Well that was quick. A day after the U.S. announced a massive military operation in Afghanistan, the LA Times reports an American soldier is believed to have been captured in Afghanistan. Missing since Tuesday, a U.S. “soldier is believed to have been captured by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan”.
Mullah Sangeen, a senior Taliban commander, claims the soldier “was captured this week as he left a base in Paktika province on patrol. If the reports are borne out and an American soldier was seized alive, it would be an unprecedented coup for the insurgents. They could exploit a capture for propaganda purposes or demand concessions such as a prisoner exchange.”
The Guardian adds the U.S. soldier is first to be captured since the invasion began in 2001, adding that American forces are “frantically hunting” for the missing soldier. “The soldier, whose unit is based in eastern Paktika province, was not involved in the ongoing operation in the south of the country.”
While in southern Afghanistan, the NY Times reports on Operation Khanjar where U.S. Marines try to retake an Afghan valley from the Taliban. “Almost 4,000 United States Marines, backed by helicopter gunships, pushed into the volatile Helmand River valley in southwestern Afghanistan on Thursday morning, reporting little resistance from Taliban fighters, whose control of poppy harvests and opium smuggling in the area provides major financing for the Afghan insurgency.” The Taliban is withdrawing rather than fighting.
Back in eastern Afghanistan, the LA Times reports Change may be at hand on the Afghanistan frontier with Pakistan. At Forward Operating Base Salerno, the Taliban fires rockets at the Ameircans and then slip away to Pakistan just 20 miles away. “American commanders, however, believe a greater concentration of U.S. and Afghan troops in the border region is beginning to change the equation.”
However, their “mandate to give chase to the insurgents, at least using Western ground troops, stops at the rugged, mountainous border.”
Four at Four continues with secret CIA jails an issue in Guantánamo detainee trial, Iraq has highest civilian death toll in 11 months, and global overfishing despite promises.