Military fears big Afghan losses
Michael Smith – Sunday Times January 1, 2006
British troops set to deploy to southern Afghanistan this spring could sustain losses on a scale not seen since the Falklands war, military intelligence officers have warned.
They say insurgent forces in the south are preparing for a large offensive by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, backed by sophisticated weapons and training from Iran.
The warnings follow an increase in fighting in southern Afghanistan over the past year. Several thousand people, including about 100 US soldiers, have been killed.
The insurgents regard the withdrawal of 2,000 US troops as a key victory and are expected to press home their advantage against the British-led Nato force.
An advance party of British troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade will fly to Afghanistan this week to begin preparing for the deployment.
A new terror group linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Al-Qaeda in Iraq has emerged in southern Afghanistan and is imitating his methods. Messages from the group, Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, have appeared on the same jihadist internet sites as those of Zarqawi’s terror group.
The Taliban has regrouped, adapting its tactics to a classic insurgency campaign. There has also been a surge in suicide bombings and in roadside bombs similar to those introduced to Iraq last year.
US intelligence officers in southern Afghanistan and at the Coalition Joint Task Force headquarters in Bagram, north of Kabul, are blaming Iran for the increase in the use of sophisticated technology.
The British troops’ anti-narcotics operations could also provoke attacks from local warlords. The Dutch will decide on February 2 whether to withdraw their contingent because of warnings from military intelligence about the risks. They are expected to do so.
The plan is for just over 3,000 of the 6,000-strong Nato force to come from the UK, with Canada and the Dutch supplying the remaining troops. A British battle group commanded by 16 Air Assault Brigade and led by 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment will take over Helmand province from the Americans.
Briefings to officers from 3 Para highlighted the possibility of casualties on a par with those during the 1982 Falklands conflict, when 255 British servicemen died.
Last updated 08/09/2006