A wee round-up today.
No winter lull this year; experts credit local fighters:
The IndependentSeven staffers at Afghan newspaper Payman are arrested:
UK forces in Afghanistan in worst ever winter campaign
By Terri Judd
Sunday, 11 January 2009
... Traditionally the onslaught from the Taliban has quietened over the icy winter... But the hiatus has failed to materialise this year and the fighting has been relentless...
In the first two-and-a-half months in Helmand, 3 Commando Brigade has suffered 17 deaths. By contrast, the previous 2006 and 2007 winter tours cost 10 and 12 men respectively over a six month period...
British commanders in Helmand insist the heavy losses are due to the fact that the Royal Marines and attached army units have been “taking the fight to the Taliban” in a previously untouched insurgent stronghold.
Experts, however, believe the surge has more to do with a build up of locally-based militants, increasingly sophisticated terrorist tactics and a pre-emptive strike to disrupt this year’s elections...
The numbers may not be bigger but it could be the fact that they are more active.” This, [Colonel Christopher Langton of the International Institute for Strategic Studies] added, was probably due to locals continuing to take up arms in the winter... (link)
Afghan Newspaper Staffers Arrested In KabulNATO tightens its rules:
Jan 14 (RFE) - An Afghan government commision that oversees the media is taking journalists from the daily "Payman" to the Supreme Court to be prosecuted, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.
The commission accuses "Payman" of printing articles that are anti-Islamic and anti-religion... (link)
NATO tightens Afghan rules to cut civilian deathsReaders may recall that when the Oct 2008 orders were put in place, rather than a decrease in Close Air Support operations as predicted, there was in fact an increase in CAS missions.
BRUSSELS, Jan 14 (Reuters) - NATO said yesterday it had further tightened its rules of engagement in Afghanistan to cut civilian casualties...
Nearly 700 civilians were killed in 2008 up to October in raids by foreign and Afghan forces, an Afghan rights body said last month, quoting a UN estimate.
Raids by foreign forces on homes and mosques are a major source of resentment against the more than 60,000 NATO and U.S.-led coalition troops in the country.
A directive by NATO's commander in Afghanistan, U.S. General David McKiernan, stresses the need for proportionate use of force and for Afghan forces to take the lead in searching Afghan homes and religious sites unless a clear danger is identified.
The Dec. 30 order, only now made public, also requires commanders to ensure troops are properly trained for duties such as manning checkpoints to minimise the need to resort to deadly force. It also requires proper investigation of civilian casualties...
In October, NATO ordered troops to pull back from firefights with the Taliban rather than call in air strikes that might kill civilians... (link)
US Power Grab?
US will grab power from British in Afghanistan
The Sunday Times, UK
Jan 10 - The United States is building a command structure in Kandahar that will sideline the British general who takes command of southern Afghanistan in May.
Brigadier-General John Nicholson, a senior American officer who previously served in Afghanistan with the 10th Mountain Division, has already arrived in Kandahar to oversee the Afghan “surge”.
Although technically he will be subordinate to the British general who takes command in May, he will in reality have control of all US troops, UK defence sources said last week.
Nicholson’s bombproof, rocket-proof command centre will dwarf the British general’s headquarters, which ostensibly controls operations across southern Afghanistan.
The takeover will be complete by the autumn of next year when the US will assume permanent control of the south, which at present rotates between the British, Canadians and Dutch. The move to sideline the British comes amid tensions between the two countries’ armies... (link)