Friday, January 29, 2010

Yet more US Army troops for CF's Task Force Kandahar/Globeite Doug Saunders smackdown (2)

The little task force that just a year and a half ago had but two infantry battalions (one Canadian Army, one US) is growing again, perhaps to some six battalions--that would be two thirds of a flipping division. A good piece of reporting by Matthew Fisher of Canwest News:
U.S. adds more troops to Canada-led Afghan battle group

As Afghan President Hamid Karzai extended an olive branch to Taliban fighters and warlords to lay down their arms in return for money at an international conference in London, another U.S. army unit has received orders to join the war as part of the Canada-led "super brigade" in Kandahar.

The 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment [i.e. a light armoured formation, roughly a battalion equivalent] of the 10th Mountain Division is to be placed under Canadian command in March when it arrives from Fort Drum in upstate New York [I'm pretty sure the unit is from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, recently ordered to Afstan--more here and here].

"Their arrival is key for us because they will help us to finalize the ring of stability around Kandahar City," Canadian Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard said in an interview. "2010 is the year that we have to make it happen. The only way to do that is to stop talking and to go out and protect the population so they have an alternative to the insurgency."

The incoming unit — between 400 and 500 troops — is to be one of the first U.S. army formations to deploy from the U.S. as part of a surge of 30,000 additional forces that President Barack Obama announced late in 2009.

The Valcartier, Que.-based commander of Task Force Kandahar declined to say exactly where the new U.S. troops would be deployed within his battle space, which includes the provincial capital and three heavily populated adjacent districts [four districts actually--Arghandab, Dand, Panjwayi and Zhari--where, along with the city, the great majority of the province's population lives].

Menard's brigade already includes three U.S. army battalions [more at this post]: the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment [actually 508th PIR, thanks Gulliver in "Comments"] and the 97th Military Police Battalion, which are both part of the Fort Bragg, Ky [N. Carolina actually].-based 82nd Airborne Division, and the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, from Fort Carson, Colo., which is to be replaced this spring by a battalion from the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ky [I wonder if that battalion will be separated from the rest of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne, which is deploying to Kandahar this spring, more here].

With the addition of the 71st Cavalry, Menard will oversee almost 6,000 troops. Menard's "super brigade," as Maj.-Gen. Marc Lessard, who commands all Canadian Forces overseas called it several months ago, also includes about 2,850 Canadian troops. They are mostly drawn from the Alberta-based Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and include troopers from the Ontario-based Royal Canadian Dragoons as well as reservists mostly from western Canada.

There have also been hints that the 71st Cavalry may not be the last U.S. troops to join Menard's brigade before his tour ends in the fall [I've heard yet another battalion may be coming - MC]. It is expected to take at least six months for all the troops surging from the U.S. to arrive in theatre...
As for Mr Saunders, this from him today:
The new plan also means a dramatic change of strategy for Canada’s forces, which have been engaged in a form of village-based counterinsurgency that involves clearing out the Taliban, establishing the trust of the village and building infrastructure such as schools, a process that can take years...
It looks like Field Commander Doug hasn't gotten through to the Canadian commander on the ground--a Globe and Mail news story today:
Canadian general prepares fresh offensive against Taliban

New strategy aims to ‘break the back' of the insurgents, commander says; but he warns that NATO losses could be heavy

Kandahar, Afghanistan — Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard, the country's top commander in Afghanistan, is poised to launch a new offensive ahead of this spring's fighting season that will see Canadian and American combat troops under his command push out from platoon houses around Kandahar city to “break the back” of the Taliban in the surrounding countryside.

Brig.-Gen. Ménard warned the renewed fight in Kandahar province would be bloody, with the death toll of NATO forces likely to spike as they seek to extend their reach before the situation improves.

He believes, however, that the offensive, coupled with parallel political efforts to reintegrate low-level Taliban fighters, will create lasting security in Kandahar's most populated areas, so that when the Canadian combat mission ends in 2011, Afghans will be able to live “normal lives.”..

Since the fall, hundreds of Canadian soldiers have sought to create a “ring of stability” around Kandahar city, leaving isolated forward operating bases in outlying districts to live in “platoon houses” situated in the suburbs.

“They're all in mud compounds living like Afghans, with Afghans,” Brig.-Gen. Ménard said...

“I believe that in 2010 we will be able to break the back of the insurgency in a big way. Not because we will go after them, but because we will be in a better position to have the population decide they've had enough,” he said.

When he transfers command next fall, he said he hoped his legacy “will be to have the large populated area of Kandahar province living normally.”

“I am sure we can achieve this,” he added.

One hopes the general is right. I wonder if, when he leaves, the task force will come under American command, what with our forces leaving the next year and all.

Meanwhile the Globe is achieving a delightfully distressing incoherence. Which way is up, boys and girls? And where are Field Commander Doug's US Marines?


Blogger Gulliver said...

Menard's brigade already includes three U.S. army battalions [more at this post]: the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 97th Military Police Battalion, which are both part of the Fort Bragg, Ky.-based 82nd Airborne Division

I'm sure this is just a typo, but it's actually the 2nd Bn of the 508th PIR. (Not that it matters that much, but 502nd PIR is part of the 101st Abn.)

3:32 p.m., January 29, 2010  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

Gulliver: Thanks, note made in post (text actually Mr Fisher's, an untypical mistake).


3:47 p.m., January 29, 2010  

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