Taliban will lose ground: Canada's top soldier

elle

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An improved Afghan army that has grown to more than 60,000 trained soldiers will help NATO forces gain ground on the Taliban this winter, says Canada's top soldier in Afghanistan.

Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson told reporters Friday that he expects the Taliban will retreat into the mountains this winter, and his troops will do everything they can to prevent them from doing so.

In recent years, the Taliban have retreated into remote areas, the mountains and Pakistan during the winter months.

"We have a distinct advantage in that we can continue to conduct operations throughout the cold winter months, while the insurgents typically have to limit the scope of their activities," Thompson said.

While recent operations have focused on disrupting Taliban activities, Thompson said his troops will now attempt to cut off the Taliban in their expected retreat and will build police substations to reinforce the ground they take.

"My intent, therefore, is to deny the insurgents the ability to rest, resupply and reconstitute their leadership in Kandahar province over the winter months," he said.

Five police substations have been built across Kandahar province, with an additional eight to be built over the next few months.

The stations will be manned by a combination of Afghan police and Western mentors, Thompson said, so that "the ground we control stays in that state."

These operations will be supported by the ever-improving Afghan National Army, he said, which has gained experience and is now taking on a greater role in planning military operations against the Taliban.

At present, the Afghan army has one full battalion prepared for combat in Kandahar.

"It's best suited to allow us to be even more aggressive than we have been in previous winters," Thompson said.

Thompson said his forces will also benefit from the purchase of six Chinook helicopters, which will help troops move faster and further on the retreating Taliban.

Maj. Dave Sullivan confirmed earlier this week that "a small number of Canadian Forces aircrew" had begun training on the long-awaited helicopters at the Kandahar Airfield base.

He said the helicopters were not expected to be ready for use in operations until early 2009.

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AWP

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If they will retreat to the mountains. There are some indications that the TB won't or won't fall back as much as in past years.

Southern Afghanistan is awesome in the winter. Up north you will freeze. Period. Down south it might go below freezing for hours upon hours...or it might rain for a month solid and turn the ground into a swamp that clings to anything it touches.

Traditionally the TB refit and resupply during the winter. We'll see what happens this year.
 
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