Taliban ‘reeling’ as Afghanistan operation makes progress

By Alex Stevenson

Taliban fighters are offering an “incoherent” response to the Operation Moshtarak offensive in central Helmand province, despite the death of another British soldier.

Major-General Gordon Messenger’s claim came as the Taliban claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in the Afghan capital Kabul which left 17 people dead.

“The Taliban response remains incoherent and there is increasing evidence that they feel under pressure and are moving out of the area,” Major General Gordon Messenger told journalists in Whitehall.

He added: “That in no way precludes any complacency… They are finding it difficult to find a coherent response. That is not to say they will not provide incoherent responses.”

Earlier today the Ministry of Defence confirmed a British soldier died from wounds received near a checkpoint in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province on Friday morning.

Apart from some localised areas in the town of Marjah the initial ‘clearance’ stage of operations is completed, officials said.

The focus is now on “deepening, not broadening” as the Afghan government, assisted by British forces and development personnel, seeks to persuade the local population that international forces will not abandon them in the future.

“If the people think their security is being provided for on an enduring basis… there are very few places for the Taliban to take root,” Maj-Gen Messenger added.

“The loyalty, the allegiance of the people is something that takes place over months, not weeks.”

Claims that the Taliban were struggling to cope with the coordinated nature of the Moshtarak offensive in Helmand were tempered by the news from Kabul, where a suicide bomber reportedly detonated explosives near the city’s main shopping area.

Following the main blast smaller explosions targeted a popular hotel, before a gunbattle broke out between police and other attackers.

Friday’s attack is the first in Kabul since January 18th when teams of suicide bombers and gunmen targeted government buildings.