International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan army troops killed 92 Taliban fighters in the southern province of Kandahar, NATO said in statement Sept. 11. The statement said the figure was separate from the 94 insurgents reported as killed in the previous day, but left room for doubt about the accuracy of the casualty count. “Estimating enemy casualties is not a precise science,” said Col. Chris Vernon of the UK, chief of staff for ISAF’s Regional Command South. The new offensive, “Operation Medusa,” was launched 10 days ago to drive Taliban guerillas from their stronghold the Panjwayi and Zhari districts of Kandahar province. At least 21 NATO troops are reported killed. (Times of India, Sept. 11)
The US also said two suspected al-Qaeda “terrorists” were arrested Sept. 9. However, deatils indicated the men were only linked to roadside bomb attacks on coalition and Afghan forces in Khost province—not international terrorism. The arrests were made in the village of Khulbesat, where US troops raided “residential compounds” based on intelligence that they were being used as a refuge for al-Qaida facilitators, the military said. (AP, Sept. 9)
The US annd NATO have every reason to want to tout their victories in a rapdily deteriorating situation. A Taliban guerilla attacked a convoy of US-led coalition forces Sept. 11 in eastern Nuristan province, with casualties disputed. A purported Taliban spokesman, Mohammad Hanif, said the militants attacked the convoy in Khmbesh district, killing several US soldiers and burning eight vehicles. He said four Taliban militants were also killed in the fire exchange. A coalition spokesman confirmed that there was an attack against a convoy in the district, but denied there were any casualties.
About 20,000 coalition forces are currently deployed in eastern Afghanistan. More than 2,300 people, mostly Taliban militants, have been killed so far this year, in the biggest upsurge of violence since the US invasion of October 2001. (Xinhua, Sept. 12)
Also on Sept. 11, four people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the funeral of a provincial governor Tanai, Khost province. The governor, Abdul Hakim Taniwal, was killed by a suicide bomber along with his bodyguard and driver outside his office in the provincial capital Gardez Sept. 10. (Xinhua, BBC, Sept. 11)
The United Nations reported this week that Afghanistan has just harvested its biggest opium crop ever, up 59% from last year and big enough to cover 130% of the entire world market. “Opium cultivation in Afghanistan is out of control,” the report found. Intelligence estimates of the Taliban’s cut of this lucrative trade, which represents over a third of the entire Afghan economy, range as high as 70%.
“The political, military and economic investments by coalition countries are not having much visible impact on drug cultivation,” reported the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in its annual survey. “As a result, Afghan opium is fueling insurgency in Western Asia, feeding international mafias and causing 100,000 deaths from overdoses every year.”
“The southern part of Afghanistan [is] displaying the ominous hallmarks of incipient collapse, with large-scale drug cultivation and trafficking, insurgency and terrorism, crime and corruption,” added Antonio Maria Costa, the agency’s director. (PakTribune, Sept. 12)
As Sept. 11, at least 272 members of the US military have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the 2001 invasion and subsequent operations. Of those, the military reports 171 were killed by hostile action.
Outside the Afghan region, the Defense Department reports 56 more members of the US military have died in support of “Operation Enduring Freedom,” including two as the result of hostile action. The military lists these other locations as: Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, Djibouti, Eritrea, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Yemen.
There has also been one death of a civilian employee of the US military, and four CIA officers. AP, Sept. 11