Ongoing operation on Taliban, a test for US strategy

By Zhang Ning
0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, February 15, 2010
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Around 15,000 NATO and Afghan soldiers late on Friday launched a massive military operation in the Taliban hotbed of Helmand province. Local analysts see the offensive as a critical test for the United States new Afghanistan strategy.

U.S President Barack Obama presented this new strategy last year, shifting focus from killing the Taliban insurgents to rebuilding the authorities and economic structures in Taliban strongholds to uproot the group.

The new strategy also brought about the exit plan that is aimed at handing over the security responsibilities to the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National police.

Thus, the first test of the new strategy would be the feasibility trial for the security transition scheme.

Mark Sedwill, NATO's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, has said the gradual transfer of the security responsibilities from foreign troops to Afghan forces will start after the ongoing Operation Mashtarak, or Together, which indicates that the offensive is firstly a test for Afghan troops to display their readiness for the future take over.

Thousands of Afghan soldiers and police personnel joined the crackdown mission, which boasts the biggest participation of Afghan forces in such operations.

Military analysts said foreign troops during this operation intentionally put the Afghan counterparts at the pointsmen's position, boosting their coordination, evaluating their capability and training them on the battle field.

Resistance from the Taliban has so far been weak and the most challenging part of the test has yet to come for the Afghan soldiers.

Secondly, the operation will test Aghan government's civilian administration and reconstruction efforts which is aided by the foreign troops.

NATO and Afghan troops launched massive crackdowns in Helmand before but failed to achieve the goal of uprooting the Taliban. The authorities realized that the military success proved to be meaningless without the follow-up of restoring of strong governance and reconstruction of the economic system.

Only after people resuming normal life with the help of stable legal incomes, the Taliban will lose recruits and safe havens.

However, a successful reconstruction plan will not be implemented without the public support.

In a bid to gain the public support, the NATO-Afghan force during the operation have to avoid civilian casualties and damages to civilian properties. Thus, Sunday's tragedy that the joined forces mistakenly fired rockets killing 12 villagers will not help.

Lastly, the ongoing crackdown is viewed as a part of the peace plan with the Taliban.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has recently launched a dialogue process with the insurgent group, wooing the members of the Taliban to give up violence and links with terrorist groups.

Local analysts said carrots have to be given after sticks and the ongoing offensive in the Taliban hotbed of Helmand will be a determination competition for both sides.

The NATO and Afghan authorities wish that some of the Taliban militants would surrender and come to the negotiation table under the powerful military pressure but the insurgent group has announced that it will fight from head to toe.

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