America's aggressive tactics were a major achievement

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Seven months ago 500lb bombs were tearing into Taliban positions outside Sangin district centre in Helmand province as the US Marines launched an aggressive and costly campaign against Taliban insurgents. The infusion of troops, including US Marines, was part of President Obama's "surge" and, despite widespread suspicion of Nato's spin, it genuinely seems that their arrival had an impact, especially in Helmand and neighbouring Kandahar, although neither province is yet safe, nor going to be in the immediate future.

The Taliban matched Obama's surge with their own escalation. But the gun battles and roadside blasts that once took place in Sangin's heart have migrated to its fringes and it's hard to see that as anything but a vindication of the Marines' aggressive tactics. That's not because the fighting is over, but it is happening away from the population hub deemed crucial in counter-insurgency.

To some that's an achievement. One elder said: "If the US Marines leave Sangin, then it will be like before, when the British were here and the Taliban will capture most of the district. I don't think any [other] foreign troops could bring the same security."