Two-day operation to delay Taliban attacks wraps up
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — About 2,000 Canadian and U.S. troops, supported by Afghan army and police, have wrapped up a two-day operation aimed at disrupting Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan.
Operation Jaley, which means "net" in the local Pashto language, was intended to delay an anticipated surge in Taliban attacks once the spring opium harvest is over in coming weeks and to help improve security in Kandahar province in the months leading up to the presidential election in August.
The operation resulted in the capture of several suspected Taliban bomb makers, a number of weapons and a significant amount of bomb-making materials, said Brig. Gen. Jonathan Vance, commander of the Canada-led Task Force Kandahar.
"I would say that we prevented 30 to 50 [roadside bombs] from coming to fruition and being planted in the ground," said Vance, speaking to reporters Saturday at Kandahar Airfield. "We found much ammunition, many weapons ... and we took five detainees between the Canadians and the Americans."
Speaking of the detainees, he said, "In several cases, the population actually pointed them out to us, which is a good sign that the population is as interested as we are in removing the threat from the area."
Ten other suspected Taliban were detained by coalition special forces at the onset of the operation, but some of those were later released, Vance said.
The general said Canadian and U.S. forces also discovered three makeshift Taliban hospitals during the operation.
Vance said he believes the operation, which was carried out by the 3rd Royal Canadian Regiment and the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, revealed much about the Taliban’s methods in the region and that it set back their ability to stage attacks "for about a month."
Four Canadian soldiers were killed and eight were wounded in two separate bomb attacks during the sweep. An Afghan soldier also died and one other was wounded. There were no U.S. casualties.
The operation, which stretched from Maiwand district, about 40 miles west of Kandahar, to the Arghandab Valley, north of the city, focused on a region that coalition military commanders consider to be essentially under Taliban control.
Most civilians have fled the area because of the violence, and much of it is uninhabited. Taliban fighters use the region chiefly as a base to resupply its forces and to stage attacks on Kandahar, military officials say.
Coalition military officials have identified a number of suspected lower- to mid-level Taliban commanders who operate in the area. But Vance said that none of those commanders were among the detainees.
Speaking on background as the operation kicked off, a senior Canadian military officer said one goal of the sweep was to ensure that although the region is not under coalition military control, that it’s not under Taliban control either.
The operation was typical of the ones that coalition forces frequently carry out in southern Afghanistan, especially in rural areas. Because the number of NATO troops operating in the south — currently about 23,000 — is fairly limited, coalition military forces tend to focus on operations designed to disrupt the Taliban’s ability to mount operations, rather than on seizing and holding territory.
Speaking to reporters in a video conference at the Pentagon on Friday, Maj. Gen. Mart de Kruif, the Dutch commander of international forces in southern Afghanistan said he lacked sufficient forces to provide security in many areas.
"There are absolutely pockets where we don’t have control," de Kruif said. "That is one of the reasons we need these additional boots on the ground."
President Barack Obama has promised to send 17,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, and most of them are expected to be posted in the south.
De Kruif said a "significant spike" in attacks will likely occur as more troops flow into the region, but that he expects security to improve "within the next year."