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پیر، 8 اگست، 2011

US suffered highest casualties in Afghanistan

American forces in their nearly decade-long war in Afghanistan suffered casualities in a single day on Saturday when a Chinook transport helicopter was shot down by Taliban killing 30 Americans and 8 Afghans. The helicopter was on a night-raid mission in the Tangi Valley of Wardak Province, to the west of Kabul, as the American Commandos carry out such raids regularly to kill high ranking Taliban. It was most likely brought down by a rocket-propelled grenade after an assault on a Taliban compound in the village of Jaw-e-Mekh Zareen in the Vailley.

Chinook transport helicopter was shot down by Taliban

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, and they could hardly have found a more valuable target as 22 of the dead were Navy Seal commandos, including members of Seal Team 6. Other commandos from that team conducted the raid in Abbottabad, that killed Bin Laden in May. The American officials however said that those who were killed Saturday were not involved in the Pakistan mission. The attack came during a surge of violence that has accompanied the beginning of a drawdown of American and NATO troops, and it showed how deeply entrenched the insurgency remains even far from its main strongholds in southern Afghanistan and along the Afghan-Pakistani border in the east. With the latest killings, one expects that there would be more pressure on President Obama to expedite withdrawal from Afghanistan. The sooner the foreign forces are withdrawn the better because they have been admitting that they cannot defeat Taliban and the option left for them is to find an honourable way out. It would be advisable for the Americans to hold open and direct negotiations with the Taliban for lasting peace in the war torn country otherwise we warn that Afghanistan would once again experience the situation that emerged after the withdrawal of Soviet Union.

The downing of a US helicopter in which 38 people, including 30 American Special Operations troops, were killed is an indication that Taliban are gaining strength as the US and NATO troops continue gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan. The development is significant since it will considerably weaken the US and Afghan forces psychologically.

The incident shows that Taliban possess some accurate surface-to-air missiles. So far, nobody knows the type of missiles that was used. However, it could be Stinger missiles, which were supplied to the Mujahideen during the first Afghan Jihad against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Stingers changed the complexion of the war as they crippled the Red Army and subsequently forced the Soviet to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan. According to the public US administration reports, the CIA managed to buy-back the Stingers from the black market by paying $ 100,000 per piece.

However, there are conflicting reports on the CIA claim. Independent military sources believe that Taliban possess at least 100 shoulder-fired Stingers, and they use them when they are hundred percent sure that they would down the fighter planes. Stingers have the deadliest record against fighting aircraft of any weapon since World War II. However, the limitation of Stinger is that they are effective against low-flying airliners. Most probably, this is the reason behind selective using of Stingers during a decade long war.

According to a second theory, Taliban acquired missiles similar to Stingers. Surface-to-air missiles similar to Stingers are made in Britain and Russia. The Russian made SAM-16, which contains Stinger technology. The Russian stole the technology from Greece in 1980s. Russian missiles can be purchased in international arms markets.

The Russian mafia is reportedly bartering weapons with heroin. Hence, the Russian missiles, including SAM-16 can land anywhere in the region. Britain makes Blowpipe, a British equivalent of the Stingers. However, it is relatively difficult to obtain Blowpipe. A third theory is even more dangerous. It suggests that some regional powers were able to reproduce Stingers through reverse engineering. Taliban could have obtained that type of Stingers. Since this brand of missiles rely on stolen American technology, one can buy it from black-market only. Evidently, the black market knows no rules and restrictions.

The only criteria are to pay in cash. And if this theory is correct, it means that the US and NATO would face tough times in the days to come.

Ostensibly, Taliban are following a well-thought plan. They are focusing on hitting hard the US and NATO forces while they are pulling out their troops from Afghanistan. Simultaneously, Taliban are targeting pro-US influential personalities to spread terror among the ill-trained and demoralized Afghan army and police. The objective is to prove that only Taliban can rule Afghanistan.

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