When reading of the oepration, the names of the various towns, Sangin, Garmsir, all rung a bell. Almost immediatley I knew why. A few years ago I wrote an article about the emerging Afghan National Army, which talked about a NATO-ANA offensive into Helmand.
"Operation Achilles involved 4,500 NATO troops supported by Dutch F-16’s and Apaches and one kandak of the 209th Corps out of Mazer e Shariff. ISAF and ANA troops launched a three pronged attack. 1st Battalion of the 508th Parachute regiment hit Taliban positions around Ghorak, while to the east a battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment in conjunction with a full kandak attacked Taliban bases in Maiwand. Meanwhile, the 45th commando of the British Royal Marines supported by ANA artillery hit the Taliban at Garmshir (over 50 miles down river), described as the ‘gateway’ of the upper Helmand River Valley, cutting off the Taliban to the north. In a very encouraging sign for the ANA on 23 March, ANA troops attacked and defeated a large Taliban concentration in Gereshk, about 25 miles down river from Sangin Center killing over 50. The battle was fought without the assistance of ISAF troops...."
While the ANA is coming along, there seems to be no solution to the problem of Helmand, as evidenced by the fact that we are once again fighting for it. Helmand is the home of the Taliban, and also the home of Afghanistan's opium industry.
It's not like we messed around in 2007. The assualt force included a battalion of Royal Marines, a battalion of the 82nd Airborne, and a battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment. Needless to say, the Taliban took heavy casualties and was expelled from the towns.
Yet here we are again.