Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It wasn't NATO...

The Fourth Rail - Last week, western forces from Afghanistan were reported to have crossed the Pakistani border, and captured Mullah Hakimallah Mehsud, a clansman of Baitullah and Abdullah Mehsud, the two leading Taliban commanders in South Waziristan. Yesterday, NATO's International Security Assistance Force spokesman denied any involvement in operations inside Pakistan. "Contrary to recent press reports, the NATO International Security Assistance Force has not and is not involved in the conduct of any operations inside of Pakistan," noted an ISAF press release. "" 'These reports are simply false,' said Col Tom Collins, ISAF spokesman." Colonel Collins is technically correct, this wasn't a NATO led mission, but, as we noted the day the news broke, one conducted by Task Force 145, the hunter-killer Special Operations group created to pursue senior al-Qaeda leadership.

The U.S. currently has over 11,000 troops in Afghanistan who do not fall under the command of ISAF. They are deployed largely in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan, and their primary mission is interdicting Taliban and al Qaeda cells and formations. Task Force 145 certainly would not fall under the command of NATO.

Meanwhile, the NATO led ISAF forces are still battling the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. British, Afghan, U.S., Canadian and Dutch forces are engaged with the Taliban in Operation Achilles in northern Helmand province. Two days ago, NATO forces called in close air support to attack Taliban positions in Ghorak. "Ghorak is situated in the northwestern part of Kandahar province and is the general area where the U.S. 1st-508th Airborne Infantry is manoeuvring operating as part of Operation Achilles," noted the ISAF press release. "This position was part of a wider web of Taliban extremist positions used to conduct operations aimed at de-stabilising the Government of Afghanistan."

Last week, NATO killed killed Mullah Jamaluddin, "the joint deputy commander of Taliban forces in the Garmsir area of southern Helmand Province," along with several of his aides in air strikes on March 7. Three Taliban commanders in Helmand province have been since December of 2006.