11 February, 2007

Taliban build-up in Helmand.

The BBC reports that that it has been told by Haji Asadullah Wafa, the new governor of Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, that 700 insurgents (ie Taliban terrorists) have entered Helmand with the aim of attacking British troops protecting a major dam project.

The BBC does not name the dam but presumably it is Kajaki hydro-electric dam, from which the Royal Marines ejected the terrorists in early January. It is also the area where Corporal Mark Wright of the Paras was awarded the George Cross last July.

The International Herald Tribune carries a numerically similar Associated Press report that 700 "foreign fighters" (the Taliban's foreign legion to the rest of us) from Chechnya, Uzbekistan and Pakistan are in the area around Musa Qala where negotiations to peacefully remove the Taliban are apparently still underway.

Little is to be gained from a detailed analysis of the numbers of terrorists in parts of Helmand given by these press reports. They may be correct , they may not. We can only trust that NATO has its own accurate intelligence, which is not for public consumption. The key point is that the Taliban seems to be moving its forces into Helmand in preparation for the expected spring offensive which may kick off any time now.

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