Some heartening news from Helmand, courtesy of our British friends:
Soldiers serving with the Combined Force Nad e-Ali Battlegroup have been involved in a dramatic push south into insurgent-held territory to move Taliban fighters away from the population centres of the southern Nad e-Ali district and establish new patrol bases.
Units from the 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, the Royal Dragoon Guards, the Queen's Royal Lancers, The First Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, 21 Engineer Regiment, the Combined IED Taskforce and Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) along with Afghan security forces took part in operation Tor Mahke Zi, or Black Push Forward.
Commanding Officer of Combined Force Nad-e-Ali, Lieutenant Colonel Frazer Lawrence OBE said: “There are three small population centres down on the southern patrol baseline. At the moment, the patrol bases are right in the population centres."If the insurgent attacks the patrol bases it means the local population could get caught up in the fighting. That is the last thing that we want to happen.
"So the purpose of this operation has been to push the patrol bases further out to increase the security footprint, and to provide a buffer zone between the patrol bases and the local population, so that should fighting occur, the locals are not caught up in it."
In related War on Terror news, Admiral Mullen said in a speech yesterday that the once robust al Qaeda cell in Iraq has been decapitated and decimated.
A string of setbacks for al-Qaida's affiliate in Iraq has left the insurgent group "devastated" and struggling to cope with a double whammy of a leadership vacuum and a money squeeze, the top U.S. military officer said Sunday.Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he found it particularly encouraging that gains against al-Qaida have been made in operations carried out jointly by U.S. and Iraqi military forces. That makes it more likely, Mullen said, that after U.S. troops leave in 2011 the Iraqi government will be able to handle what remains of al-Qaida's capability to launch terror strikes.
Iran is still laboring to unravel the progress made in Mesopotamia, and Afghanistan still has considerable political, economic, and military hurdles to overcome before Iraq's success is replicated. But there's cause for hope here: Afghanistan is a winnable conflict, provided the right strategic calculus is properly employed and resourced. President Obama made a courageous decision to surge with additional forces. If we can sustain the effort (and America is fully capable of doing precisely that), and mitigate the imprudent decision to tag a reduction-in-force date of July 2011, Afghanistan could be left safe, secure, and largely free of Taliban infestation.