Coalition, Afghans Whittle Down Insurgent Leadership

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2010 - Coalition and Afghan forces are increasing their efforts to remove insurgent leaders from the fight in Afghanistan, and Afghan security forces are growing in their operational leadership, military officials reported.

Afghan and coalition forces today confirmed the capture of another of Helmand province's Taliban leaders and two additional suspects during a combined operation in the Nawah-ye Barakzai district on Nov. 15.

The targeted man, who recently returned from Pakistan, was trying to provide leadership to Taliban members in Nawah after security forces detained the previous district leader Oct. 18. He is believed to have planned attacks against Afghan and coalition security members and to have supplied roadside-bomb components to insurgents. The suspect also has maintained close ties to other Taliban leaders, officials said.

Recent reports indicate the detainee also was involved in planning an upcoming large-scale attack, and thus posed an immediate threat. Two additional suspects were detained in the operation.

In other operations:

-- Combined forces detained a Taliban bombing cell leader and two additional suspects in the Arghandab district of Kandahar last night. The detainee is believed responsible for leading attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, and reportedly was involved in kidnapping and threatening local civilians.

-- A combined force yesterday captured a Haqqani terrorist network leader involved in planning suicide-bomber attacks in the Afghan capital of Kabul. Using intelligence tips, the security force peacefully searched a compound in Khost province, where they detained the suspect and one of his associates. The Haqqani leader is the second suspect linked to Kabul attacks captured this week, officials said.

-- A coalition force killed two insurgents in Helmand's Garm Ser district yesterday. The force watched the men for more than 30 minutes as they dug along a foot path commonly used by ISAF and Afghan forces in an area where seven roadside bombs have been found in the last four days. A combined Afghan and ISAF team is investigating if any the men may have worked with insurgents.

Also, military officials report that an Afghan-led operation in Helmand's Nahr-e Saraj district has driven a wedge in the middle of Taliban operations there.

Working with an elite Irish military unit and British advisors, the Afghan unit pushed through the village of Saidan toward an area designated for a patrol base to be built. Afghan army Capt. Mohammad Tahir, company commander of the unit, said his soldiers' progress has put the district in a very important security position.

"If we build a strong presence in this region, we will be able to provide better security for the Gereshk district and stop the Taliban traffic through the area," he said.

The combined forces found many roadside bombs in the area and struck one of them, said British Capt. Ashley P.R. Hough, officer in charge of the mentoring team.

"That didn't slow us down too much -- the [Afghan soldiers] were ... excellent," he said. "We extracted the casualties and they carried straight on, so we were up on to the hill exactly as planned."

As the operation came to an end, the soldiers increased their security posture in the region and closed down a large open area previously available to the Taliban.

"I see the next couple of months spent getting to know the locals, getting to know the ground, understanding the dynamics of what's going on here, where the Taliban is, and how we can isolate them from the population," Hough said.

Having the patrol base established and more soldiers from the Irish Guards coming to partner with the Afghan army, there are high hopes for the small area in the district.

"We can't predict the future," Tahir said. "But I think the future is very bright for us because of the continued support of the people in the area and because of the determination our soldiers have in building security."

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