Early this month, thousands of US Marines launched what is being called the largest single ground operation in Afghanistan since the Soviet occupation of the mid-1980’s in the Helmand River Valley. The southern region is teeming with Taliban and suspicious villagers.
The US has promised to occupy the region over the long-term to prevent the Taliban from returning, though by and large the residents welcomed the Taliban when they chased out the crooked Afghan national police. So far the operation’s most noteworthy effect was destroying enormous numbers of poppy seeds grown by local farmers. Pakistan is concerned that it might become their problem too, however.
Pakistani officials are reportedly expressing concern to US envoy Richard Holbrooke that the offensive might spill across the border, into the Pakistani province of Balochistan, which already has a growing secessionist movement. Assuming the US offensive drives the Taliban out of the area, they’re either going into Herat or south into Balochistan.
But the US has dismissed those concerns, insisting that the offensive in Helmand was “necessary.” Admiral Mullen told the Senate he was “comfortable” that the military had planned sufficiently for the potential unrest the latest offensive would cause Pakistan.
Nearly eight years after the US invasion of Afghanistan, many of the forces loyal to the former Taliban government continue to sew unrest in neighboring Pakistan, as well as in Afghanistan itself.