Connect to share and comment

Afghanistan War: Success in Kandahar?

Recent operation called success, but no international press witnessed it.

The trip was touted as Karzai’s first visit to a district outside Kandahar City since becoming president in 2004.

“Arghandab is in a much better state than it was just six weeks ago,” said British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, commander of all troops in the coalition’s Regional Command – South, which includes Arghandab district in Kandahar province.

Carter said the military operation was complimented by a focus on strengthening the local governing capacity of the Arghandab district. He said the district governor and a new police chief are more representative of the Arghandab’s tribal make-up and are proving successful at attempts to reach out to the district’s inhabitants in an effort to improve security.

“When you combine that with the need to conduct one or two clearing operations that took place over the last two calendar weeks, what you find in Arghandab is a more positive environment,” he said.

Carter said several indicators pointed toward Kandahar province improving in terms of security.

“In Arghandab now, it is easier for the district governor to go to the west bank of the Arghandab and to go to villages he wasn’t able to go to before by himself, without protection,” he said.

He also said travel on the key highway in the province is much safer than just a few months ago.

Carter acknowledged that the alleged success of the Arghandab district operation doesn’t mean the Taliban is beaten. The third phase of the Kandahar campaign, involving clearing areas in Zhari and Panjwai districts, called Operation Dragon Strike, is now underway and troops have faced stiff Taliban resistance in places.

Assassinations and other attacks have also plagued Kandahar City in recent weeks.

Saturday night a bomb killed one person and injured four near the police headquarters in Kandahar city. Two weeks ago at least nine people died in two separate bomb attacks near police stations. The same week, the vice mayor of Kandahar city was gunned down outside his office in one of the city’s more secure neighborhoods.

This summer was also the most violent since the war began, with more coalition combat deaths in June than any other month of the conflict since the U.S.-led invasion began almost nine years ago. With two months still left in the year, 2010 will go down as the most violent year of the war in Afghanistan so far. In the last week alone, 18 American troops have been killed across the country.

Coalition officials compare the increased casualties to the uptick in violence that accompanied the surge of U.S. troops in Iraq in 2008. Petraeus, commander of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan, has long warned that the Afghan war would turn more violent before positive results of the surge would be seen.

Any positive developments this fall must also be measured against the fact that violence dips as the warm “fighting season” summer months change to the cooler fall climate, when snow and freezing temperatures are found along the Afghan border with Pakistan. The spring and summer months have been the most violent in Afghanistan since the war began in 2002.