Evidence, Please

by Joshua Foust on 2/6/2011 · 3 comments

From TOLO, we learn the North is improving, by way of a story about security threats decreasing. What that actually means they never actually say: a Ministry of Interior official is quoted discussing new operations, a new literacy program for the police, and “trying to provide security for construction projects.”

The title for this piece is, “Security Threats Decrease in Northern Afghanistan,” and that is indeed the message the officials were trying to get across. But in paragraph 8, TOLO lets slip, “Recently security in northern parts was deteriorating, but security offensives seem to be working to root out insurgents in their footholds.”

Indeed! No one doubts that there have been more operations in the North. They just haven’t made the North any safer yet. But officials think the threats have decreased. Or something. Make sense? This is momentum, people. We’re so there.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Jangak February 6, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Onward, lads!

J.R. February 7, 2011 at 8:57 am

I can only comment on the the Kunduz-Baghlan area (since German reporting focuses on this area due to the German armed forces being concentrated there).

There appear to be a few security gains in that area, as indicated by The Zeit or the ANSO report for the first half of january.

Examples are:
– The PRT Kunduz hasn’t been shelled since September (which according to a soldier with several tours in the area is a novelty)
– The police HQ in Chahar Darah hasn’t been attacked since November.
– An observation outpost in the Chahar Darah district (where a lot of the fighting occured in 2009 and 2010) has been disbanded (“Höhe 431”)
– Last reported incident on the Pul-e Khumri to Mazar road on 6th of December (according to ANSO).
– ANSO reports the fighting in the Gor Tepa area has mostly ceased.

So there are some indicators that things are quieting down at least in that area (according to foreign civilian, foreign military and Afghan official sources). That doesn’t mean the area is calm: There were for example three IED attacks destroying civilian vehicles in 2011.

I think one the more interessting question is, if these trends will actally continue into “fighting season”, or wether this is just the usual winter calm plus the insurgents leaving the fighting areas only to return later.

turan saheb February 10, 2011 at 10:51 am

There are two areas in the North, where things definitively improved during the last months, one is the Kunduz-Baghlan corridor, the other Western Balkh (WoM – West of Mazar, which is mainly Char Bolak and Chemtal). Both saw serious offensives by ANSF and IMF. However, especially in the latter case, there wasn’t much fighting at all. Like in Marjah, most of the dedicated Insurgents simply moved out of the area (Burka in Eastern Baghlan or the Alborz Mountains in Southern Chemtal are definitively no place you would want to be in these days…).

Even so, slowly things start to heaten up again in these areas as seen in todays killing of A.W. Omarkheil (who so long survived his deadly job as DM of Char Darra just to get killed when almost all of his district was accessable to the government) and the first succesful attacks in WoM since two months (one Arbaki Cdr got killed in CB, the same fate awaited the CoCP of Chemtal two days later).

However, the more operations you mention mean that for the first time since the Germans came to the North (hint: I am a German myself and do NOT like to admit it), the Insurgents’ growth is no longer unopposed. This alone is progress, only from a rather low level. And of cause, still most of the North IS rather calm compared to the rest of the country.

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