Afghan, NATO forces prioritise IED fight
They said Afghan security forces were being trained on how to deal with the improvised explosive devices (IDEs) and had been equipped with modern facilities.
An ISAF commander based on the Kabul airfield, Maj. Gen. Fergus McLachlan, said the ability of Afghan forces to detect and defuse landmines had considerably improved.
“We are fighting a dangerous enemy; landmines are a dangerous and a leading cause of casualties among joint forces,” he told Pajhwok Afghan News.
Landmines accounted for 50 percent of casualties among Afghan and NATO troops and a leading factor behind increasing civilian casualties, he noted. However, he said people’s cooperation with Afghan forces had lately increased in detecting IEDS.
More than 1,000 people had lost their lives to landmines over the past three months, with over 3000 others injured, the NATO official said. Previously, when foreign troops would lead security operations, landmines had been the reason behind most casualties, he recalled.
McLachlan said currently 200 Afghan squads, each comprised of three to four individuals, were undergoing training on how to detect and defuse landmines. Remotely-controlled vehicles and security balloons play a crucial role in detecting mines.
He claimed Afghan and NATO forces had been able to defuse 90 percent of landmines.
The Ministry of Defence spokesman also called landmines a leading cause of casualties among troops. However, he said the forces had been able to neutralise 90 to 95 percent of them.
Gen. Zahir Azimi confirmed Afghan forces had received required equipment and training, saying foreign troops had promised more assistance in dealing with the threat. Referring to a UN report on civilian casualties, he said it reflected the ground reality.
The report blamed 80 percent of civilian casualties on the landmines planted by the Taliban, a claim the insurgents deny. On anti-landmine efforts, Azimi said a training centre had been established in northern Balkh province.
He said some landmines were made at home and others smuggled into the country from outside.
Brig. Gen. Mohammad Sharif Yaftali, the 203rd Thunder Military Corps spokesman in southeastern Afghanistan, said landmines also created problems during military operations. Afghan forces are being trained and facilitated in the fight to detect and defuse them.
He said it was for the first that the army’s engineering team took part in the Azra operation in central Logar province earlier this month. The team had been able to clear routes of landmines and repair damaged portions of roads and bridges.
He said there was no factory in Afghanistan making landmines, which he alleged were smuggled from neighbouring countries. “The enemy has been weakened and has lost the courage of a face-to-face engagement. Their only weapon remains roadside bombs.”
A bomb disposal squad member, Lt. Rahmanullah, said the squad was being trained on a daily basis in various aspects. He said he would transfer his knowledge to fellow personnel on completing the training course.
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