Reuters top ten news stories delivered to your inbox each day.
You are here:
Business & Finance
The Great Debate
Do More With Reuters
Make Reuters My Homepage
Support (Customer Zone)
About Thomson Reuters
British battle for Afghan trust in restive south
Fri Jul 24, 2009 10:57am EDT
Email | Print |
| Reprints | Single Page
By Jonathon Burch
BABAJI, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Bearded elders sitting on a concrete floor in Afghanistan's violent south listened politely as officials told them of plans to set up a polling station in their village for August's presidential vote.
That was all well and good, but the elders who gathered in a British compound this week were more concerned about being compensated for damage to their crops and fields during heavy fighting this month as British soldiers battled the Taliban.
The British are happy to oblige and are paying off genuine claims as a way of winning over a still wary population.
"It's a good sign they are coming here asking us to help them to fix their irrigation ditch or pay for their damaged crops," said Major Paddy Gimm, commanding officer of A company, 2 Mercian Regiment that was part of the push into Babaji in Helmand.
"It shows they are starting to trust us."
Until a couple weeks ago Babaji, a patchwork of irrigated farms and mud-brick compounds in southern Helmand, Afghanistan's most violent province, was a Taliban stronghold that had seen relatively few foreign troops.
Then British forces mounted their largest operation of the war, "Panther's Claw," in parallel with a big U.S. advance further south, to clear Babaji and its surrounds of insurgents.
Hundreds of British soldiers pushed from north to south into Babaji, facing stiff resistance the further they advanced.
Gimm's soldiers had to advance south through residents' compounds because the Taliban had set up their defenses in the tree lines alongside the villages. The soldiers found roadside bombs planted along the way and often came under small-arms fire.
Gimm described the fighting as heavy. On the first two days of their operation, the soldiers weren't able to advance more than 300 meters a day.
"One of the enemy's tactics was to distract us with small arms fire. Then an IED (improvised explosive device) team would lay mines which we would then have to walk into," said Gimm.
In one day, seven soldiers were wounded by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. On another day, the soldiers had to enter a compound which had been booby trapped with an IED. One of Gimm's soldiers stepped on the bomb and was killed instantly.
July has been the deadliest month for foreign forces in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001. Nineteen British soldiers have been killed already this month.
Two weeks on and there is an eerie silence surrounding Babaji. Most of the people fled the area ahead of the fighting and have only now begun to return. Gimm said 45-50 percent of the population were in their homes, although some families further south had left, fearing more fighting. Continued...
View article on single page
South African police will crack down on rioters: Zuma
Also on Reuters
Microsoft raises specter of doubt on tech recovery
Blog: Palin leaves office with dip in popularity ratings
"New Moon" rises at Comic-Con
More International News
Afghan president vows to regulate foreign troops
U.S. to transfer $200 million to Palestinians
Iran cleric warns over moves to harm Khamenei
Japan opposition hits back as LDP takes off gloves
Defense delivers closing argument in Suu Kyi trial
More International News...
A selection of our best photos from the past 24 hours. Slideshow
Most Popular on Reuters
Obama stirs racial passions in Harvard case | Video
Naked girls plow fields for rain
Banks kick commercial real estate loans down road
Obama stokes racial passions, police anger | Video
Microsoft raises specter of doubt on tech recovery
Chinese experts grow live mice from skin cells
Mayors, rabbis arrested in NJ corruption probe | Video
Wal-Mart woos laptop shoppers
Bill Gates to India: Go high end on R&D
For finance pros, Asia expat life losing perks
Most Popular Articles RSS Feed
China nominee plays up engagement
Obama: Police acted "stupidly"
NJ mayors, rabbis ensnared in probe
Karadzic calls massacre a myth
Book deals for Jackson estate
Czech mates bare nearly all
S.Korean factory riots
China ends student quarantine
Meet Canada's first space tourist
Fires rage through hot Europe
Most Popular Videos RSS Feed
Help and Contact Us |
Advertise With Us |
Site Index |
Thomson Reuters Corporate:
Professional Products |
Professional Products Support |
About Thomson Reuters |
Latin America |
United Kingdom |
Thomson Reuters is the world's largest international multimedia news agency, providing investing news, world news, business news, technology news, headline news, small business news, news alerts, personal finance, stock market, and mutual funds information available on Reuters.com, video, mobile, and interactive television platforms. Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.
NYSE and AMEX quotes delayed by at least 20 minutes. Nasdaq delayed by at least 15 minutes. For a complete list of exchanges and delays, please click here.