The AfPak border areas of Kunar and Nuristan Provinces continue to remain significant challenges to the ISAF effort in Afghanistan providing both safehavens for Taliban training areas and gateways into Pakistan's tribal areas for resupply, shelter, and lifeline support to al Qaeda. SWJ contributors Jim Gant and Nathan Springer have written extensively on their experiences in the region. Additionally, this area was documented in the film Restrepo and the devastating Battle of Wanat.
Over the past several weeks, we provided coalition updates as TF No Slack and the Bastogne Brigade led Operation Strong Eagle III as the spring fighting season begins. ABC News provided extensive coverage of these deliberate raids to disrupt Taliban and al Qaeda influence in the region killing over 100 fighters at a cost of six U.S. soldiers. During Operation Strong Eagle III, TF No Slack Soldiers return fire during a firefight with Taliban forces in Barawala Kalay Valley in Kunar province, Afghanistan, March 31.
After the initial operation ended, the Taliban quickly responded with a dual counter-attack: 1. Select assassinations of pro-government tribal leaders. 2. Psychological Warfare Operations to influence morale and attempt to show resilience and control of the terrain.
First, Bill Rogio of The Long War Journal reports that a suicide bomber kills pro-government tribal leader, 9 Afghans in Kunar.
"The suicide bomber attacked Haji Malik Zarin as he left a meeting of tribal elders in the village of Chaji in Kunar's Asmar district. Among the nine additional victims of the attack were Zarin's son, his grandson, and several other tribal elders.
"The suicide attacker approached them, hugged Malik Zarin and then detonated the explosives strapped to his body," the district police chief told AFP."
Second, Taliban leaders conduct interviews with Al Jazeera in abandoned American patrol bases to show resilience in spite of the coalition attacks.
Whether the interview should be taken at face value remains undetermined. What is known is that the spring fighting season is heating up. ISAF soldiers are in tough fights, and the outcome of these valleys will certainly impact decisions in Kabul and Washington DC.