New NATO offensive in Uruzgan
Hans de Vreij – www.radionetherlands.nl
NATO has conducted one of its larger operations to date in Southern Afghanistan. In a secret operation, one thousand soldiers were deployed to chase Taliban fighters from a contested area in Uruzgan province. The operation lasted ten days and ended on Sunday, the Dutch ministry of Defence announced.
Operation ‘Bor Barakai’ (or Thunder) took place in the Mirabad region, just east of the capital of Uruzgan Province, Tarin Kowt. Mirabad has been a known Taliban stronghold for years, and the fact that NATO deemed it necessary to deploy a thousand soldiers gives evidence to the presumption that stiff resistance could be expected.
Another indication of this presumption is the fact that the bulk of the troops consisted of British marines. These are not permanently based in Uruzgan province, but are used on a temporary basis by NATO to fill gaps or provide support to operations all over Southern Afghanistan.
Besides 500 troops of ’42 Commando Royal Marines’, the Dutch deployed some 350 men from its battle group while the Afghan national army provided 150 men. Smaller contingents included Australian Special Forces, and members of the French Foreign Legion that coach Afghan units.
However, once in the area, the Taliban disappeared into thin air, and only small skirmishes took place resulting in the death of one fighter, presumed to be Taliban. Large stocks of weapons and explosives were found, including hundreds of kilograms of explosives used to produce Improvised Explosive Devices or IED’s.
The military part of the offensive having been concluded, efforts will now concentrate on keeping a permanent presence of Afghan security forces in the area and begin reconstruction projects for the local population.
For the time being, the Mirabad area is quiet, and without their weapons, the Taliban will not be able to make a fist. This was the third large-scale NATO offensive in Uruzgan province since mid-2006, in the region known as the ‘heartland of the Taliban’.