A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|British Officers fear 5 year war with Mujaahideen|
|04/17/02 at 14:42:50|
by anthony lloyd in gardez, afghanistan
AS BRITISH Marines sweep through a valley in an undisclosed area of Afghanistan, renewed fighting in a mountainous area near the Pakistan border signals a new phase of war that threatens to tie down foreign troops for years.
Instead of standing and fighting in large numbers, Al-Qaeda and Taleban forces are resorting to traditional guerilla tactics, sending small bands of fighters across the border from Pakistan on raiding parties.
Three weeks ago the Shah-i Kot Valley in the southeast was the scene of Operation Anaconda, a huge joint American-Afghan assault on al-Qaeda and the Taleban. Yet already fundamentalist guerrillas have attacked posts occupied by Afghan troops loyal to the coalition.
“Al-Qaeda elements have returned to Shah-i-Kot and now there is again fighting up there,” Commander Ziahulldin, a senior Northern Alliance officer in Gardez, said. “They are coming across from Pakistan in small groups of five to ten with new hit-and-run guerrilla tactics. There has been fighting in the valley for two days, and ten people in a guerrilla war are worth 1,000 in a conventional conflict.”
The new al-Qaeda incursions, which involved a brazen attack near the perimeter of a US special forces base at the edge of Gardez last week, poses a complex and enduring problem to British and American forces as well as to Afghan troops. Instead of large-scale operations such as Anaconda, Western commanders anticipate a series of smaller missions in a counter-insurgency war that British officers believe could last at least five years. The problem has been compounded by Pakistan’s inability to clear out al-Qaeda bases within its tribal provinces, a weakness that affords the fighters the essential asset of a safe haven to train and recuperate.
The present fighting began with an incident in Gardez a week ago. American-trained Afghan coalition troops were leaving the US compound in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. As they passed through the final checkpoint, two men opened fire on them with assault rifles and threw hand grenades. One Afghan soldier was killed and seven wounded.
“I heard the shooting and explosions and went down to check it out with a Jeep and some men,” said Mustafa Amini, who recently returned to Afghanistan to help his grandfather, the Governor of Gardez, after 16 years in California. “I saw a body lying in the road. He had been shot in the head. Another man was bleeding and running away.”
Both assailants were killed: one on the spot, the other while fleeing. Their bodies were taken to hospital, but their nationalities were not confirmed. The director of the local Afghan Red Crescent (ARC) said that one appeared to be of Arabic origin, the other Afghan.
Colonel Zihrat Gul Mangal, an alliance intelligence officer in Gardez, claimed that a series of small gunfights then started in Shah-i Kot on Saturday. “Small al-Qaeda groups have begun shooting there after crossing back from Pakistan,” he said. “They can never be 100 per cent removed from Afghanistan so long as they have sanctuary in Pakistan.”
Details of the weekend’s fighting were still scarce because of the remoteness of Shah-i Kot, but it appears that the alliance had lost control of road access to the valley. Some suggested that foreign coalition forces had returned to the area to search for al-Qaeda units, but others said the West was not yet involved.
Shah-i Kot may indeed be where the Marines are now operating. MoD sources have hinted that Operation Ptarmigan is focused in Paktia province and they talk of a valley sweep against “residual” hostile elements. Yet there is no confirmation that Shah-i-Kot is involved.
Gardez’s situation has been complicated by the mutual antipathy of local Afghan groups allied to the Americans. The town is held by commanders loyal to Governor Taj Mohammed Wardak, but much of the surrounding area is controlled by forces led by Pacha Khan.
Though nominated as governor by the interim administration, Khan was driven from Gardez by Mujahidin groups earlier this year. Now, however, both groups receive money and training from American special forces.
Even though Khan has repeatedly threatened to attack Gardez, Wardak’s fighters said he was having lunch in the US compound yesterday.
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board