Military & Aerospace

The critical battles of Helmand and Kandhar
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 23 Feb , 2011

There are credible reports of Al Qaedas preparations for 26/11 type attacks on European cities. The first low grade strike has actually occurred in Sweden in end 2010.

It is now widely expected that the Taliban cannot afford to cede control of this vital opium producing terrain and is likely to launch a major summer offensive in 2011. However, the US/NATO will have to be prepared to pay the cost in terms of casualties. This is the American Achilles Heel. Hence, the US is increasingly getting impatient of the Pakistani sanctuary support to the Afghan Taliban. Accordingly, 140 miles to the North of Kandahar, US/NATO Attack Helicopters had crossed in hot pursuit and claimed to have chased and killed some 30 insurgents of the Haqqani Group in 2010. A Pakistani Post at Torkham was attacked and 3 Pakistani troops were killed and three injured. Pakistan, in turn, reacted strongly and even stopped US/NATO supply convoys and tacitly encouraged attacks on these convoys to underline its resentment. The floods had given it a very viable excuse to put off the long sought offensive in North Waziristan, which was to coincide with the Battle of Kandahar.

There are credible reports of Al Qaeda’s preparations for 26/11 type attacks on European cities. The first low grade strike has actually occurred in Sweden in end 2010. The United States has warned that any attacks on its homeland will lead to serious retaliation and has apparently drawn up a contingency list of 150 insurgent camps/targets in Pakistan that will be hit in such an eventuality.

In the light of all these developments, the outcome of the ongoing offensive in Kandahar will be crucial to the final outcome in Afghanistan. The Americans will have to go beyond the existing ambiguity and clearly decide on their response to Pakistan’s persistent provision of sanctuaries and support to the Afghan Taliban (in specific, the Haqqani, Hekmatyar and Mullah Omar groups). The Americans are also seeking Russian and Central Asian countries’ help to develop alternative routes of supplying their forces in Afghanistan. This will reduce their critical dependence on Pakistan, for logistical support. Another clear option if there is a relative thaw in US relations with Iran is for the NATO countries to use the land routes via Iran

The Way Out:- The ultimate solution would be a significant enhancement in the size of the ANA. India and other regional powers can play a major role here. India should offer to raise, equip and train upto two divisions more of the ANA as also a Tank and Artillery Brigade with equipment. It should strengthen the Aviation Corps of the ANA by providing Dhruv helicopters and Kiran jet trainers (that can double as ground attack fighters). A revived ANA will be far cheaper than US/NATO troops and is the ideal force to deal with the Afghan insurgency. Pakistan must be pressured to resile from its zero-sum game strategies. It cannot hope to gain at the cost of each one of its neighbours. It would be in India’s interests to see that no single state or any state inimical to India ever dominates Afghanistan. A failure of the Afghan state could have dangerous consequences for the region. Hence, all regional players need to be co-opted.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Maj Gen GD Bakshi, (Retd)

is a war Veteran and Strategic Analyst.

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