U.S. to help out in Kandahar's 'Wild West'
Published Saturday, August 30, 2008 1:29PM EDT
Eight hundred American soldiers have moved into the 'Wild West' of Kandahar province to help Canada battle the Taliban and are now under Canadian command.
"The mission I have assigned them is to conduct counterinsurgency operations in the Maywand district, where they will work alongside Afghan national security forces," Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, commander of Task Force Afghanistan, told reporters at Kandahar Air Field on Saturday.
"This district is a key district. It's key as a logistics hub for the movement of insurgent arms, fighters and money. The presence of 2-2 Infantry will disrupt these activities and have a real impact on the security picture of Kandahar province."
The unit is known as the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Regiment. They are based in Fort Hood, Texas and their nickname is The Ramrods.
Globe and Mail reporter Gloria Galloway told CTV's Newsnet from Kandahar that the move had been rumoured for some time.
"But absolutely it comes as good news," she said, noting it beefs up the combat capacity of coalition forces in Kandahar province.
Maywand lies northwest of Kandahar City, she said.
The districts cited most in the news are Zhari and Panjwaii, which lie just west of Kandahar City. Maywand is slightly north of those volatile areas. Supplies, money and fighters flow south into those districts from Maywand, she said.
The Americans are now in place, having arrived about six weeks ago, Galloway said.
"But it was only today, when the official announcement came, that they had been placed under the control of (Thompson)," she said.
Earlier this week, Thompson called for more Afghan police and soldiers on the ground, she said.
Thompson repeated Saturday that yet more troops and police are still needed in the area.
"More is always better," Thompson said. "We're not there yet but with the addition of this very capable infantry battalion from the U.S. army, we're moving in the right direction."
He said the 800 extra troops are an "interim measure" and will not be part of the 1,000 extra troops that the Manley report recommended earlier this year.
"That will be announced and decided at the capital level, not here in the field," he said.
A top NATO official says Afghan officials and the United Nations will launch a joint investigation into a raid on a village in western Afghanistan.
UN and Afghan officials have said the military operation on Aug. 22 ended with about 90 civilian deaths. The U.S.-led coalition said that only five civilians were killed in the raid, along with 25 militants.
Dan McNorton, a UN spokesperson in Kabul, confirmed the joint UN-Afghanistan probe.
Other Afghan news
- In Helmand province, Kandahar's western neighbour, Afghan soldiers killed more than 10 militants in Nad Ali district on Friday after taking heavy fire themselves.
- In Kapisa province, which is northeast of Kabul, U.S.-led coalition forces killed several militants with air strikes.
- A suicide bomber in Kabul managed to kill only himself.
On Friday, the British-based charity Oxfam warned that Afghans could again face suffering this winter.
"Up to five million Afghans face severe food shortages, yet the appeal for Afghanistan has a huge funding shortfall, with less than a fifth of the US$404 million needed to respond, and not enough staff to organize and coordinate the massive aid effort required," Matt Waldman, Oxfam's head of policy in Kabul, said in a statement.
Action must be taken now, because it's almost impossible to deliver aid to isolated areas of Afghanistan during the harsh winter, he said.
"This is a race against time. The international community needs to respond quickly before winter when conditions deteriorate. The health of one million young children and half a million women is at serious risk due to malnutrition," Waldman said.