The ISAF Bubble

by Joshua Foust on 3/8/2011 · 5 comments

The AP, Friday, March 4:

The Marines have received reports of new insurgents coming into Sangin, and several new white Taliban flags have gone up in the district. The level of small-arms fire has also picked up.

“They are right now in their reconnaissance phase and are waiting for an opportunity to kick off their attacks,” said Morris, 40, the battalion commander from Oceanside, California…

But that support could weaken as more Taliban fighters move in. Afghans in one area who previously would chat with patrolling Marines now won’t even look at them.

“The biggest challenge is that the Taliban won’t quit,” said Capt. Chris Esrey, a 33-year-old company commander from Havelock, North Carolina. “Right now I think they are on their heels, but we know they are resting and refitting and we are not done fighting.”

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, today, Tuesday, March 7:

Gates was unequivocal in expressing his belief that they had been, telling a gathering of marines at the heavily fortified Sangin base: “Before you arrived here, the Taliban was dug in deep and, as the British before can attest, this district was the most dangerous not only in Afghanistan but maybe the whole world. In your five months here, you have killed, captured or driven out the Taliban that called this place home.” The marines had also achieved a “strategic breakthrough” by allowing three key areas to be linked up, he added, part of wider strategy of expanding the security “bubble”. …

The Americans claim around 400 confirmed Taliban dead, 150-200 wounded and 50-75 captured, though many analysts accuse the US of inflating figures.

It’s up to you what you really think of that bubble.

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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 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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Don Bacon March 9, 2011 at 8:02 pm

Gates in Sangin March 8th: “Alongside your Afghan brothers, you’ve written a new chapter in the Marine Corps roll of honor with your sweat and with your blood. Against the toughest odds and the most difficult terrain, alongside the legends of Guadalcanal, the Chosin River — Reservoir and Belleau Wood will forever be added in Marine Corps history the legend of Sangin.”

Well, perhaps “a new chapter” is a bit strong.

HELMAND – A peace deal between the government and tribal elders of the Sangin District in Helmand Province has been effective in fostering security in the region, Provincial Governor Gulab Mangal said March 5. Under the peace deal, which the government struck two months ago with the Alakozai tribe in Sarwan Qala area, Taliban militants agree not to attack security forces.

And as Gates and Petraeus have said, the gains are fragile and reversible.

U.S. commanders say Taliban fighters are filtering back into their former stronghold in Sangin in southern Afghanistan as spring approaches.

But Gates wasn’t concerned and offered to take questions from the Marines.

SEC. GATES: So just to give you some examples of some of the questions I’ve gotten at FOBs and comments, I was at one where — in (inaudible) where all their dryers were working, but four of their five washing machines were out. Got that fixed. And another one where their wireless had been down for a few weeks and they were still being charged for it. Got another one where the crotches of ACUs weren’t working very well, tearing out. I think we’re working on that. So, I get a full range.

Don Bacon March 9, 2011 at 10:11 pm

The plot sickens.

Elders of the Alikozai tribe agreed two months ago to prevent attacks on coalition forces in their section of Sangin in return for aid to build schools, clinics and other needs.

But attacks have continued against Marines in the Upper Sangin Valley, either from Alikozai who reject the deal or other fighters beyond the tribe’s control, said Lt. Col. Jason Morris, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment in Sangin.

Dishonesty? March 10, 2011 at 7:25 am

Sangin,Surge Success
1 apr 2010-BG 3Rifles
It has been a long hard winter for the soldiers of this Battle Group.
With 29 dead and more than 100 injured since our current tour of duty began, the name of 3 Rifles has been heavily associated with sacrifice.
Desperately painful as this is, we feel sure that these sacrifices have not been in vain.
The vibrant Sangin bazaar now contains almost 900 shops where there were fewer than 400 a year or so ago. In 2007 there were about 70.
We must, of course, put this in context: there were up to 3,000 shops before 2006, but then it was one of the largest opium bazaars in the world.

Sangin,March 9, 2011
The base and surrounding outposts are home to Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. With 29 Marines killed and 150 wounded, the regiment has suffered more casualties than any other U.S. unit in Afghanistan, fighting to drive the Taliban from their former heartlan
Since the Taliban largely have been driven from the area, Barclay said, the district government has re-established control, and the Sangin bazaar has become a “commercial hive” of 900 shops.

Realy unbelievable Success!!!!!!

In an annual report, the United Nations said 2010

Abductions rose 83 percent
Civilian deaths in the north, in particular, rose 76 percent.<br /
But the most “alarming” trend, it said, was a 105 percent increase in the targeted killing of government officials
Civilian assassinations were up 588 percent and 248 percent in Helmand and Kandahar provinces respectively, the main strongholds of the Taliban and the focus of a U.S. troop surg

Don Bacon March 10, 2011 at 7:59 pm

March 9, 2011
SANGIN, Afghanistan — Mohammad Sharif is the governor of this picturesque river valley in the heartland of the Taliban insurgency and Afghanistan’s killing fields of opium poppy.

Late last month, he traveled to the north of his small district, leaving the more secure center for the first time to meet the people he is meant to govern on their home turf. Last week he followed that up with a shura. .— it is still so dangerous that it had to be held on a military base.

The last to speak that day was Lt. Col. Jason Morris, commander of the 3/5. . .The international community donated many millions of dollars to develop Afghanistan; Sangin can have new schools, roads and clinics too, if only the attacks would stop, Morris said.

Dishonesty? March 12, 2011 at 9:14 am

Some of the damage has been extensive, such as in the village of Taroko Kalacha, in Arghandab district, which was so heavily mined by the Taliban that American forces resorted to aerial bombardment and leveled the whole village of 36 homes. The guidelines reissued by the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, General David H. Petraeus, permitted such a step, one NATO official said.
The neighboring village of Khosrow fared better. About 10 compounds and orchards were damaged, but after villagers saw the destruction of Taroko Kalacha, they hired a former mujahedeen fighter to defuse the Taliban mines and so saved their houses from destruction, said one of the village elders, Hajji Abdul Qayum.

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