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

There is a U.K. Provincial Reconstruction team.

Geography

Pakistan’s Balochistan province to the south. Nimroz Province 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.

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

Economy

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. [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.

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

Helmand is unstable. The northern districts of Nawzad, Musa Qala, Sangin Qala, Baghran, Washeer and Kajaki were vulnerable to insurgent attacks targeting ISAF, ANA and ANP forces from 2006 onward. The attacks have resulted in a large number of casualties. ISAF and Afghanistan security forces lost control over these districts.32 Due to the lack of Coalition or Afghan forces, small militias function as reserve police in the northern part of the province. The militias are said to be implicated in drug crimes, frequent lootings, and killings.33 There is currently no program to disarm these groups. The section of the Ring Road in the province is frequently targeted by insurgent attacks and bandits.34 Criminality is prevalent.

Five out of thirteen districts of Helmand are under virtual control of insurgents. Three others have only minimal presence of government and Coalition Force.

The Garm Ser district in the south has seen a large number of insurgent attacks during the past two years. ISAF and the government also lost and fought to regain control of the Garm Ser district several times.

Fierce fighting between ISAF and insurgents is also common in the Greshk district. There have been many civilian casualties as a result of suicide bombings, but also ISAF airstrikes.

Musa Qala is another of the most volatile district in the province. The British handed over security of the district to tribal leaders in October 2006 – only to be overrun by the Taliban three months later.

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.

Lashkargah, the capital, has also seen suicide attacks. The enemy likewise seeks to destroy the Kajaki Dam to undercut confidence in the central government and ISAF.

In Sangin district, the Taliban use landmines, ambushes, and suicide attacks. Civilian casualty numbers are very high in this district.

References

  1. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson (April 24, 2008), "Restoring an Afghan Dam in a Taliban Stronghold", NPR