WASHINGTON: The United States Special Forces have stepped up counter terrorism missions against some of the most lethal groups in Afghanistan and plan an even bigger expansion next year, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
Citing unnamed US military commanders, the newspaper said the commandos from the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s classified Seals units have had success weakening the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the strongest Taliban fighter in eastern Afghanistan. The report said Haqqani’s group has used its bases in neighboring Pakistan to carry out deadly strikes in and around Kabul. Guided by intercepted cell-phone communications, the US commandos have also killed some important Taliban operatives in Marja, a Taliban stronghold in Helmand. Marine commanders said they believe there are some 1,000 fighters holed up in the town.
Although US President Barack Obama and his aides have not publicly discussed these highly classified missions as part of the administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the counter terrorism operations are expected to increase along with the deployment of 30,000 more US troops next year.
Meanwhile, officials said the arrival in Afghanistan of tens of thousands of reinforcements to fight the Taliban will lead to a higher death rate among foreign troops, adding pressure on Western leaders to get out altogether.
Terrorists fighting for the overthrow of the Kabul government promised to turn Afghanistan into a “flaming oven”, escalating attacks and deploying more fighters to match the Western surge. Western military chiefs warn more troops will inevitably lead to more deaths as they try to help Afghan security forces take on the fight alone. The Taliban leadership has matched the West’s aggressive designs by promising a surge of its own.
“With the coming of new forces the fight will be further extended and increased,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a purported Taliban spokesman. Militant forces would “attack the foreign forces as well as their Afghan allies through suicide attacks, roadside bombs and face-to-face clashes”, he said.
Political analyst Ahmed Sayedi said, “They (the Taliban) will transform Afghanistan into a flaming tandoor (oven) for the foreign forces. America’s economic woes could limit resources for forces fighting a Taliban with access to funds from the three-billion-dollar-a-year Afghan opium industry and fighters from Pakistan.”
“On top of the drugs money, people in Middle Eastern and Arab countries are providing funding for the Taliban, and neighbouring countries like Pakistan and Iran are arming them. The Taliban have huge support networks, while the 30,000 US soldiers coming to Afghanistan will be victims of the challenge to get funding through the Senate,” he added.
Washington’s Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen warned during a visit to Kabul this month, the violence will get worse before getting better as the Taliban dominate at least a third of the country. “I told our troops heading here to steel themselves for more combat and more casualties,” he said. The influx — expected to be complete by August next year, military officials in Kabul said — is part of a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan that has intensified this year as the Taliban have evolved their tactics. .
Most foreign troops’ deaths are now caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), cheap homemade bombs, which can kill up to eight people at a time and cause horrendous injuries.
The death toll in Afghanistan hit a peak of 77 in August.