Operation Dragon Strike

11 Apr

Operation Dragon Strike was a NATO counter-insurgent mission in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, against Taliban forces, which started on September 15, 2010.

The aim of the operation was to reclaim the strategic southern province of Kandahar, which was the birthplace of the Taliban movement. The area where the operation took place has been dubbed “The Heart of Darkness” by Coalition troops.[5]

The basic concept of the coalition operation, code-named Dragon Strike, was a series of sequential, mutually reinforcing attacks across the entire district to seize control of key nodes and movement corridors in the enemy system, and destroy enemy strongholds and IED and weapons facilitation networks. By advancing simultaneously across the district, ISAF and ANSF forced the Taliban to simultaneously defend multiple positions.192 Most importantly, ISAF for the first time moved into Zhari with the intention and resources to hold key terrain and to work with the local population to prevent insurgent re-infiltration.

The first in a series of decisive attacks across the entire district began in the early morning hours of September 15, 2010.194 But in the months preceding Dragon Strike, Afghan and coalition special forces had conducted shaping operations in Zhari. Many of these were kill or capture operations against insurgent leadership in Zhari, which successfully removed numerous Taliban commanders, IEDcell leaders, and facilitators.195 Successful targeted missions continued while ISAF battle-space owners advanced through the district. In mid-October 2010, ISAF killed both of the Taliban’s field commanders for Zhari, Kaka Abdul Khaliq and his deputy Kako.[6]

The main force leading the operation were units from the 101st Airborne Division. Some of the heaviest of the fighting during the operation had been in the Zhari District, which is on the main highway to Kandahar and a major insurgent supply route into the city, the Arghandab District and the Panjwaye District.[7]

By the end of December 2010, the operation’s main objectives had been accomplished. The majority of Taliban forces in Kandahar had withdrawn from the province,[8] and much of their leadership was said to have been fractured. [9]

The operation has also drawn large criticism from the local civilian population because of claims of heavy-handed tactics by the U.S. military. During October, U.S. troops destroyed hundreds of Afghan civilian homes, farm houses, walls, trees and plowed through fields and buildings using explosives, bulldozers, aerial bombardment and rocketry in Zhari, Punjwayi and Arghandab districts. Photographs revealed one village, Tarok Kolache, to have been totally destroyed by aerial bombing, while several other villages including Khosrow Sofla, Khosrow Ulya, and Lower Babur were reported destroyed by journalists working in the area. The governor of Arghandab District reported additional villages to have been destroyed.[10] Lt. Col. David Flynn told reporters that villagers knew the locations of IEDs, and were given the option of removing them to prevent their villages from being destroyed.[11] Military officials later stated that most of the farms, orchards and buildings destroyed had been booby-trapped by the Taliban. Also, they argued that the destruction was positive in that it would force Afghan residents to go to their local government center for compensation, seeing this as a way to connect the civilian population to the Afghan government.[12]

In late December, the civilians, displaced by the fighting, had started to go back to their homes only to find them destroyed.[13] The damages caused by Coalition troops to civilian property were estimated to be more than 100 million dollars by two separate bodies within the Afghan government.[14] Of that sum, Coalition forces agreed to pay approximately 5 million.[15]


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