Army Secures Its Gains After Taliban Supply Route Seized

Army Secures Its Gains After Taliban Supply Route Seized
June 16th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Army Secures Its Gains After Taliban Supply Route Seized

Army Secures Its Gains After Taliban Supply Route Seized
London Daily Telegraph
June 16, 2008 By Tom Coghlan, in Forward Operating Base Delhi, Garmser
Soldiers from the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders laboured over the weekend to construct strongpoints and check posts in an area of southern Afghanistan newly liberated from Taliban control.
South of the town of Garmser, where the desert horizon is an undulating blur of heat haze, British forces had faced the Taliban in a largely static war for two years. But in a month of fighting, with more than 100 separate engagements, the Taliban have been successfully pushed back after suffering about 200 dead.
The offensive involved around 2,300 American Marines and 200 men from 5th Bn, Royal Regiment of Scotland (The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders). These gains cost only one American life with another dozen injured.
The Garmser area, described by Lt-Col Nick Borton, the commander of British forces in southern Helmand, as "an iconic piece of ground for both sides", was the key supply route for all Taliban fighters in Helmand province.
But having won the area, British forces must hold it against Taliban infiltration. They are racing to fill the security void created by the territorial gains. "The problem is that the more successful you are in counter-insurgency, the more troops you need to police the ground you've won," said one British officer.
To add to the challenge, America's 24th US Expedition Unit, which led the initial assault around Garmser, is due to leave shortly.
This month, Nato's outgoing commander in Afghanistan, General Dan McNeill, described the 51,000 Western troops as "an under-resourced force". There has been frequent American criticism of the failure of many of Nato's European members to send more than a token number of troops to key areas.
Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, will today announce the deployment of another 230 British soldiers following pleas from commanders for extra troops to prevent the recent, unexpected gains from slipping away. Reinforcements of infantry and a headquarters unit will raise Britain's total contingent in Helmand to more than 8,000.
Afghanistan's new security forces should also be entrusted with the task of holding ground captured from the Taliban.
In the past week, several hundred Afghan police have been drafted into the Garmser area and a battalion of the Afghan National Army (ANA) should follow. A battalion of 600 ANA soldiers a week is being turned out by a Nato. Their quality remains uneven, but some units have proved determined fighters.
As local people return to Garmser, support for the Afghan government and its Western backers was cautious. "If the Nato forces leave again the people will again support Taliban. The Taliban are already re-infiltrating by desert routes," said Colonel Ghooli, the commander of the local Afghan police.
The Argylls are stationed at Forward Operating Base Delhi which is patrolled by a protective cordon of Mastiff armoured cars, ungainly beasts beloved by the soldiers for the extraordinary protection they offer against the increasing threat of Taliban roadside bombs. "That vehicle is saving lives," said Colour-Sergeant Kenny Kyle, the commander of the Mastiffs. "That's why the boys love it."
Across southern Afghanistan, violence rose last week as the Taliban apparently mounted a counter-attack after the loss of Garmser. Eleven Nato soldiers were killed, including five British paratroopers. Lt-Col David Richmond, the commander of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, became the most senior officer wounded in Helmand when his thigh bone was shattered by a Taliban bullet on Thursday. He is expected to make a full recovery.

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