First US soldier captured in E. Afghanistan as US Marines launch big anti-Taliban in the south

The US military spokesperson provided no details about the missing US soldier, the first abduction in America’s eight-year Afghan war, except to say that he went missing Tuesday, June 30, and every effort was being made to recover him. debkafile‘s military sources report that big US air bases are located between Herat in the east and the Iranian border.
The news of the capture broke after 4,000 US marines and 650 Afghan troops launched Operation Strike of the Sword against the Taliban heartland in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan in the small hours of Thursday, July 2, Forty-eight hours earlier, 130,000 US troops pulled out of Iraq’s cities, a concatenation of events which underscored the Obama administration’s military emphasis on Afghanistan and away from Iraq.
The US-Afghan force, backed by armor and helicopters, faced little resistance in the first stage of its advance on the important Taliban stronghold, which is located in the world’s largest opium poppy growing area. debkafile‘s military sources report that the Taliban, forewarned of the coming offensive, used the tactics it employs against the Pakistani army, which is to avoid pitched battles with large US or Pakistan forces. They prefer to hit and run where least expected and incur minimal casualties. This tactic has denied the Pakistani army, albeit aided by US spy drones, victory in the second month of its campaign to root the Taliban out of the northern Swat Valley. It will make the coming Pakistani offensives with US military support against two more fronts, the Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud’s stronghold in South Waziristan and Pakistani Kashmir, even more complicated.
Pakistan sent more troops to the Afghani border to prevent Taliban fighters fleeing ahead of American-Afghan drive.
A statement on the Helmand operation by Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson stressed the difference between the Pakistan and Afghan warfronts:
“Where we go we will stay, and where we stay, we will hold, build and work toward transition of all security responsibilities to Afghan forces.”
The American force, in other words, has not embarked on an in-and-out operation before moving on to other fronts, but intends to stay put until the province is purged of insurgents and rehabilitated before handing it over to the central Afghan government in Kabul.
debkafile‘s sources point to only one of difficulties facing the plan handover: Afghanistan is short of troops for taking and holding the province, and Afghan security forces have a propensity for squabbling amongst themselves over territory and influence. Three days ago, a clash between rival Afghan security forces in the town of Kandahar left eight men dead including the local police chief.

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