US troops take hard line to tame rebels of Sangin

The Independent

There was so much high explosive raining down it was hard to believe anyone could have survived beneath the two-hour salvo of guided artillery rounds, Hellfire missiles and strafing runs by F/A-18 warplanes and helicopter gunships.

But somehow they did. After every strike Taliban insurgents would fire back defiantly, telling the US Marines they were still there; still alive. “Time for the tactical nuke,” Captain Alexander Vanston, a Marine civil affairs officer, said dryly as another 500lb bomb tore through a Taliban position, sending earth and debris billowing hundreds of feet into the cloudless sky. Read the rest of this entry »

Why it’s so hard for NATO to train Afghan forces

Christian Science Monitor

Corruption, drug addiction, and too many Afghan deserters, make handing over power a daunting task, say NATO officials and Western diplomats.

Sangin, Afghanistan

Men hurried through the dark with a stretcher, flares burst, and a helicopter thumped in to the forward operating base in southern Afghanistan. The evacuation was evidence of slick professionalism. But the casualty – a young Afghan policeman who had apparently overdosed on drugs – was an illustration of the immense difficulties facing NATO as it prepares Afghan National Security Forces to take responsibility for their country.

Handing over security to the Afghan government, as per the Lisbon summit two weeks ago, is an uphill task. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen want to finish transferring security by the end of 2014. Yet there are too few NATO trainers, too many Afghan deserters, and too much corruption, NATO officials and Western diplomats say, to make that a credible scenario. Read the rest of this entry »