Saturday, February 13, 2010

Afghan conflict reaches critical juncture

Ian Pannell, BBC News

"Operation Moshtarak will mark the start of the end of the insurgency."

With those words, Brig James Cowan, commander of British forces in Helmand province signalled the start of the largest military operation in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.

Thousands of US, UK and Afghan forces, supported by Danes and Estonians are now moving by land and air into parts of Nad Ali district which have long been in insurgent hands. Four thousand British troops, supported by 1,650 Afghan servicemen will operate in the northern part of area.

The white flag of the Taliban flies from a crane raised above the town of Showal in the north. It is the seat of the shadow government and will be a key objective for British forces led by 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh.

To the south-west lies the area of Marjah. Military planners believe it is home to one of the largest concentrations of insurgents in Afghanistan, and it is here where thousands of US marines are operating.

Nad Ali is now the epicentre of the so-called US troop "surge" and the counter-insurgency plan laid out by the commander of both the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) and US Forces Afghanistan (USFor-A), Gen Stanley McChrystal.

'Helping Afghan people'

"Soon we will clear the Taliban from its safe havens in central Helmand. Where we go, we will stay. Where we stay, we will build," says Brig Cowan. He addressed hundreds of troops assembled on a dusty patch of land adjacent to where a vigil had just been held for the latest three British soldiers to be killed in Afghanistan.

L/Cpl Dale Vincent of 1 Royal Welsh is just 21 years old and already on his third tour of Afghanistan. He misses his grandmother who follows the news closely and worries that Dale is in danger. But he is confident that Moshtarak will go well.

"We're helping the Afghan people and it keeps the terrorists from our back home. We all knew Afghanistan was going to be dangerous before we came, but this op is not going to be any more dangerous than before, it's just on a bigger scale," he says.

"Home" is the word you hear most often. L/Cpl Stephen Courtney from Swansea has a two-year-old son and is engaged to be married this August.

"I try not to think of the dangers. I just can't wait to go home and see all the family and friends," he says.

1 comment:

  1. home ! yes its here waiting for everone when you done the job your there for go for it ! come back knowing its a job done ended ,, we will party then with you all
    keep you eyes open and stay safe