By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 29, 2013 – Afghan forces will defeat Taliban fighters in the restive Sangin district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province by tomorrow in a battle that has gone on for four days, the commander of NATO-led forces in southwestern Afghanistan said today.
Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Walter L. Miller Jr., commander of the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command Southwest, told reporters at the Pentagon via satellite that coalition forces have been called upon to provide only aerial support and resupply and logistics help for the Afghan forces fighting the battle.
“They’re closing that fight rapidly. They’ve done quite well,” Miller said, adding that the Afghan commander in Sangin has “taken the fight to the enemy and [is] clearing up the center of Sangin right now.”
Miller said casualties among Afghan forces are lower than those coalition forces suffered in the region a year ago.
Miller emphasized the Afghan-led battle in Sangin illustrates how far the country’s army and police have come in their ability to fight on their own, especially in an area that had been a hotbed of Taliban activity.
“They’re taking it on themselves for the most part,” he said, but he acknowledged that Afghan forces will continue to need additional, outside support.
“We do believe that the enablers required for the future will be in the areas of [medical evacuation] capability, as well as continuing to work with their logistics personnel to learn how to move things out more rapidly,” the general said.
More than 20,000 Marines were sent into Helmand in 2010 to flush Taliban fighters out of the province, killing or driving out many in daily battles that were some of the deadliest of the 12-year Afghan war. While coalition forces have since drawn down, replaced by Afghan forces, some Taliban have drifted back.
“If we think the Taliban will be completely destroyed, that’s not feasible,” Miller said. “The key is to get the Afghan national security forces to the level where they can maintain security for the populace of Afghanistan.”
Some of the enemy fighters in Sangin are foreign, Miller said, but he declined to say what countries or regions they are coming from.
Miller, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, commands ISAF forces from 11 nations in Helmand and Nimroz provinces. The command’s primary focus is training and advising nearly 30,000 Afghan security forces as they prepare to take the lead for security in the region ahead of the end of the NATO mission in Afghanistan in 2014.