Thread Contributor: StewartOPERATIONAL CONTEXT 0400Z26DEC17
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2Lt Stewart



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26-12-2017, 01:59 AM -
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CONTEXT & GEOGRAPHY

GROUND

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Following days of heavy fighting in the northern Afghanistan in the province of Kunduz last week, the Taliban eventually defeated Afghan security forces, taking the largest of the province’s six districts. Shortly after the Taliban took the Qala-e-Zal district, which is just west of the city of Kunduz, the Taliban launched a fierce offensive to take Khan Abad, the district on the east side the city, the largest in Afghanistan with an estimated population of 300,000. The Afghan forces are losing to the Taliban in fight for Kunduz and have requested the help of NATO. The ministry of defence has deployed a task force to the region and will be spearheaded by the 51st Infantry Brigade of UKTF Cromwell.  Kunduz is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, located in the northern part of the country next to Tajikistan. The population of the province is around 953,800, which is multi-ethnic and mostly a tribal society. The city of Kunduz serves as the capital of the province and is primarily dense farmland and a collection of small settlements and villages.

The Kunduz River valley dominates the Kunduz Province. The river flows irregularly from south to north into the Amu Darya river which forms the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The river, its tributaries, and derivative canals provide irrigation to the irrigated fields that dominate land usage in the agricultural province. There are also rainfed fields and open range land that span several miles. Our home for the duration of this deployment will be Patrol Base Invicta. South is Camp Tanpeh which is home to the Afghan National Police forces stationed in the area. Both are based in the friendly controlled blue zone.


DEMOGRAPHICS

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Although a reliable census has not been carried out, the population of Kunduz province is estimated to be around 953,800.The province is multi ethnic and mostly rural. The ethnic groups that inhabit the province are as follows: Pashtun 34%; Uzbek 27%; Tajik 20%; Turkmen 9.4%; Arab 4.6%; and Hazara 3.5%; plus small groups of Pashayi, Baloch and Nuristani. About 94% of the population practice Sunni Islam and 6% are followers of Shia Islam.The major languages spoken in the area are Dari, Pashto, and Uzbeki.


CONFLICT & INSTABILITY

The provincial region of Kunduz, situated in Northern Afghanistan enjoyed relative social stability and little to no conflict from the period of 2001-2009, during which German NATO forces were responsible for security and humanitarian efforts. During the beginning of the summer months of 2009, intelligence reports indicated that the Taliban had begun infiltrating the province largely in part due to the demographics of the population being majority Pashtun and therefore likely to be receptive of Taliban ideology. Over the course of 2009-2010 scattered bombings began occurring throughout the province in a coordinated effort by the Taliban designed to reduce the civilian population’s confidence in NATO forces, and to begin destabilize government control of the region. 

On September 4th, 2010, the regional German NATO commander ordered an airstrike on two oil tankers that, according to intel, were tasked with resupplying the local insurgency cell. The tankers had become immobilized in a field of mud and German reconnaissance planes identified the group amassing around the tankers as insurgency forces. The follow-up UN investigation found that the oil tankers were stolen by the Taliban with the intention of providing fuel to local civilian villages, and that the force surrounding the tanker was comprised mostly of civilians permitted to loot the fuel contents. The investigation concluded that of the 142 people killed in the strike, approximately 100 of those were unarmed civilians. 

Public and political outrage in response to the incident resulted in the slow withdrawal of German direct-action forces, and a shift in security and counterterrorism responsibilities away from NATO forces and into the hands of the Afghan National Police. This change would prove detrimental to regional stability in the coming years due to both the inexperience and limited resources of the ANP who were largely ineffective in combating complex insurgency tactics deployed by the Taliban.  Through 2011 to 2013, the Taliban launched a series of bombings designed to incite fear in the civilian population and erode province wide confidence in the effectiveness of the ANP and local government. Civilian resentment towards NATO and the ANP continued to rise as the frequency and severity of the bombings increased. The resulting cumulation of decreased security measures and lack of civilian cooperation allowed the Taliban to gain a strong foothold in the eastern regions of the province. 

On October 8th 2014, the provincial governor Amir Rashid was the victim of a targeted killing by the Taliban. This event and the resulting disarray and chaos within the provincial government would mark the beginning of a major ground offensive against the ANP by Taliban forces with the goal of reestablishing a provincial government ruled by Islamic Law. Throughout 2015 the Taliban would engage in a fierce offensive, moving east across the province. As the campaign progressed, intelligence showed that a large majority of the civilian population who came under Taliban rule would be mobilized into the Taliban fighting force, resulting in an exponential increase in offensive capability.  In mid 2016, the Taliban defeat the ANP in the Qala-e-Zal district, and move towards capturing Khan Abad, the district on the east side of the capital city of Kunduz, which contains a population of approximately 300,000, a third of the total population of the province. The local ANP commander conscripts civilians in order to establish a defence of the city, demonstrating a lack of confidence in the capabilities of the ANP and further alienating an already Taliban-sympathetic region. 

The resulting conflict for Kunduz city results in severe civilian and ANP casualties, and in early 2017, the Taliban manage to take control of the city. In response, the U.S Air Force began conducting airstrikes within the city. On October 3rd, American Gunships attack the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital, killing 22 civilians and injuring dozens more. U.S. Special operations forces claimed the attack was prompted by intel that suggested Taliban were launching attacks from within the compound, though locals interviewed argued this was not the case. As a result of the attack, the Taliban lost their stronghold within Kunduz and begin pulling back from the city.  On November 3rd, 2017, U.S airstrikes targeted three villages in Chardara, a district west of the provincial capital of Kunduz where Taliban fighters have long maintained a strong presence. A follow-up NATO investigation show that approximately 55 civilians were killed in the bombing. Reports indicated that the ANP prevented access to the bomb sites, barring relatives from recovering bodies and hindering the assessment of the death toll. ANP claimed there were no civilian casualties.

Due to the increasing frequency of civilian deaths as a result of NATO airstrikes, the local civilian population in and around Kunduz has become increasingly hostile towards ANP forces. Taliban support in the region had begun increasing dramatically with Afghan locals who were far more empathetic to their campaign against the ANP given the hardships that have occurred as a result of NATO and ANP presence
On December 1st, the Taliban launch an offensive to retake the city of Kunduz. Within a week the ANP were forced to retreat out of the city due to heavy casualties and the desertion of the civilian defense garrison. The Taliban continued with the momentum gained by capturing the city, routing the ANP east of the capitol. At the conclusion of 2017, approximately half of the province is under Taliban control.  NATO calls on the British Armed Forces to intervene and reestablish order by way of deployment of a Task Force, codename Cromwell. Deployment date is set for Saturday January 27th, 2018.
This post was last modified: 29-01-2018, 02:12 AM by Stewart.


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