No short-term perspectives in ending conflict in Afghanistan after one month of attacks. Taleban stirred, not shaken.
As the US/UK offensive enters its fifth successive week and after the heaviest night of bombing the front-line Taleban positions, the balance of the situation is that the Taleban continue to be stirred, but unshaken.
The military hardware used to date by the US Air Force can be divided into 4 categories: Helicopters, bombers, strike aircraft and reconnaissance/transport aircraft. The helicopters deployed are the UH-60 Blackhawk, the AH-64 Apache and the MH-53 Pave low; the bombers – the B1-B Lancer, the B-52 Stratotanker and the high-tech B2 Spirit; the strike aircraft are the F-117 Nighthawk, the FA-18 Hornet, the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-14 Tomcat, the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the AC-130 Spectre. For transport and reconnaissance, the aircraft in deployment are the C-17, the C-130 Hercules, the U2 Spy Plane, the E-2 Hawkeye, E-6 Prowler, E-3 Sentry AWACS and the unmanned Predator drone.
Despite four weeks of strikes by this impressive array of equipment, the Taleban continue to be entrenched and are launching attacks of unprecedented ferocity against the Northern Alliance troops. Thousands of armed Pakistani volunteers are reported to have crossed the border to join the Taleban, who have declared they do not want more volunteers because they do not need them. However, the Northern alliance claims that 800 Taleban have surrendered, 200 have been taken prisoner of war and 80 were killed in fighting around Mazar-i-Sharif. The battle still being waged at a distance of 70 km. from this important strategic town in the Northern mountains.
If it is true that the Taleban are far from beaten, and independent sources only appear when the Taleban escort the international press to a location of their choice, the stage is set for a campaign well into Ramadan, which starts on November 17th, unless a last-minute decision to make a halt in the attacks for humanitarian aid to reach the 7.5 million people at risk of starvation inside Afghanistan.
Concerning the weather, the extremely harsh Winter is only days away. This will hamper not only any military operation on the ground but places an added risk on the civilian population.
The contingent of US troops in Uzbekistan, currently 2,000, will be reinforced in the coming weeks, while US military aircraft are now being stationed at Kulab airport, in Southern Tajikistan. Eye witnesses tell accounts of helicopters and Hercules transport planes arriving. It is reported that Washington will pay for this aid through investment schemes.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru