NATO launches Operation Achilles in northern Helmand; Taliban website ‘shut down’

By Matt Dupee 

NATO officials announced the beginning of a joint security operation with Afghan army units in northern Helmand province. Dubbed Operation Achilles, nearly 4,500 NATO and 1,000 ANA troops will be eventually used to subdue the violence ridden areas of northern Helmand.

Meanwhile the main Taliban website that posts battlefield updates and other related issues has reportedly been shut down. The, or ‘Voice if Jihad’ website, has gone off the web today which may have been coordinated between NATO commanders and Pakistani officials. The website is thought to have been run out of southwestern Pakistan.

The Taliban and Narco-mafias running anti-government activities will be the priority targets. Two of the main objectives of Operation Achilles will be securing a huge swath of ground surrounding the Kajaki dam and its compounds in Kajaki district. Vital to reconstruction efforts and to the needs of thousands of Helmand residents, the refurbishing the dam has recently stalled due to increased instability and the major threat posed by Taliban military maneuvers regarding the dam.

Kajaki Bridge click to enlarge photo of the Kajaki bridge

The British have fought for the last three months in all the areas surrounding the dam. The troops have gained a foothold in the surrounding villages but are not yet out far enough to prevent indirect rocket attacks. The surge in troops will help bring those outer areas under control and will instill enough security at the dam complex for international experts to begin their much needed work.

The rest of Helmand remains unstable and tense as daily clashes and body counts continue to mount. Both NATO and the Taliban are vying for power in one of the most fought for provinces in all of Afghanistan. The Taliban are said to be in control of three provinces, Washir, Musa Qala, and Nawzad while northern Bahgran district a known viper’s nest of Taliban militants.

Despite losing three commanders over the last few months, the Taliban are gaining momentum during their recently launched ‘spring offensive.’ Through political pressure from NATO and the United States, Pakistan recently dealt a blow to the Taliban by arresting three top officials in the Taliban’s top leadership.

Mullah Obaidullah, the former defense minister and current military chief, Jaland Abdullah Sarhadi and the Taliban’s appointed governor of Zabul, Amir Khan Haqqani were all seized in a Pakistani raid in Quetta last week. The continuing interrogation of such individuals may expose the Taliban’s plans for upcoming military maneuvers and may shed light onto the remaining Taliban leadership’s whereabouts.

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