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Helmand Province

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Helmand Province, in southern Afghanistan, has the largest area but relatively small population. Its capital is Lashkar Gah.

Government and security

  • Governor: Tooryalai Wesa
  • Chief of police: Assadullah Sherzad

The 3rd Brigade of the Afghan National Army's 205th Brigade is at Camp Shabarak. ISAF Regional Command South contains the province. There is a U.K. Provincial Reconstruction team.

Geography

Pakistan’s Balochistan Province forms the southern border. Nimroz and Farah Provinces are on the west, Ghor and Daykundi Provinces are in the north, which are arid hills or mountains. Urzugan and Kandahar Province are on its east.

It has thirteen districts:

  • Baghran
  • Dishu
  • Garmsir
  • Gerishk
  • Kajaki
  • Khanashin
  • Lashkargah (capital); contains the Kajaki Dam
  • Nad Ali
  • Nawa-I-Barakzayi
  • Nawzad
  • Musa Qala
  • Sangin Qala
  • Washeer

In general, over two-thirds of the province is mountainous, but it was once the breadbasket of Afghanistan, and a prime opium poppy growing area.

Economy

If the province were an independent country, it would be the world's largest opium producer, with the rest of Afghanistan in second place. [1] There are clear linkages between the Taliban insurgency and the opium trade. According to the United Nations, the Taliban earn some $300 million annually from the opium trade in Afghanistan.

Helmand was once a major agricultural area. Only 28 percent of people in the province have access to safe drinking water and only twenty one percent of households have electricity in 2008. This is an improvement on 7 percent in 2007, but electrification depends on security for the repair of the Kajaki dam and power station. [2] Victor Company of 40 Commando Royal Marines have taken over security for the dam; in February 2009, they destroyed a Taliban staging base threatening it.[3]

Demographics

Although it is the largest province in Afghanistan, Helmand province is one of the most sparsely populated. The provincial population is roughly 1,000,000. The largest city, Lashkargah, is the capital of the province. Most of the population lives in rural areas. Pashtuns form the majority of the population. This is one of the provinces where Pashtuns may call themselves Kalaharis, and be part of the Taliban leadership.

There are smaller numbers of Balochis, Hazaras and Tajiks in the province. In the winter, roughly 100,000 Kuchi nomads migrate to the province.

Security

See also: Illegal drug trade
See also: Transnational spillover from insurgency

Helmand is unstable; the situation worsened in 2006. [4] The province is one of the experiments to see if tribal forces can supplement national and ISAF security; the British, especially, are promoting the use of a traditional community police, called arkabai.[5]

Britain, in particular, is exploring the use of traditional village defense forces in Helmand province. The Helmand police chief Gen Mohammad Hussein Andiwal, in southeastern Afghanistan, disapproves. "I am speaking for myself, not my government here - but as far as Afghanistan is concerned in three decades of war there is not any example of a militia having done anything for the benefit of Afghanistan," He said "The British have not contacted me on this issue, but I will always tell them to focus on the national police, not militias."

The Taliban established a shadow government and their own courts in the districts for almost ten months until thousands of British and U.S. forces recaptured the district with the ANA fighting in the front line. The district center is currently held by the Afghan government and ISAF, but insurgents still have presence in remote north and south of the district.[4]

The northern districts of Nawzad, Musa Qala, Sangin Qala, Baghran, Washeer and Kajaki were have been under effective insurgent control.

The section of the Ring Road in the province is frequently targeted by insurgent attacks and bandits. Criminality is prevalent. Control of Garm Ser, in the south, goes back and forth. Greshk is disputed and there are high numbers of civilian casualties.

A U.S. spokesman, in December 2008, mentioned Afghan security forces are taking control, but also mentioned four separate incidents in Nar Surkh district. [6]

The British handed over security of Musa Qala district to tribal leaders in October 2006 – only to be overrun by the Taliban three months later. It took a turn for the worst in 2007. [7]

Lashkargah, the capital, has also seen suicide attacks, as has Sangin. Sangin has a great problem with land mines. Suicide attacks usually indicate that non-Afghan fighters are part of the opposition.

Australian Special Forces killed an estimated 80 Taliban fighters in March 19, intended to distupt insurgents in northern Helmand Province.[8]

References

  1. Gretchen Peters (2009), Seeds of Terror: How Heroin is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda, St. Martin's, ISBN 0312379277, pp. 5-7
  2. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson (April 24, 2008), "Restoring an Afghan Dam in a Taliban Stronghold", NPR
  3. "Royal Marines destroy Taliban base", Guns Magazine, June, 2009
  4. 4.0 4.1 , Helmand Province, Regional Command South, Institute for the Study of War
  5. Tom Coghlan (December 26, 2007), Can tribes take on the Taleban?
  6. Afghan forces lead security efforts in Helmand province, United States Forces-Afghanistan, December 9, 2008, Release Number: 20080912-02
  7. Abubakar Siddique and Salih Muhammad Salih (October 10, 2007), "Afghanistan: Volatile Helmand Province Grapples With Insecurity", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
  8. Matt Brown and staff (April 25, 2009), "Aussie troops strike Taliban heartland, 80 dead", ABC News (Australia)