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Afghanistan: Britain to put in more troops as attacks mount
by UK Independent (reposted)
Sunday Jul 9th, 2006 1:35 PM
Britain's beleaguered troops in southern Afghanistan are to be heavily reinforced after a request from defence chiefs. Des Browne, the Secretary of State for Defence, will tell the Commons this week that a force of up to 1,000 soldiers, including combat troops and logistical support, will be urgently sent to the country.
Military commanders put in a formal request for extra support last Thursday after British forces in Helmand, Afghanistan's main opium poppy-growing area and one of the country's most lawless provinces, came under sustained attack from resurgent Taliban forces.

Six British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan over the past three weeks. The Muslim funeral of one of them, L/Cpl Jabron Hashmi, was held yesterday at the Central Jamia Mosque in Small Heath, Birmingham.

The reinforcements are thought to be coming from the 16 Air Assault Brigade, which already forms the core of the 3,300-strong force deployed in Helmand. They will be backed by logistical staff, who will replace around 800 military engineers who have been building the main base at Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, and forward bases in the province.

Mr Browne is expected to make a statement to the Commons tomorrow or on Tuesday. He acceded to the request for extra troops after visiting British personnel in Afghanistan and consulting the chiefs of staff. It follows a pledge from the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, last week to respond positively to requests for extra troops.

by UK Guardian (reposted)
Sunday Jul 9th, 2006 1:35 PM
Behind the rising death toll of British soldiers in Afghanistan is a shadowy group known as 'the junta'. Now the coalition has them in its sights

Jason Burke
Sunday July 9, 2006
The Observer

The trio are known as 'the junta'. They live in the shadows of southern Afghanistan, masters of bands of determined fighters who want to destroy any outside military presence. And that means destroying the British army in Afghanistan.

Coalition intelligence officers in the country held an emergency meeting last week to co-ordinate the hunt for the three, who are believed to be behind much of the current upsurge in fighting.

As fears in London grew over the spiralling violence in southern Afghanistan, British, American and French officers discussed how to track down, capture and kill the Taliban leaders. They are: Jalaluddin Haqqani, a veteran tribal leader and guerrilla fighter; Mullah Mohammed Omar, the reclusive one-eyed cleric who led the Taliban regime when in power; and the lesser-known Mullah Mohammed Dadullah Akhund, an ultra-violent and media-savvy commander who is emerging as the number-one enemy of coalition and Afghan government forces.

The Observer has learnt that an air strike in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province, where around 4,000 British troops are deployed, was aimed at Mullah Dadullah. American defence officials have claimed that the strike killed 35 Taliban, including 'senior figures'. But Dadullah appears to have escaped again.

US and British military officials are keen to downplay any focus on individual leaders: 'This is about tackling the roots of a complex and dynamic insurgency, not just taking out individuals,' said one US source in Kabul. Yet few doubt that killing or capturing any of the three leading figures in the Taliban would seriously weaken the militants.