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US to deploy hundred of additional troops to Helmand

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(Last Updated On: February 9, 2016)

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Hundreds of additional US troops are slated to deploy to a volatile province inAfghanistan to bolster the local military against a resurgent Taliban, according to the Guardian News Agency.

The Guardian writes that by month’s end, a force described as battalion-strength, consisting of mostly army soldiers, will arrive in Helmand province where US and UK forces have struggled in battles for over a decade to drive out the Taliban.

In keeping with Barack Obama’s formal declaration that the US is not engaged in combat, despite elite forces recently participating in an hours-long battle in Helmand, defense officials said the additional troops would not take part in combat. But they will help the existing Helmand force defend itself against Taliban attacks, officials said.

US military officials declined to offer many specifics about an upcoming reinforcement, but they described the mission as primarily aimed at bolstering the performance of the embattled 215th Corps of the Afghan military, through training.

The 215th Corps has recently had its commander replaced amid performance and corruption concerns, and has endured “unusually high operating tempo for long periods of time”, outgoing US commander General John Campbell testified to Congress last week. It is among four Afghan corps that still have US military advisers embedded within it, despite a recent pullback to advise at higher levels.

“Our mission remains the same,” said Colonel Michael Lawhorn, a spokesman for the US command in Kabul, “to train, advise, and assist our Afghan counterparts, and not to participate in combat operations.”

The Guardian understands the additional forces in Helmand will not increase the current total troop numbers in Afghanistan, which currently stand at 9,800, but will instead be deployed from troops already in the country. Batallion strengths vary, but can constitute a force of up to 800 troops.

While new advisers make up a significant component of the additional forces, Lawhorn said that another mission of the reinforcement will be to “bolster force protection for the current staff of advisers”, suggesting a concern for the safety of the existing Helmand force amid major recent Taliban gains.

The US military has sounded warnings of a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, in Helmand and beyond, that have prompted significant revisions in Obama’s war plans.

Already Obama has agreed to leave 5,500 troops in Afghanistan past the end of his presidency, but his newly confirmed commander, General John “Mick” Nicholson, told a Senate panel recently that increased insurgent violence will prompt him to re-evaluate troop requests, and left the door open to bolstering a force Obama has sought to draw down.

In January, a US special forces soldier died and two others were wounded as they assisted the Afghan military in repelling a Taliban assault in the province that lasted hours.

While the Pentagon initially resisted categorizing the battle as “combat”, press secretary Peter Cook called it a “combat situation, but [US troops] are not in the lead intentionally”, illustrating how the difference between combat and advisory missions can blur in practice.

Opium-rich Helmand has emerged as a Taliban priority, as most of its 2015 attacks focused on the province. Unlike earlier eras of the war, the Taliban have declined to take a winter break and have fought in the province all year.

The Taliban have come close to overrunning a district center in Helmand, Sangin, where more than 100 UK troops died during a war that has entered its 15th year, despite US airstrikes in late December. Kabul is said to control only three of Helmand’s 14 districts, including the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.

Outgoing commander Campbell, testifying to Congress last week, said that while current rules of engagement prevented US troops who are not engaged in counter-terrorism raids from initiating fights with the Taliban, “I have no restrictions on providing force protection” for troops that train Afghans.

Lawhorn described the reinforcement as a “planned deployment of additional personnel”, but at least one congressional official contacted by the Guardian was unaware of the plan.

 

Source: The Guardian

 

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France evacuates more than 300 people from Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: December 4, 2021)

France has carried out an evacuation mission in Afghanistan, taking 258 Afghans as well as 11 French, about 60 Dutch nationals and an unspecified number of people linked to them out of the country, a French foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Friday.

The operation was organised with help from Qatar, a ministry statement said.

Since September 10, 110 French people and 396 Afghans have been evacuated from Afghanistan on 10 flights organised with the help of Qatar, the statement added.

France and Qatar jointly operated a humanitarian mission on Thursday, delivering medical equipment, food and winter supplies to international organisations operating in the country with a Qatari military plane, Reuters reported.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) this week described an “alarming” socioeconomic outlook for Afghanistan for the next 13 months.

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UNHCR calls for more aid for forcibly displaced in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: December 3, 2021)

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has appealed for much more support amid acute and rising humanitarian needs for 3.5 million people displaced by conflict inside Afghanistan – including 700,000 who were displaced in 2021.

In a statement released on Friday, UNHCR said that the forcibly displaced are facing a lack of insulated shelters, warm clothes, insufficient fuel for heating, and inadequate amounts of food and medical supplies as temperatures begin to plunge below freezing.

“The humanitarian crisis is escalating daily in Afghanistan. Hunger in the country has reached truly unprecedented levels. Nearly 23 million people – that’s 55 percent of the population – are facing extreme levels of hunger, and nearly 9 million of them are at risk of famine,” the statement read.

The organization emphasized that providing food supplies is an “immediate priority” to help avoid widespread starvation in the country.

“This year, UNHCR has assisted some 700,000 displaced people across the country the majority since mid-August. The race is on to reach more. Currently, we are able to reach nearly 60,000 people every week.”

“Further resources are urgently needed for the most vulnerable -single mothers with no shelter or food for their children, older persons who have been displaced are left to take care of orphaned grandchildren, and those taking care of loved ones with special needs.”

UNHCR has been bringing in relief supplies by road through Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and through humanitarian airlifts.

The organization noted that five more flights carrying UNHCR winter supplies from its global stockpiles in Amman are scheduled next week.

“UNHCR support will continue throughout the cold season until February 2022 to help forcibly displaced families cope with the extreme conditions. The response includes core relief items, such as thermal blankets and warm winter clothing. Shelters are being repaired and reinforced, while people are also being provided plastic sheeting and insulation materials to help weather-proof their shelters,” the statement said.

The organization added that vulnerable families are also being provided with cash assistance to meet additional needs during the coldest months, such as fuel for heating.

“Further support is urgently needed for UNHCR to continue delivering lifesaving aid this winter as we head into the coldest weeks of the season. UNHCR’s funding needs for the Afghanistan Situation in 2022 – including continued winter response – amount to US$374.9 million,” the statement concluded.

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Security forces rescue girl, arrest 9 kidnappers in Balkh operation

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(Last Updated On: December 3, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) forces have rescued an abducted girl in northern Balkh province, officials said Friday.

Sadra. 9, was kidnapped in PD3 of Mazar-i-Sharif city, the capital of Balkh, on Tuesday while she was going to school.

IEA officials stated that Sadra had been rescued in a joint operation of security forces in the city.

One of the kidnappers was killed, and nine others were arrested during the raid, officials said.

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