Afghan national security forces and International Security Assistance Forces have reported intense fighting in the Marjah area of Helmand province; over the last few days.
Marjah is known to be an insurgent stronghold, and recent events suggest there is an ongoing and concerted effort to build up the number of militants in the region. These militants include foreign fighters particularly from Balochistan, Pakistan. It is expected that this build up will result in a rise in violence.
Violence in this region is often associated with the illegal narcotics industry.
Across Afghanistan the narcotics industry has a negative influence on all aspects of society and hinders ISAF’s work in providing a secure environment for all Afghans.
This is particularly true in the Marjah area where there is a clear link between the narcotics trade, corruption and the financing of the insurgency. Funds gathered from the narcotics trade pay for the weapons, explosives and suicide bombers that insurgents use to kill innocent civilians, ANSF, ISAF and coalition forces.
Recent ISAF operations against the insurgents in the Marjah area have been successful, which may have provoked this increase in militant activity. Afghan security forces, supported by ISAF, have recently seized a significant quantity of narcotics in the Marjah region. Importantly, the influx of foreign insurgents and the end of the poppy harvest always contributes to an annual increase in the number of incidents in this region.
ANSF and ISAF troops operate throughout the year and are fully prepared for any rise in seasonal violence, especially given the increase in US forces moving into the area. In order to prevent civilian casualties, it is vital that innocent civilians separate themselves from the militant population. In doing so they will not be mistaken for insurgents or caught up amongst insurgents whose cowardly tactics see them hiding in the civilian population, thereby causing the loss of innocent lives.