The campaign to kill or capture Taliban fighters regrouping in Afghanistan’s mountains has broken down into a guerrilla war with no front lines, Aljazeera’s correspondent reports.
Hashmet Allah Muslih, reporting from Zabul province on Wednesday, said that the Afghan Militia Force was ineffective in the US-led operation 300km southwest of Kabul and increasingly sidelined.
US Special Operation Forces and 10th Mountain Division troops backed by aircraft launched a fresh offensive last night, part of an attack dubbed Operation Mountain Viper.
But our correspondent said locals knew of no suspected Taliban leaders or fighters being killed or captured overnight in the Daychopan district mountains of Zabul despite attacks in other regions.
Major Ralph Marino told reporters at the Bagram Air Base headquarters, 50km north of Kabul that “there were no reported casualties or damage to equipment and no reports on enemy losses".
However, Aljazeera’s correspondent in Daychopan saw one wounded US soldier in addition to four wounded militia after talks between government representatives and tribal elders in the region ended in chaos.
The government commander and spokesman, Hajji Garaneh, was not made welcome at the talks despite promising food, security and a new road between Kabul and Daychopan, built by the United States Agency for International Development.
"We have fought the British, the Soviets and now we will fight the Americans – we want security and Islam”
Daychopan district, Zabul
Garaneh was told by one elder: “We have fought the British, the Soviets and now we will fight the Americans – we want security and Islam”. Threats followed from both sides and the meeting broke up with no agreement at all, says Muslih.
Many locals are sympathetic to Taliban, and Afghan authorities believe up to 300 may have gone into the mountains in Zabul and neighbouring Uruzgan after US forces and Afghan militia believed they had surrounded the fugitive.
US Colonel Rodney Davis said on Tuesday the coalition had confirmed between 43 and 67 fighters killed in the past week. One US soldier also died after an accidental fall during a night combat operation when his parachute failed to open.
Arrest and attacks
Afghani security forces, backed by NATO troops, arrested Qalam Khan, a leader of the opposition Islamic Party, Aljazeera’s correspondent in Kabul said.
The Afghani Government accuses Khan of involvement in crimes committed during the civil war in Afghanistan between 1992 and 1996. Khan was widely known to be very critical of the present interim government in Kabul.
Earlier, unknown attackers on Tuesday fired five rockets at a coalition base near Gardez in southeast Paktia province, 100km south of Kabul, but there were no reported injuries or damage.
Another two US soldiers and four fighters were killed on Sunday in a gunbattle in neighbouring Paktika province near the Pakistan border.
The 12,500-strong US-led coalition force is hunting remnants of the former Taliban government and al-Qaida members, mainly along the rugged Afghan-Pakistan border.