By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Nov. 30, 2007 - Counterinsurgency operations under way in northern Afghanistan are showing success against increased Taliban activity in the region, U.S. and Afghan military leaders there told Pentagon reporters today. As Operation Shaheen Sahara cracks down on Taliban operatives, it's also demonstrating that Afghan national security forces in the region have the capabilities and mettle to stand up to them, U.S. Army Col. Edward B. Daly, commander of 209th Afghan Regional Security Integration Command North, said via teleconference from Camp Eggers in Kabul. Daly also spoke to online journalists and "bloggers" in a teleconference today.
Afghan Maj. Gen. Murad Ali, commander of the Afghan National Army's 209th Corps, joined Daly during the briefing to Pentagon reporters.
Daly, who is charged with developing Afghan forces in the region, praised the performance of Afghan security forces during the operation. Since its start in October in the Mazar-e Sharif area, Shaheen Sahara has resulted in 25 Taliban members killed and 25 wounded and the capture of four high-value targets, he said.
The area had been relatively quiet, but has seen an increase in Taliban activity, Daly said. Afghans in the region report that most of the people carrying out this violence -- mostly attacks along the ring road and robberies in local areas -- are coming from outside the area. Daly said it's not clear where the Taliban fighters are coming from.
When the local people called on their government for help, the Afghans stepped up to the plate, Daly said. He reported solid performance by 600 Afghan National Army troops and 250 Afghan National Police members who are leading the fight. They are supported by 500 NATO International Security Assistance Force troops and 50 embedded trainers.
"The Afghans were in the lead, and I'm not just talking about the army," Daly said. "This was an operation with the army and the police."
Daly said he was impressed watching how these forces coordinated their efforts. In higher-threat areas, the army troops went in first, he said. In lower-threat areas, the army provided perimeter security and the police took the lead.
"In every event, the police and the army worked together," he said, reporting particularly strong performance at the company and battalion and small-unit levels.
Despite some capability gaps, particularly in terms of equipment within the police force, Afghans are proving their commitment to the country's democratically elected government and its constitution, he said.
"War is a performance business, and the Afghans are performing very well," Daly said. "They are in the front, and they are in the fight, and they are fearless in battle. They are a people worth fighting and dying for."