Afghan Army and German ISAF forces carry out large-scale operation near Kunduz
The operation, which is being carried out by the Afghan National Army and Afghan police with the assistance of mainly German ISAF forces, is aimed at gaining increased control of the Kunduz region and to minimise Taliban influence.
Some 800 to 1,000 soldiers of the Afghan National Army, supported by 100 members of the Afghan police and 300 German soldiers of the Quick Reaction Force (QRF), have been operating in the Kunduz province and have been involved in more or less intensive skirmishes with insurgents. The allied forces concentrated on the Chahar Darreh district, as well as on two other districts near Kunduz where the Taliban have gained great influence. As the BBC reported earlier this month, due to a lack of presence of Afghan or ISAF forces, the Taliban had freely carried out patrols, closed girl schools and forcefully collected up to 10 % “taxes” from farmers.
New enemy tactics changing the scenario
Yesterday (22 July), German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung, along with Chief of the Defence Staff General Wolfgang Schneiderhan, held a press conference to shed some light on the developing situation. With the change of combat intensity came a change of vocabulary: “necessary escalation”, “deterrent effect” and other terms not often used by the political and military leadership in Germany stirred up the press and discussions on the true nature of the German involvement in Afghanistan. In any case, the military leadership seems to have understood that it is far too dangerous to leave this once-quiet area in the hands of the Taliban.
The operation involved the deployment of heavy equipment, such as the infantry combat vehicle MARDER and mortars. As a soldier told a German daily, “everything that is available is being used.” This may become extremely important as the Taliban are reportedly making use of new tactics in the region. While in the past they confined themselves to strike by using road-side bombs, Schneiderhan stated that since March “they have used their weapons more intelligently.” The recent attacks on convoys and patrols have shown that the Taliban act in a more military manner, carrying out well-prepared ambushes and using weapons such as rocket propelled grenades (RPG-7). However, the Defence Minister has not tired of emphasizing that the German forces are not engaged in a war, but are part of “stabilisation effort” in Afghanistan.
Multiple air and ground assets involved
Nevertheless, the increased combat intensity cannot be denied. Even though, according to the Defence Minister, the operation is limited to a radius of some 30 km around Kunduz, the size and the measures are unprecedented in the North. For the first time in the history of the ISAF mission, combat air support (CAS) has not only been requested, but used to attack enemy positions. Previously, it had been enough for fighter aircraft to make a show of force by approaching enemy emplacements at low altitudes and dropping flares. As the military leadership recently told the German parliament, on July 15 and July 19, for the first time, bombs were dropped in the north by combat aircraft after they had been requested by ground forces.
As the online version of the German SPIEGEL magazine reported, besides ISAF combat aircraft, a PREDATOR armed unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) of the US Army has also been involved in the combat operation, firing a HELLFIRE missile at an entrenched Taliban site near Kunduz after Afghan soldiers had been attacked by machine gun fire and RPGs.
So far, no German casualties have been reported, through the spokesman of the Afghan Ministry of Defence, Mohammad Sahir Asimi, reported the deaths of four Afghan soldiers. Other soldiers and police officers have reportedly been wounded by enemy fire and booby traps. Asimi also said 16 insurgents had been killed and twelve wounded in the course of the operation. As a spokesman of the German Armed Forces in Afghanistan stated, only minor damage to equipment has been reported by the German Armed Forces, the worst being a slightly damaged DINGO armoured infantry vehicle that was shot at by insurgents.
According to General Schneiderhan the operation is to last for another week – although some unverified press sources state that the operation’s aim of regaining control of the respective provinces may already have been accomplished. Reportedly, subsequent operations of the Afghan National Army in cooperation with ISAF forces in the North are being scheduled before and during the elections.