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January 04, 2011

United States Marines: Winning Friends And Influencing People In Afghanistan

After months of hard fighting, some signs of hope?

The leaders of the largest tribe in a Taliban stronghold in southern Helmand province have pledged to halt insurgent attacks and expel foreign fighters from one of the most violent spots in the country, the senior U.S. Marine general in Afghanistan said Monday.

Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, who commands coalition forces in the southwest, said the deal was struck between local elders in the Sangin district and Helmand Governor Gulabuddin Mangal with the consultation of coalition forces. The area has witnessed some of the heaviest fighting of the war.

However it is unlikely that the violence will cease immediately in Sangin as the die-hard Taliban leadership under the command of Mullah Mohammad Omar, which is based in the Pakistani city of Quetta, will keep fighting.

But the cooperation of the tribal leaders in the effort to rid the area of insurgents could help shorten the war in one of the most violent places in Afghanistan.

...Sangin is a strategic region for the Taliban and one they do not want to lose. It is a key crossroads to funnel drugs, weapons and fighters throughout Helmand and into neighboring Kandahar province, the spiritual heartland of the Taliban. It is also one of the last remaining sanctuaries in Helmand where the Taliban can freely process the opium and heroin that largely fund the insurgency.

“The insurgents have already begun to strike back savagely at those who desire peace but so far the elders remain steadfast,” Mills said in a statement.

Mills said that his forces would continue to push into Taliban and insurgent-controlled areas and would fight back if confronted.

According to Mangal’s office, the deal was struck on Saturday in the center of Sangin after 25 days of negotiations.

“As they are the majority in that area we can say this will be a successful process in that area,” Ahmadi said.

Sounds kind of like Anbar Provence in Iraq during the surge, doesn't it?

It's obviously still early and there's going to be more fighting but if the tribal leaders can deliver on this and/or provide support for the Marines battling the holdouts, that's got to be good news.

Added: via John Noonan- Top US General in Eastern Afghanistan says, "We've really thwarted the momentum of the insurgency, and I think it's going the other way,"


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posted by DrewM. at 12:02 PM

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