Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Development through combat

Quite a story; what might M. Dion think (even the Chinese seem to have been onside--and see especially the last several links)?

British commanders estimate that more than 200 Taliban were killed as they tried to prevent the convoy of 100 vehicles from getting the machinery to Kajaki hydroelectric dam where it will provide a significant increase in energy for up to two million Afghans.

The operation has been described as the biggest of its kind since the Second World War.

For the last five days the force has fought through the heart of Taliban territory to push through the 220 tonne turbine and other equipment that included a 90 tonne crane to lift it into place.

With a third turbine fixed at Kajaki it will mean that the extra electricity could double the irrigation output allowing farmers to plant two crops of wheat a year. With a dramatic rise in world wheat prices this could crucially mean that it becomes more profitable than producing opium which would deprive the Taliban of a major source of revenue.

Escorted by attack helicopters, armoured vehicles and men of the Parachute Regiment, the trucks trundled into Kajaki.

For the first 50 miles of its journey from the southern city of Kandahar the convoy was protected by American and Canadian troops [emphasis added]. But for the second 50 mile leg through Taliban strongholds more than 3,000 British troops were needed to fight off the insurgents.

Lt Col Dave Wilson, of 23 Engineer Regiment, said the operation was the most significant "route clearance" operation since the Second World War with the sappers freeing the route of mines and improvised bombs.

"It was a huge achievement," said Lt Col Wilson. "It was carried out through some of the most heavily mined areas of Afghanistan."

While medics had prepared for casualties, commanders said there was only one wounded among the British, American, Canadian and Australian troops who took part in the operation - a British soldier was crushed when a trailer collapsed on him.

"As a template for the rest of this country, it's shown that when we want to, at a time and a place of our choosing, we can overmatch the Taliban, no question," said Lt Col James Learmont of 7 Para Royal Horse Artillery.

In order to win over villagers in some areas, British forces held meetings with locals to negotiate the convoy's passage, and paid $25,000 in compensation to one community for disruption.

The Taliban had agreed to maintain a ceasefire in some areas but violated the deal, British commanders said.

The Chinese-made turbine will be installed as part of a project funded by the American development agency USAID to increase the output of the Kajaki power plant.

Chinese engineers already on the ground will install the equipment, which will boost the capacity of the plant, built in 1975, to three turbines with an output of 51 MegaWatts. Around 1.8 million Afghans are expected to benefit from the project.

"The opposition said it would never happen but it did," said Lt Col Rufus MacNeil. "If you want a mark in the sand for Afghan reconstruction, then this is it."

The scale and complexity of the operation has given those serving under the 75,000-strong, NATO-led force in Afghanistan an opportunity to boast about cooperation at a time when critics say the coalition lacks strength and coherence.

The turbine, split into seven sections each weighing between 22 and 30 tonnes, was flown on Russian transport aircraft into Kandahar, once a Taliban stronghold in the south and now the headquarters for Canadian operations.

It was then put on giant trucks and began its voyage last Wednesday, travelling at barely 3 km an hour.

Now, can you imagine these headlines in the Canadian media? Will you even see a story?
"Taliban routed in dam victory" [that's The Guardian, people--really, really try to imagine that in the Toronto Star]

Coalition troops brave minefields and Taliban attack to bring electricity to 1.8m Afghans

Mission impossible? Not for the Paras

Operation Eagle's Summit: the inside story of a daring foray into Taliban territory

Triumph for British forces in Boy's Own-style Kajaki mission

"Line in the Sand: British derring-do in Afghanistan could change millions of lives"
Compare with how our media reported a major defeat for the Taliban in June:
Arghandab: Did ANA troops "flee"?
They just can't resist reaching for the sensational
Looking, incessantly, for losing. That's the spirit. Why not just try to be, er, a tad bit objective (maybe the Brits above were OTT; maybe not)? But that would take a passing familiarity with things military rather than Canadian sensibilities--and politics.

The corker of a headline:
The British are the masters of deceit

From bamboozling the Nazis in the war to fooling the Taleban this week, nobody lies better than those famous stiff upper lips
But I guess pride in warfare in simply un-Canadian. Pity.

Update: Story gets merely an IN BRIEF paragraph in print Globe and Mail (long AP story online that mentions Canadians in first sentence; no mention of Canadians in print), nothing in National Post, nothing in Toronto Star. But there's a good AFP story on p. A10 of the Ottawa Citizen (here's a shorter version)--that's not available online. No wonder our public is ill-informed about Afstan.


Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Excellent post.

I see elsewhere the Aussies and Kiwis were involved as well. This is a great story, and I sincerely hope that the only reason it isn't a major story above the fold in every daily across the country is a timezone thing, and we'll see proper coverage tomorrow.

Spectacular effort by all concerned. The restoration of electricity to 1.8 milion of the poorest people on earth, and at least 200 Taliban killed in the bargain.

Damn good.

8:52 p.m., September 02, 2008  
Blogger Dave in Pa. said...

This was a remarkable operation and achievement for the British Army and the Allied forces of other NATO members involved. High Fives to all!

Maybe the most important lesson of this operation is that the dichotomy of choosing between combat ops versus reconstruction ops is a complete fallacy. It's basic counter-insurgency doctrine, it's plain common sense, that one cannot reconstruct an unpacified country.

This great reconstruction project, with all the enormous good that will come from it for so many Afghans in the future, would have been impossible without NATO force of arms. (Not without effort, I'll hold my tongue now and not delve into Canadian politics. I'll leave that to Fred or some other plain-speaking person of common sense. :-)

11:45 p.m., September 02, 2008  
Blogger George said...

It doesn't matter that the driving imperative of this operation was to restore power and irrigation to the Afghans. The military provided the means for the success and thus, the whole enterprise must be hidden.

I do not understand the timidity and cowardly attitude of the Canadian media. Their anti-military stance gives the lie to any pretensions of impartiality, truth, honesty or honour.

They should be ashamed of themselves but, of course, those who are cloaked in dishonour have already surrendered any possibility of shame.

My most sincere gratitude to the officers and men of countries involved. Well done.

12:36 a.m., September 03, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

If a bunch of Native protesters were blocking the building of a dam on what they claimed was Native land, would Canadian troops kill them as well to get what they wanted? Maybe Canadian troops wants the dam really badly for propaganda reasons back home, but Afghan people could care less?

3:02 a.m., September 03, 2008  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Reading comprehension is obviously not Richard's strong suit.

With a third turbine fixed at Kajaki it will mean that the extra electricity could double the irrigation output allowing farmers to plant two crops of wheat a year. With a dramatic rise in world wheat prices this could crucially mean that it becomes more profitable than producing opium which would deprive the Taliban of a major source of revenue.


Around 1.8 million Afghans are expected to benefit from the project.

The average Afghan is on board with such efforts. The ones trying to disrupt reconstruction are a relatively small minority who care far less about ordinary Afghans than they do about their own political power agenda.

Get your head out of your ass, Richard.

10:11 a.m., September 03, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

more info & some pictures

nine IED's cleared form the route


3:26 p.m., September 03, 2008  
Blogger vmijpp said...

GREAT POST AND LINKS. Well done to all!

I'll link tonight at Op-For.com.

3:39 p.m., September 03, 2008  
Blogger Terry Glavin said...

Yesterday, my hope was "we'll see proper coverage tomorrow."

In vain.

Still, what matters most is this victory for the Afghan people, not whether Canadians are aware of it.

As I always like to say to my students (when I'm blathering on): No matter how astonishing a story might be, the reasons why the story gets forgotten, or remains untold, is, as often as not, every bit as astonishing.

5:09 p.m., September 03, 2008  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

The post is noticed in a comment (first one) at the online site of the German newsmagazine "Focus":

"bei den Kanadiern läuft es (medial) auch nicht besser:

Rough translation: "It's not going any better with the Canadian media" (in terms of coverage of the story).


7:20 p.m., September 03, 2008  
Blogger Dave in Pa. said...

There's a really nice Slideshow of images about the Kajaki Dam Convoy Operation in the Sunday London Times.

At the above hyperlinked Times page, the Slideshow link is on the right hand side of the page, about 1/3 of the way down, entitled "The Kajaki Dam".

(The subheading is "The British army operation to bring more electricity to Afghanistan", as though the Yank and Canucks were just along for the ride, and not providing all the combat escort -killing many Taliban along the way - for the convoy for half the journey, plus Canada's also having provided several of the very heavy transport vehicles. Ahem...and they say we Yanks like to hog the limelight! :-)

11:48 a.m., September 07, 2008  

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