Afghanistan escalates with USMC offensive in Helmand

Some 4,000 US Marines moved into villages in Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province July 3—a remote area that is at the center of the country’s opium cultivation, which helps finance the insurgency. One Marine has been killed and several others injured in the operation. A roadside bomb in Helmand also killed the UK’s Lt. Col. Rupert Thorneloe, the most senior British officer to have died in combat in Afghanistan. A Canadian soldier was killed in Kandahar when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. And in Paktia province, a roadside bomb killed three Afghans and a foreigner working on a road construction project. (Daily Times, Pakistan, July 4)

A US soldier was also apparently taken captive by Taliban forces in Paktika on June 3. He is believed to be held by forces loyal to Sirajuddin Haqqani. Late last year, the Haqqani network kidnapped a reporter for the New York Times and brought him to North Waziristan in Pakistan. The reporter escaped from the compound last month. (Long War Journal, July 2)

See our last post on Afghanistan.

  1. Russia opens airspace to US for Afghan war
    From the New York Times, July 3 (appearing on the front page of the print edition on the 4th):

    Russia to Open Airspace to U.S. for Afghan War
    MOSCOW — The Russian government has agreed to let American troops and weapons bound for Afghanistan fly over Russian territory, officials on both sides said Friday. The arrangement will provide an important new corridor for the United States military as it escalates efforts to win the eight-year war.

    The agreement, to be announced when President Obama visits here on Monday and Tuesday, represents one of the most concrete achievements in the administration’s effort to ease relations with Russia after years of tension. But the two sides failed to make a trade deal or resolve differences over missile defense, and are struggling to draft a preliminary nuclear arms deal.

    This once again exemplifies the central tension within the new Great Game for Central Asia: an imperative for US-Russian cooperation against the mutual enemy of Islamic militancy versus the traditional rivalry between the two powers for dominance.