See also: Taliban get £1,600 bounty for each Nato soldier killed (Times)
Taliban fighters launched an audacious assault on the biggest Nato base in Afghanistan in the third attack on coalition forces in under a week.
The frontal attack on Kandahar airfield forced William Hague, the new Foreign Secretary, and Liam Fox, the new Defence Secretary to cancel a scheduled trip to meet British troops on the base during their first tour of Afghanistan since taking office.
Rebels rained rockets onto the airfield and then attempted to storm the perimeter fences before being forced back by fire from watchtowers.
Fighting in southern Afghanistan is again expected to escalate this summer as American troops continue to pour into the country for Barack Obama’s surge strategy.
The Taliban movement earlier this month launched its own Al-Faath, or victory, spring offensive aimed at Nato-led forces, the Afghan government and their allies.
The Kandahar attack followed a similar attempt to storm Bagram air base north of Kabul and a deadly suicide car bombing in the capital.
Five rockets hit the sprawling base 300 miles southwest of the capital at around 8pm (4.30pm BST) on Saturday evening.
Several members of the Nato-led force and civilian contractors were wounded, but none killed. A spokesman would not say how many insurgents took part or how many died. Soldiers on the base were kept in bunkers for several hours following the attack.
“No insurgents have penetrated the base perimeter,” he said.
The airfield has become the main launch pad for General Stanley McChrystal’s push into Taliban stronghold’s in southern Afghanistan and now houses more than 20,000 personnel.
A Taliban spokesman, who gave his name as Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said fighters had attacked from two sides and fired 15 rockets.
Rebels regularly rocket the airfield, but the battle was the first frontal attack in recent years.
Mr Hague and Dr Fox had been due to visit Kandahar after a day of talks with political and military leaders in Kabul, but were forced to avoid the area.
Mr Fox told British troops in Helmand the government would ensure they had everything needed to do the job and would honour an election pledge to double the frontline operational allowance.
By Ben Farmer in Gereshk
Published: 7:50PM BST 23 May 2010
Source: The Telegraph
More on the war on terror:
– US special forces soldiers dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath of a botched night raid, then washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened
– Obama: ‘I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am President, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.’ (!)
Murray asserts that the primary motivation for US and British military involvement in central Asia has to do with large natural gas deposits in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. As evidence, he points to the plans to build a natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan that would allow Western oil companies to avoid Russia and Iran when transporting natural gas out of the region.
Murray alleged that in the late 1990s the Uzbek ambassador to the US met with then-Texas Governor George W. Bush to discuss a pipeline for the region, and out of that meeting came agreements that would see Texas-based Enron gain the rights to Uzbekistan’s natural gas deposits, while oil company Unocal worked on developing the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline.
“The consultant who was organizing this for Unocal was a certain Mr. Karzai, who is now president of Afghanistan,” Murray noted.
“There are designs of this pipeline, and if you look at the deployment of US forces in Afghanistan, as against other NATO country forces in Afghanistan, you’ll see that undoubtedly the US forces are positioned to guard the pipeline route. It’s what it’s about. It’s about money, it’s about oil, it’s not about democracy.”
“I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan,” he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department’s head of personnel. “I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.”
“I’m not much for this war. I’m not sure it’s worth all those lives lost,” said Sergeant Christian Richardson as we walked across corn fields that will soon be ploughed up to plant a spring crop of opium poppy.
Opium production rate has soared to 6,900 tons in Afghanistan in the past 10 years ‘despite‘ the presence of 100,000 foreign troops in the country for nearly eight years.
A report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said on Wednesday that Afghanistan produces 92 percent of the world’s opium that has devastating global consequences.
The UN report also noted that Afghanistan’s illegal opium production is worth 65 billion dollars.
The heroin and opium market feeds 15 million addicts, with Europe, Russia and Iran consuming half the supply, UNODC reported.
– Top US commander in Afghanistan: The Taliban have gained the upper hand:
The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said, forcing the U.S. to change its strategy in the eight-year-old conflict by increasing the number of troops in heavily populated areas like the volatile southern city of Kandahar, the insurgency’s spiritual home. Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that means U.S. casualties, already running at record levels, will remain high for months to come.
(Source: The Wall Street Journal)