Afghan senior general dead, NATO supply lines to Afghanistan threatened, fighting continues
One of Afghanistan’s senior generals has died in a helicopter crash. The New York Times reports:
The senior commander who was killed, Gen. Fazel Ahmad Sayar, was head of the 207th Corps and one of four regional commanders in the Afghan Army, responsible for the western zone of the country.
He was on a mission to visit army bases and posts in the province of Farah when his Russian-made MI-17 helicopter ran into bad weather and hit a mountainside on Thursday morning, General Azimi said.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin Wednesday asked Afghanistan to stop using illegal copies of Russian weapons. “It would be proper if such weapons were delivered from Russia and not from third countries,” Borodavkin said. The Moscow Times reports that Russian sale of arms has risen to a post-Soviet peak of $8 billion in 2008. It has traditionally been popular to use cloned versions of Russian weapons throughout many of the world’s conflict zones.
US and ISAF-NATO supply lines from Pakistan into Afghanistan have seen a number of disruptions of late. Supply routes are vital for any sustained military operation to have reasonable chance of success. DAWN covers the story: “A key route for NATO supply trucks through southwest Pakistan into Afghanistan reopened Wednesday five days after tribesmen blocked it over the killing of a man in a drugs raid, police said. Hundreds of trucks and tankers have been stranded since Friday along the highway between Quetta and the border town of Chaman due to the tribesmen’s blockade in the rural town of Qila Abdullah. The men were protesting at the recent killing of a tribesman during a joint raid by Pakistani paramilitary forces, anti-narcotics police and intelligence agents.” On Tuesday, insurgents struck a NATO supply depot in Peshawar (Pakistan).
The Khyber Pass is the main route from which foreign military supplies enter Afghanistan. This route has seen a lot of disruptions of late due to continued Taliban attacks targeting convoys and supply depots. US-led forces have been seeking alternate routes in order to decrease their dependence on the Khyber Pass, a route that forces them to pass through regions with high insurgent opposition. There are rumours that international troops’ northern supply lines may also be at risk. A Russian newspaper has reported that a key US airbase in Kyrgyzstan (north east of Afghanistan) could be shut down in exchange for a large Russian investment. Russian resistance to US military bases in the region are a response to NATO expansion to the borders of Russian, to the US’s establishment of new missile defence stations in eastern Europe, and also an outcome of heightened tensions following the short war in Georgia.
On Thursday, the Taliban shot dead a man they accused of spying for the US. The execution took place in Pakistan’s North Waziristan agency, part of the FATA. From DAWN: “The 30-year-old was abducted from Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan, a month ago after a suspected US drone attack on a militant hideout in the area, they said. ‘He was gunned down before dawn and his body was dumped on a roadside near Miramshah,’ said an official who aked not to be named. A note placed near the body described him as a US spy.” The US has placed rewards for information on Taliban movements within Pakistan, which seems to be the source of some real anxiety and paranoia from groups of Taliban combatants who often pass through or temporarily camp in the region’s villages.
Two British marines die in an explosion in Helmland province. 9 have died since mid-December, for a total of 143 dead. A Canadian solider died on Wednesday during a raid on what’s described as a Taliban bomb-making factory.