What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A (blogger's tired) look at Deh Rawod

There's a new offensive, recently launched, in Deh Rawod district, in Uruzgan province. Hans de Vreij at Radio Netherlands nicely covers all the basics one has to know about it. As well as regarding Deh Rawod district. And this of course makes your remotely located cyber-correspondent's job a lot easier at the end of a tiring day at the office.

" The latest offensive is called 'Patan Ghar' (Mountain of the Pasthuns) and focuses on the area around the town of Deh Rawod on the Helmand river. Since September the area, covering dozens of square kilometres, has gradually fallen into the hands of the Taliban and foreign jihadis from Chechnya and Uzbekistan. Around ten thousand local people have fled the area seeking temporary refuge in Deh Rawod Bazar, the district's administrative centre.

The Patan Ghar operation started last weekend in deep secrecy with an operation by an airbourne unit. They were flown into the area in Chinook helicopters, some of them Dutch. The total number of ISAF troops is believed to be 800, including an estimated 300 Dutch soldiers: units from the Battle Group and the Provincial Reconstruction Team. There are also reports that at least 500 Afghan government troops and police officers are involved in the operation.

Permanent peace

A spokesperson for the Dutch armed forces in The Hague says that in the last few weeks it has been relatively peaceful in the area around Deh Rawod. Lieutenant-Colonel Robin Middel told Radio Netherlands Worldwide on Monday:

"In recent weeks, it has mainly been the US and Afghan units which have been involved in a number of small skirmishes in the area, as a result peace has returned. We are trying to turn the relative peace into a permanent peace with a huge military presence so that it is possible for the Afghan government to create permanent checkpoints and lookouts."

According to the defence spokesperson, operation Patan Ghar is not just about driving the Taliban out, it's mainly to do with ensuring long-term stability. "The problem in Afghanistan is not so much defeating the Taliban, rather it's maintaining security. And that is what this operation is about." "

I'm still not terribly convinced by stories of Chechens surging in and taking over districts, but there certainly could be other kinds of foreign fighters I guess. I remember this National Geographic video from Uruzgan from 2006, in which they included an excerpt of a jihadi video, where someone from Yemen blew himself up with a VBIED, while his Arab comrades, observing the event from a car nearby, loudly cheered that this is the way they are looking to help their Taliban brothers. So there certainly are foreign fighters but I wonder if somebody could seriously back up the thesis of a lot of Chechens in Afghanistan. I have the suspicion that referring to Uzbek and Chechen fighters just fits the exotic locale of a Central Asian battleground more than if one were to talk about a lot of Arabs and Pakistanis. (Though I'm not saying there aren't Uzbeks fighting in Afghanistan.)
Some more things to add to your Lonely Planet guide of Deh Rawod then. Insurgents had a rather well-established infrastructure in the area, which now Pathan Ghar looks to disrupt (as part of setting conditions to be able to more firmly hold on to the area). These were the findings of an end-of-January raid.
" The combined force was conducting a security patrol in the district to eliminate insurgent activity. Insurgents attacked from several different firing positions with small arms and automatic weapons fire, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar fire during the patrol along the Helmand and Tiri Rivers near the villages of Tarak and Kakrak.
(...)
The combined force searched the area where the attacks originated when the engagement ended. The search turned up a number of underground weapons caches hidden in compounds near the village.In one weapons cache, 12 RPGs and boxes of 7.62mm ammunition were stockpiled in a 15-feet (4.5 meter) deep hole. Another underground cache, held an anti-aircraft gun. A third cache held several automatic weapons, ammunition and rocket-propelled grenades. A final weapons cache was found in the largest hole and may have been used as a make-shift medical treatment area for insurgent fighters. Inside the 10-foot (3 meter) by 30-foot (9 meter) cave, ANSF soldiers found more ammunition and RPGs. They also found several boxes of medical supplies. "
Ok, having pasted in all this, I'm now like totally exhausted. Bye.

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