Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Threats

In Afghanistan the Swedish PRT Mazar-i Sharif has become more violent the recent year. The number of attacks has doubled since last year. Now the US and the French troops have starting their withdrawal. All according to Obamas timeplan to start the withdrawal in 2011 and let the ANSF be fully in charge of the security in Afghanistan in 2014.

But the focus seem to be more on the time plan than on actual achievements. Is there an increased security to motivate the withdrawal or is the presidential election in 2012 more important? Obama need to show progress in Afghanistan before the election rally starts. Maybe thee has been improvements in Helmand, but then the Taliban has moved to other regions e.g. RC North. This could be bad news for the Swedes in the so far relatively "calm" PRT Mazar-i Sharif.

Can we protect the civilian population in Afghanistan? This is one of the main reasons for being there. Well, the number of civilians that has been killed due to attacks by ISAF or the Taliban has increased by 15% the last year. Even the most protected afghans have difficulties to avoid being killed by the Talibans, which was clearly shown by the killing of Ahmad Wali Karzai, brother to president Kharzai. If he civilians feel that ISAF can not protect them, then they are more ore less forced to support the Taliban.

There are also new threats that could seriously change the safety of the ISAF troops.

The Taliban has been using IED to attack convoys on the roads and suicide bombers to attack civilians in the cities. All to show that ISAF can not guarantee the safety of the population. But now snipers have appeared. They seem to have been trained outside of Afghanistan.

Toolan, who runs NATO’s Regional Command Southwest, said many of the snipers attacking his troops speak Farsi or Arabic, meaning that the fighters likely come from Iran and other neighboring countries. Other U.S. officials in Afghanistan say Iran has significantly escalated its support for militants there, providing long-range rockets, money, and technical assistance. Tehran denies the charges, but Toolan said some of the snipers appear to have been trained outside of Afghanistan.
Snipers have killed approximately 20 troops in Helmand this year, according to a military official at the Pentagon familiar with the data. Coalition forces have lost 84 troops in Helmand in 2011, according to

Up until now there has been very few attacks on ISAF aircraft and helicopters using MANPADS - hand held missiles. A few attacks have been done using RPG volley attacks, but the Stingers and SA-7 that were used during the Afghan-Soviet war are too old and could not be used. But the war in Libya might change that. In the same way as the Iraq war released a lot of former Saddam Husseing government weapons to the black market a lot of Colonel Gadaffis weapon can reach the wrong hands. In Ghadaffis weapon stores that are in the hands of the rebels are among other things fully working SA-7, and there are also rumors about more modern SA-24 in Libya.

On a recent day, 43 emptied wooden crates — long, thin and painted in dark green — had been left behind on the sand inside the entrance. The boxes had not been there during a visit to the same spot a few days before, and the weapons were gone.

The stenciled markings showed each crate had contained a pair of lightweight missiles called SA-7s — early Soviet versions of the same class of weapon as the better known American-made Stingers, which were used by Afghan fighters against the Soviets in Afghanistan. It was not clear who had taken them. The rebel guards variously blamed Qaddafi forces and misinformed opposition fighters.

During more than four decades in power, Colonel Qaddafi’s often bellicose government is thought to have acquired as many as 20,000 of these missiles, known as Manpads, for Man-Portable Air-Defense Systems, in arms deals with the former Eastern bloc.

If these missiles reach Afghanistan int would change the threat scenario for ISAF. Helicopters are the prime targets since they are slow and flying at lower altitudes. This could also affect the Swedes since there are Swedish HKP 10 Super Pumas in RC North being used for MEDEVAC. They will be replaced in 2013 by the new HKP 16 Blackhawk.

More Taliban attacks in the north, Taliban snipers and possibly SA-7 in the country. 2011 can be a very tough year for ISAF and the Swedish unit in RC North.

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