taken heavy casualties when engaging in conventional combat, and today’s engagement is likely to be no different.
While the fighting continues in Helmand, the Dutch Parliament has approved the deployment of 1,400 troops to neighboring Uruzgan province. The increase in suicide attacks and current fighting have not deterred the Dutch from fulfilling their commitment to NATO. There are fears the 5,500 British troops preparing to deploy to Helmand province may be facing in influx of foreign fighters. Ghulam Dusthaqir, Nimroz’s provincial government, states there is a batch coming in from Iraq; “They’re linked to al-Qa’eda and fought against US forces in Iraq. They have been ordered to come here. Many are suicide bombers.”
The foreign terrorists are likely to be coming from regions other than Iraq. The Pak Tribune reports nine foreigners were recently arrested in Nimroz province. The home countries of lhose arrested leaned more towards the subcontinent than the Middle East; “one Iraqi, two Kashmiris from Pakistan administered Kashmir and five Bangladeshis.” In Khost, a suicide car-bomber (which was “carried out by a man dressed as a woman”) killed five, including three Afghan soldiers and two construction workers, while a roadside bomb detonated in Kandahar. No one was hurt in the Kandahar attack. While the attacks may mirror those carried out in Iraq, al-Qaeda and the Taliban are merely using the tactics that have been successful in other Islamist conflicts, including Chechnya, Kashmir, Bangladesh and the Philippines.