Taliban’s bid to capture major cities frustrated: NATO
Provincial officials frequently claim killing dozens of Daesh members in ground operations and airstrikes. However, an independent confirmation of casualties is difficult as access to the rebel stronghold is restricted.
In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Charlie Cleveland declined commenting on provincial officials’ claims regarding casualties imposed on the insurgent outfit.
“Nine months ago, we thought there were between 1,500 and 3,000 spread over 9 districts. Afghan and US operations have successfully reduced the number of Daesh terrorists in Nangarhar,” he said.
Clevelandsaid the Taliban were continuing to try and take over a provincial capital before the end of the year – a goal the militant group has failed to achieve so far. Despite challenges, he acknowledged, Afghan forces had successfully defended major population centres.
Asked why the US, NATO and Afghan intelligence services could not get information about the Kunduz situation, he replied the spy agencies were doing tremendous work in disrupting many plots. Butdetecting small units infiltrating into an urban area could be hard for any intelligence organisation.
With regard to Taliban attacks in Kunduz, Farah, Helmand, Uruzgan and Baghlan provinces, the spokesman said a major objective behind Taliban’s spring offensive -- Operation Omari -- was to capture a provincial capital. As the fighting season is going to conclude, the rebels have been unsuccessful.
“From March until the end of July, the Afghan forces were on the offense and had all of the momentum. In August, however, the Taliban began to try to take over a provincial capital -- Lashkargah, Kunduz and then Tirinkot. Although it is not difficult for a smaller force to conduct raids, the Taliban have not been able to achieve their goal of taking major population centre.”
Clevelandrecalled a small US force deployed to Lashkargah recently was not there to secure the city, a job of Afghan security personnel. Instead, the force was temporarily there to provide training, advice and assistance to the 505th Police Zone in Lashkargah.
The advisors were accompanied by a standard security element, he said, adding NATO forces had been doing this kind of temporary operation for the last several months and would continue to do so. So, you should expect future temporary deployments to assist Corps and Police Zone leadership wherever they need.”
Commenting on recent clashes in different areas, the US military officer said the ANDSF had successfully prevented the Taliban from taking over major cities. Overall, security leadership was incredibly important and NATO would continue to work with Afghans as they promoted good leaders.
He asked the Afghans to know the ANDSF led operations against the insurgents in five provinces, with NATO providing training, advice and Assistance to the Corps and Police Zone leadership. “NATO Special Operation Forces have done the same at a more tactical level. US forces have provided combat enablers to include fire support from aircraft.”
In response to a query, the NATO spokesman said everyone knew there would be tough battles this year. “There have been challenges over the last few weeks. But the Afghan people should know their security forces are continuing to defend them, and that NATO and the US will continue to support the people of Afghanistan.”
Download “Pajhwok” mobile App, on your smartphone to read and access latest news, features, interviews, videos and photos about Afghanistan.