British Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to abandon a planned visit to a military base in Helmand, Afghanistan during his trip to that country because of fears that the Taliban might attempt to shoot rocket propelled grenades at his helicopter. It is always a bad sign when the imperial leader cannot safely visit the outskirts of the empire.
The incident underlined that the Anglo-American campaign in Helmand this winter did not in fact defeat the insurgents in the area. That assertion is supported by reporting from the field by Rajiv Chandrasekarn of the Washington Post, showing that the Taliban have come back strong in the past two weeks.
Given the ambiguous outcome in Marjah, which was supposed to be a demonstration project for a subsequent US campaign against the city of Qandahar, Gen. Stanley McChrystal appears to be putting off and softening the operation in the southwestern Pashtun city.
Although McChrystal maintains that he is in no hurry, in fact he is under enormous pressure to produce some game changers in Afghanistan. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on Thursday that he wanted to see substantial progress by the end of this year or he would have to rethink the counter-insurgency campaign.
Aljazeera English reports on the suicide bombing of a wedding on Thursday, which killed 40 and wounded 70. The attack seems to have been primarily targeting a group of 17 fighters who were being supported by the US in their struggle against the Taliban — i.e. they were ‘sons of Afghanistan’ on the model of the Awakening Councils in Sunni Arab Iraq.