Monday, March 29, 2010
Tom Coghlan, Jerome Starkey in Kabul, and Deborah Haynes
Nato commanders are to change their tactics in the battle for Kandahar, putting Afghan forces at the forefront of the operation to drive the Taleban from their spiritual heartland.
Operation Omid — the Pashto word for hope — is the next stage of a year-long campaign to retake southern Afghanistan. It will target the southern city and surrounding areas with a “gradual squeeze” different from Operation Moshtarak, the airborne assault on the Marjah district of Helmand province last month.
A key aspect will be putting large numbers of new Afghan troops into chains of “firebases” — offering artillery support to infantry — to be built on the approaches to the city, according to Western and Afghan officials. A political drive will parallel the military operation to try to heal tribal fissures that the Taleban have exploited.
The Kandahar mission will be followed by operations to stabilise the provinces of Zabul and Ghazni. Khalid Pashtun, an MP for Kandahar, said that 24 firebases will be built in the district of Zarai. They will be used to control the movement of insurgents and weapons as part of Nato commander General Stanley McChrystal’s plan to secure the population from Taleban influence.
Kandahar holds symbolic value: it was the first capital of Afghanistan, and became the birthplace of the Taleban in 1994. The performance of Afghan forces will be critical if militants are to be convinced that they cannot succeed even after a planned reduction in Western forces in the next three to five years. In this respect, the operation will bear comparison with the Charge of the Knights operation in Basra in 2008, in which the Iraqi Army emerged as a credible force.
For the full article click here for the TimesOnline