, KABUL, Jun 14 – The governor of Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province vowed Sunday to employ "guerrilla tactics" to beat insurgents in a province beset by Taliban-linked violence and illicit drug production.
To battle insurgents successfully, Afghan authorities backed by their Western military allies must shift their focus away from regular military operations, Gulab Mangal told a news conference in Kabul.
"Now we’ve adopted a new tactic of war against the terrorists," said Mangal. "As you might be aware, the terrorists are not fighting a regular war. Our troops too must adopt complex warfare, guerrilla tactics."
Under the new tactics, the governor said, troops would be deployed from the air into the heart of the insurgents’ strongholds, attacking their command and control structure and targeting the militants’ leadership.
Such an operation in Helmand’s Marja district in May saw about 60 Taliban-linked rebels killed and up 90 tonnes of drugs destroyed, he said.
"Like we did in Marja, their command and control location was destroyed, their drugs were destroyed and their leadership was destroyed. We’ll try to use such tactics in Helmand in future," he said.
Helmand generates the majority of the illicit drugs in war-torn Afghanistan, the profits of which are used to bankroll the insurgency.
It is also Afghanistan’s most dangerous region, with five districts under the control of militants, the governor said.
Mangal said he expected a "significant reduction" in opium production this year, but did not give exact figures.
Afghanistan produced about 8,000 tonnes of opium last year, the bulk of which was produced in Helmand, according to United Nations figures.
"Opium is one of the main reasons behind the war in Helmand… Terrorists and narcotics smugglers are working together like two brothers," said Mangal.
To battle the drugs trade, Mangal said, his government would encourage poppy farmers to pursue alternative livelihoods and grow other crops.
Unrest linked to an insurgency led by the Taliban, who were in government between 1996 and 2001, has surged in recent weeks and thousands of US military reinforcements are being deployed in the south to tackle the violence.
There are around 56,000 US troops in Afghanistan, making up the bulk of the nearly 90,000 international forces assisting in the battle against extremist insurgents.