Coalition offensive claims more civilians in Afghanistan
NATO troops led by the US have launched the largest military assault in southern Afghanistan since the Taliban was toppled in the 2001 invasion.
More than 15,000 American Marines and Afghan troops have started attacking the Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province.
US airstrikes rain down on Marjah, where 1,000 Taliban fighters are believed to be hiding.
The assault is the first phase of an operation to loosen the militants’ grip on the area, and is seen as a key test of President Barack Obama’s recent troop surge.
However, as military action continues in southern Afghanistan, the death toll among civilians has risen to 17. The huge offensive against the Taliban in the south has suffered a major blow, after two US rockets missed their targets, killing 12 civilians. It has been reported five more were killed when they were hit by an air strike unrelated to Operation Moshtarak.
Also, two NATO soldiers and at least 27 militants have died since the beginning of the operation.
NATO's top commander in Afghanistan has apologized to President Hamid Karzai, who earlier said the safety of civilians during the operation is paramount.
Afghan officials say local residents have helped coalition troops detect explosives hidden by the Taliban.
According to war veteran Jack Diliberto, the difficulty in distinguishing militants from locals will always result in the deaths of innocent people.
“If you try to figure out who the bad guys are in an environment where the Taliban is deeply embedded into the population – you are going to kill innocent civilians,” he noted.
Americans started from the wrong foot, claims RT military analyst Evgeny Khrushchev.
“It’s been more than four months they have been leaking information about an upcoming operation,” he said. “The idea was that they were playing a dangerous gambit that they could scare off the Taliban and separate them from the populace.”
But things happened in the worst case scenario, Khrushchev said. By leaking the information, the Americans gave plenty of time for the Taliban to evacuate important persons from the area, which is known as the heart of the country’s drug trafficking business.
Strategic analyst Talaat Muslim from Cairo agrees:
The Taliban knew about the planned assault in Helmand in advance, which allowed them to follow all the moves NATO, US and Afghan forces made.
“The information strategy in this operation has only harmed it, it had no impact on the Afghan people. The Taliban was prepared for the attack. They are more mobile than the US and NATO troops. The main problem is the Afghan army, which is still poorly organised. It means the number of American and other forces is still not enough for such a major operation.”
Meanwhile, three US soldiers have been killed in a roadside blast in another part of the country.
Terry Michael, director of the Washington Centre for politics and journalism, told RT that Americans elected Obama for his promises to make peace – not war.
“All of us who voted for Obama thought we were getting an anti-war president. It's why he won the nomination against Hilary Clinton: because she supported the war and he didn't. So he couldn't have made a bigger mistake,” Michael told RT.
British Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary believes that despite the propaganda war, Afghanistan cannot possibly be won.
“I believe very strongly that the Taliban have huge amounts of support in the whole of Afghanistan. We don’t believe the media propaganda that Karzai has any kind of support on the ground,” he said.
“In fact, what you will find is that the guerilla attacks against the British and American forces are happening right across the country and they have a lot of support,” Anjem Choudary added.
Investigative journalist and policy analyst Gareth Porter says while the U.S. is fighting against Islamists it links to Al Qaeda – the Taliban has no interest in the terror group's global aims.
“Osama Bin Laden was able to stay in Afghanistan because he agreed to two conditions imposed on him by mullah Omar – first, no meetings with the foreign press and second, no plotting against the United States,” Porter told RT. “Why? Because the Taliban regime was very much aware that the US could strike at the regime and threaten its existence. And this was confirmed to me by the former foreign minister of the Taliban regime, Mr. Muttawakil, who is now one of the mediators between Karzai and the Taliban, so he is no longer associated with the Taliban, specifically. This has been forgotten now, I’m afraid, in the rush by the Obama administration.”
RT’s military analyst Evgeny Khrushchev said there are many problems between NATO and their Afghan partners which make their cooperation difficult.
“Even the Secretary of Defense, who is himself a cold war veteran of the anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan, Robert Gates, the former top brass at the CIA, even he admitted that in NATO they have a second tier, meaning there is a cultural gap between the US forces and NATO club,” he said. “Now, can you imagine the abyss between the US forces and Afghans – it is a cultural eternity.”
“Check the metrics – there were two casualties among the US forces, none of the Afghan soldiers were wounded or killed. You know why? Because Americans don’t trust Afghan forces to take responsibility,” he added.