Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Operation Medusa - all over again

Almost exactly a year later, Canadian Forces in Kandahar province are attempting to retake an area which they fought for in Operation Medusa. This time the name of the game is Operation Balye Deweh (Light Candle) and it aims to take back control of Zhari district, which Canadian troops had handed over to Afghan security forces, only to see the area retaken by insurgents. (See earlier post, "Taliban resurgent in Kandahar under Canadian watch". See also this map of the area.) The assessment of Gar Pardy, former Director General of Consular Affairs at DFAIT, is blunt:

The ebb and flow of "captured" territory in Kandahar province is but the latest evidence of a doomed mission. (link)
So how bad are things? We reported here on the Senlis Council's scathing assessment of the work of CIDA and the military. We also saw (here) that the Taliban control vast swaths of territory. Now IRIN, the UN development news agency, reports on Canada: Canadians and Kandaharis differ on security and development.
When Canada took over, medical workers were able to treat patients in 15 of Kandahar's 17 districts. Now, they have access to only 12 districts. ...

After military operations in the Panjwai and Zherai [Zhari] districts of Kandahar in October 2006, Canada promised that it would help rebuild hundreds of houses damaged in clashes with Taliban insurgents.

However, residents of both districts say their lives have not improved since. “We have only received promises of aid,” Fayezullah, a resident of Safid Rawan village in Panjwai, said. ...

[T]he owners of hundreds of houses damaged in fighting have not received any assistance for rebuilding.

Lalai [provincial council member] said that of the estimated 2,000 houses damaged, only 180 houses in Panjwai and Zherai were to get Canadian assistance for re-building.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Kandahar
Troops from the US-led coalition (i.e. under Operation Enduring Freedom, not ISAF) have been in combat in Shah Wali Kot district. That district is in the north end of Kandahar province, up the Arghandab River from Zhari and Panjwai districts. And unlike what the Canadian troops are seeing in Zhari, the Taliban trying to fight back, though US officials claim to have killed scores of insurgents:
Throughout the engagement, insurgents reinforced their positions with an estimated 150 additional fighters. The combined force repelled the attack using small-arms and later called in air support. (See Pajhwok News report here.)
A separate Pajhwok report on the battle presents what appears to be a disturbing picture of the coalition's regard for civilians. One clash erupted when coalition troops on patrol came under fire from within a village. Pajhwok relates what happened next:

The Coalition troops warned the villagers through loudspeakers to vacate their houses after which air support was called to bomb the hideouts of the militants.

Two compounds suspected to be used by the Taliban to target the Coalition and Afghan troops were destroyed and six insurgents were killed in the airstrike, the statement said. (link)

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