U.S. Afghan forces tout gains in Taliban birthplace 

In the birthplace of the Taliban, US military officials are clinging to gains and keeping fingers crossed that successful campaigns in Zhari district against the insurgency will hold during the Spring offensive.

U.S. Army Col. Arthur Kandarian, told reporters via satellite from Afghanistan at the Pentagon that positive changes are a testament to combined efforts of both Afghan and U.S. forces since launching the campaign against the insurgency last September.

“What we have seen here is now we have a district government, a district governor and a district development assembly…shura,” he said. “And that did not exist less than five months ago.”

Col. Kandarian, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Combined Task Force Strike, sat along side Afghan National Army Commander Ghalum Murtaza Sarwari, who commands the 3rd Brigade 205th Corps.

The Washington Examiner questioned Col. Kandarian and Murtaza regarding concerns that enemy fighters are not being detained and some members of the Afghan Army have been caught abusing their power and not cooperating with U.S. forces. The Examiner reported Tuesday that U.S. troops are forced to release enemy combatants, even if evidence proved they were attempting to kill them.

Kandarian said the district now has national prosecutors as well as an investigator, who “work hand in hand with the Afghan national police” to successfully prosecute criminals.

He said “we’re seeing an increase in arrests and those that are detained by either Afghan National Police or Afghan Army.”

Murtaza admitted that his brigade is new “only eight months old” and that his men are working, training and learning U.S. troops they fighting alongside.

“We are gaining experience from these partners,” he said, insisting that the Taliban will never be allowed to return.

Only time will tell if the gains will hold through the spring when insurgent fighters are expected to regain lost territory,  mount suicide attacks and recruite fighters for battle.

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Sara A. Carter

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