Afghan raid on insurgents a 'great success': commander

A raid on Taliban insurgents early Monday in two volatile districts in Afghanistan is being hailed as a success by the Canadian military, but a commander warns that such gains hinge on Afghan involvement.

Araid on Taliban insurgents early Monday in two volatiledistricts in Afghanistan is being hailedas a success by the Canadian military, but a commander warns that such gains hinge on Afghan involvement.

Forty-one militants at a suspected Taliban strong point about 25 kilometres southwest of Kandahar were killed in ground and air strikes by Canadian, Afghan and British Gurkha forces, the military said.

A sizable weapons cache, containing mortar, grenades, bullets and motorcycles for transport, was also seized. No civilian or military casualties were reported by the coalition forces.

The so-called Operation Sharp Sword was a "great success," said Maj. Richard Moffat, deputy commanding officer of the Canadian battle group. But headded, "Measuring success with casualties is no good."

The key to holding ground against encroaching insurgents, he said, is building strong points,heavily fortified bases,to be manned by Afghan forces and police.

"We must remain in the population, and that way we can drive a wedge between the insurgents and the local population," said Moffat. "Where we have in place strong points we can see that happening right now."

He said thatfor the past two years, Canadian forces have fought insurgents in the strategic Zhari and Panjwaii districts, but the Taliban quickly returned every time troops left.

In the end, Afghan National Police will be responsible for maintaining security, he said.

But there are fears that insurgents could adopt tactics similar to the foreign military forces.

The military says more Taliban are remaining on the battlefield, even though the traditional fighting season has ended.

Need to double troops

Retired Maj.-Gen. Louis MacKenziesays the success of the mission in Afghanistan depends on increasing the number of troops.

"Our folks over there are doing an outstanding job and have really earned the respect of the world, but yet at the same time there are not enough troops to secure the successes that they're having," he told CBCNewsworld from Ottawa.

MacKenziesaidmissions such as Operation Sharp Sword, which focus on creating fortified military bases,have a "great strategy. The unfortunate thing is they don't have enough troops to do it properly.

"Not just a few outposts need to be established, but dozens of them. That's not possible because the troops aren't there," he said, adding that the force in the problematicsouthern provinces, where Canadian troops are stationed, needs to be doubled to 10,000 troops.

MacKenzie said that since it appears unlikely other NATO countries would be able to commit that quantity of troops, the Canadian mission should focus on increasing the number of trainers to speed transferring control of the region from Canadian to Afghan forces.

With files from the Canadian Press