Afghanistan - The Toughest Battle
The battle for Helmand
James Bays returns to Helmand to see how Nato forces have been progressing.
Last Modified: 21 May 2007 12:21 GMT

James Bays spent three days with Taliban fighters
in February
Three months ago Al Jazeera's James Bays travelled to Helmand province in the south of Afghanistan to meet with the Taliban.

With the Nato spring offensive in full swing he returned, this time to find out how Nato forces have been progressing.

Recent fighting has been intense. In recent weeks Nato has pushed forward into areas that were previously under Taliban control. Areas like Geresk district in Helmand. Taliban fighters were there in force when I visited in February.

The British know they do not have the resources to keep control here alone. In the long term, much of the work must be done by Afghan forces.


Watch James Bays' report on Nato progress in Helmand.

British commanders paint a positive picture but the local Afghan government intelligence chief tells Al Jazeera that large parts of Helmand are still controlled by the Taliban.

He says: "Eighty per cent of this province is under the control of the Taliban. Twenty per cent is under government control. And even that 20 per cent the Taliban are fighting hard to capture."

There are problems with drug addiction and desertion
in the fledgling Afghan army
The British know that if they are to extend their reach, Afghan troops must hold the land that has been captured recently.

The Afghan unit we saw seemed professional. But this fledgling army has a patchy reputation. There are problems with desertion and drug addiction.

Next to one checkpoint we visited there were used syringes, although it is not clear who had been injecting heroin there.

Nato commanders know that despite the death of Mullah Dadullah, the battle for Helmand is far from over.

Many Taliban fighters have moved away rather than face Nato in battle.

What is more we were able to see that the Taliban remain in total control in parts of northern Helmand and one Taliban commander told me recently that they have both patience and time.

"Nato will eventually leave," he said.

Al Jazeera
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