Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Remember all the bruhaha about the imminent Taliban Spring Offensive back in January and February? Apart from CNN, CBS, the New York Times, the LA Times, Le Monde, the BBC, the Guardian, The Independent and what not wrininging their hands over the upcoming quagmire there was also e.g. Al-Jazeera on February 21, quoting a Mullah Dadullah, close aide to Mullah Omar and reportedly the Taliban's new military commander:

Mullah Dadullah, top Taliban military commander
"The attack is imminent," he told Al Jazeera's Arabic channel in an interview aired on Wednesday. "The number of Taliban mujahidin who are ready to launch the spring battle has reached 6000," he told Ahmed Zeidan, the Kabul bureau chief of Al Jazeera's Arabic channel. Dadullah said that the fighters were concealed in tunnels and elsewhere in preparation for launching their attack. He said he might even be able to deploy even more volunteers if Nato troop increases continued to prompt more Afghans to take up arms. "It may rise to 10.000," he said. "The more the number of Jewish and Christian soldiers who fight us increases, the more the Afghan people will be encouraged to join us."

And if you did not believe Ahmed Zeidan over there in Kabul with his pal Mullah Dadullah, savouring Danish butter cookies and Carolina Pride pork sausages and whisking them down with Jack Daniels, there was always Matthias Gebauer, Der Spiegel correspondent in Pakistan, who, while on a stroll in Peshawar, noticed DVD's being sold with Mullah Dadullah's latest inspiring massages, which inspired him on March 1 to submit the following copy to Der Spiegel Online:

THE STAR OF AFGHANISTAN'S JIHAD: -The images on these DVDs reveal the Taliban's self confidence and new professionalism. The films herald a bloody spring in Afghanistan, one in which Western troops will face a newly strengthened Taliban army under a re-organized leadership. Well armed and better logistically organized than ever before, the Taliban are preparing for their fight against the hated NATO troops, whose alliance has recently shown signs of internal division. "They say it will be the decisive summer," says a man who occasionally drinks tea with the Taliban commanders.


...in the real world.......

...the hated NATO troops whose alliance recently showed signs of internal division issued on April 8 the following statement, by word of Dutch Major General Ton Van Loon (yeah, I know, his name sucks for Anglosaxons), who recently commanded British, Dutch, US, Canadian, Danish, and Estonian ground forces supported by Dutch, British, and US aircraft during Operation SILVER (a sub-operation of Operation ACHILLES) with the aim of taking Sangin and the Sangin Valley:

Dutch Army Fennek recce vehicle and troopers in AF, Dutch “We continue to make steady progress in Northern Helmand and even though the Sangin District Centre is in the control of Government of Afghanistan forces, Operation Achilles is not over,” stated Major General Ton van Loon. He added, “We adopted a deliberate and systematic approach to our offensive operation, not because Taliban resistance was strong, but because we wanted to remove them from Sangin with a minimum amount of collateral damage to the civilian infrastructure. It is a testament to the skill and professionalism of our troops that they have done this difficult task as asked.”

The Dutch NATO Secretary General, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, is equally upbeat about Operation ACHILLES thus far:

March 27, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- NATO commanders say they are pleased with the initial results of their spring offensive in southern Afghanistan. A month into the operation, NATO commanders say their deployment of several thousand NATO and Afghan troops is eroding the ability of the Taliban to fight.

"[Some] 4,500 NATO troops with 1,000 Afghan national security forces are active there and they focus on Helmand Province in the southern part of Afghanistan," de Hoop Scheffer said. "The aim of the operation is to create security -- more security -- in the south, and in particular, to allow [for] the installation of a turbine in the Kajaki dam." There are more than 14,000 reconstruction projects under way in Afghanistan. But Hoop de Scheffer says the Kajaki dam has the most strategic and psychological significance. That's because of the economic benefits residents of the area are expected to reap once reconstruction is finished.

"When the turbine in that dam is [installed] it will give power to 2 million people and their businesses. It will provide irrigation for hundreds of farmers. And it will create jobs for 2,000 people," de Hoop Scheffer said. "The Taliban, the spoilers, are attacking this project every day to [try to] stop it from going forward."

The ground troops enjoy considerable air support day after day, with substantial losses for the Taliban. Here are some exerpts from the April 15 CENTAF summary:

B1 Lancer
In Afghanistan, an Air Force B-1B Lancer dropped a guided bomb unit-31 and GBU-38s on an anti-coalition militia firing position near Kajaki*. A joint terminal attack controller confirmed all weapons hit the desired targets. U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets conducted reconnaissance for suspicious activity near Ghazni**. French M-2000 Mirages performed shows of force over a suspected mortar position and an insurgent-occupied building near Asmar***. The shows of force were reported as successful. In total, 46 close-air-support missions were flown in support of ISAF and Afghan security forces, reconstruction activities and route patrols.

And even the Belgian contingent, still guarding Kabul International Airport, is not completely asleep. Two weeks ago it received its second Dingo II troop carrier, a new MultiPurpose Protected Vehicle (MVPP), recently purchased from the German constructor Kraus-Maffei-Wegmann (KMW). The Belgian Army will have 220 of them in five versions: as troop carrier, Mobile Command Post, ambulance, battlefield guard and forward observer, and there's an option for another 124. The first photo shows a Hercules unloading the Dingo on KAIA, the second one a version with remote controlled machinegun.

The Belgian contingent in Afghanistan will receive in all four Dingos. They will not replace the Pandurs, but supplement them. Since they are totally brand new vehicles and only one unit, 3rd Para Batallion from Flawinne, could muster competent crews right away, the Dingos are manned by ad hoc personnel from that unit. Afghanistan is not the only theater where the Dingos are deployed. The 400-strong Belgian Army detachment in the south of Lebanon, guarding the no-man's land and demining there, also uses several of these vehicles. Thus far, one critical note was observed. It seems that the remote-controlled machinegun gets stuck if it turns too far to the left, and can then only be manually unlocked.