Afghan military steps up counter-insurgency operations

By Ziar

An Afghan soldier fires a rocket-propelled grenade during an operation against 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' (ISIS) militants in Kot District, Nangarhar Province, February 16. [Noorullah Shirzada/AFP]

An Afghan soldier fires a rocket-propelled grenade during an operation against 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' (ISIS) militants in Kot District, Nangarhar Province, February 16. [Noorullah Shirzada/AFP]

KABUL -- Afghan military operations against insurgents have intensified since early September following the US announcement of a new strategy towards Afghanistan and the region.

Co-ordination between Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) and the Afghan air force, along with international forces, has inflicted great financial losses and casualties on the insurgents, say Afghan officials.

ANDSF operations have gone from defensive to offensive, said Gen. Dawlat Waziri, Defence Ministry spokesman.

"The morale of Afghan soldiers has risen, while on the contrary, the enemy has lost its morale, and this is one of the reasons behind the increase in [insurgents'] casualties," he told Salaam Times.

Air strikes against insurgents have intensified, Waziri said, referring to the week of September 4-10 during which "609 support flights and 107 targeted independent flights were carried out".

In that week, Afghan forces killed 307 insurgents, including 31 "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) fighters, throughout Afghanistan, he said.

Meanwhile, the Afghan National Army (ANA) 209th Shaheen Corps, which is responsible for providing security to northern Afghanistan, reports that since the beginning of September Afghan forces have inflicted heavy casualties on Taliban insurgents.

Afghan army ground and air operations killed 90 Taliban insurgents during that week, the corps said in a statement.

The dead included 11 Taliban commanders, 209th Corps spokesman Nusratullah Jamshidi told Salaam Times.

"A number of the Taliban's light and heavy weapons were also confiscated in these operations by the Afghan forces," he said.

Operations are under way in Kunduz, Takhar, Faryab, Jawzjan, Balkh and Badakhshan provinces, Jamshidi said, adding that six Afghan troops were wounded in the operations.

Higher levels of combat readiness and co-ordination between Afghan security forces, as well as the intensification of operations against insurgents, were the major causes for the increased number of Taliban casualties, confirmed Kunduz Provincial police chief Gen. Hamid Hamidi.

"More than 90 insurgents, including at least 10 of the Taliban's key commanders, have been killed in various police operations in Kunduz since the beginning of September," he told Salaam Times, adding that citizen co-operation is also essential.

Optimism and praise

Farhad Sediqi, a member of the Wolesi Jirga (lower chamber of parliament) of Afghanistan, expressed optimism about ANDSF success.

"Afghan security forces are the main heroes of this land," he told Salaam Times. "These forces should be strengthened from every aspect.... This way, the armed insurgents, who are enemies of ... peace in Afghanistan, will be eliminated."

Afghan military observers also appreciate the intensification of Afghan military operations targeting the roots of the insurgency.

"The operations and sacrifices of Afghan forces are praiseworthy," ANA Gen. (ret.) Atiqullah Amarkhil told Salaam Times. "These activities should be conducted to target insurgent dens with precision and great caution to prevent civilian casualties."

Afghan troops take stringent measures to avoid hurting civilians, said Waziri.

"We take caution in our daily and nightly ground and air operations," he told Salaam Times. "We do our best not to fire artillery when we're dealing with residential areas. If we need artillery, we use it with extreme caution based on precise intelligence."

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