Helmand Province

Helmand Province

country = Afghanistan

name = Helmand
native_name = هلمند

map_caption = Map of Afghanistan with Helmand highlighted
capital = Lashkar Gah
capital_lat_d = 31.0
capital_long_d = 64.0
population_as_of =
population = 745,000
population_note = [http://www.statoids.com/uaf.html]
area = 58584
population_density =
timezone = UTC+4:30
free_type = Main language
free = Pashto

Helmand ( _ps. هلمند) is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the south-west of the country. Its capital is Lashkar Gah. The Helmand River flows through the mainly desert region, providing water for irrigation.

The population is 740,000 and the surface area is 58,584 square kilometres. The population is largely Pashtun, with Baloch Brahui and Tajik [http://www.nps.edu/Programs/CCS/Docs/PDF%20Maps/NewTribal/Helmand.pdf] minorities who are primarily resident in Lashkar Gah .

Helmand is the world's largest opium-producing region, responsible for 42% of the world's supply. [http://www.zeenews.com/znnew/articles.asp?aid=379280&sid=WOR] This is more than the whole of Myanmar, which is the second largest producing nation after Afghanistan.

The current governor is Gulab Mangal (since March 2008).

USAID programmes

Helmand was the center of a U.S. development program in the 1960s - it was even nicknamed "little America". The program laid out tree-lined streets in Lashkar Gah, built a network of irrigation canals and constructed a large hydroelectric dam. The program was abandoned when the communists seized power in 1978.

More recently the American USAID program has contributed to a counter-narcotics initiative called the Alternative Livelihoods Program (ALP) in the province. It pays communities to work to improve their environment and economic infrastructure as an alternative to Opium poppy farming. The project undertakes drainage and canal rehabilitation projects. In 2005 and 2006 there have been problems in getting promised finance to communities and this is a source of considerable tension between the farmers and the Coalition forces.

Current military situation

It was announced on January 27 2006 in the British Parliament that a NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would be replacing the US troops in the province as part of Operation Herrick. The British 16th Air Assault Brigade would be the core of the force in Helmand Province. British bases are located in the towns of Sangin, Lashkar Gah and Gerishk.

As of Summer 2006, Helmand was one of the districts involved in Operation Mountain Thrust, a combined NATO-Afghan mission targeted at Taliban fighters in the south of the country. In July 2006, this offensive mission essentially stalled in Helmand as NATO, primarily British, and Afghan troops were forced to take increasingly defensive positions under heavy insurgent pressure. In response, British troop levels in the province were increased, and new encampments were established in Sangin and Gerishk. Fighting has been particularly heavy in the towns of Sangin, Naway, Nawsad and Garmser. There are reports that the Taliban see Helmand province as a key testing area for their ability to take and hold Afghan territory from NATO and Afghan National Army troops [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/5189316.stm BBC NEWS | South Asia | Coalition 'retakes Taleban towns' ] ] . Commanders on the ground have described the situation as the most brutal conflict the British army has been involved in since the Korean war.

In Autumn 2006, British troops started to reach "cessation of hostilities" agreements with local Taliban forces around the district centres where they had been stationed earlier in the summer [ [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,176-2383232,00.html British troops in secret truce with the Taliban - Times Online ] ] . Under the terms of the agreement, both sets of forces will withdraw from the conflict zone. This agreement from the British forces implies that the strategy of holding key bases in the district, as requested by Hamid Karzai, is essentially untenable with the current levels of British troop deployment. The agreement is also a setback for Taliban fighters, who were desperate to consolidate their gains in the province, but are under heavy pressure from various NATO offensives.

News reports identified the insurgents involved in the fighting as a mix of Taliban fighters and warring tribal groups, primarily the Ishakzai and Alikozai, who are heavily involved in the province's lucrative opium trade [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/5179440.stm BBC NEWS | UK | Unraveling the Helmand impasse ] ] .

Fighting continued throughout the winter, with British and allied troops taking a more pro-active stance against the Taliban. Several operations were launched including the more recent Operation Silicone at the start of spring. On May 12, 2007, Mullah Dadullah, one of the Taliban's top commanders, along with 11 of his men were killed by NATO and Afghan forces in Helmand.

On May 8, 2007, between 21 and 40 civilians were killed by U.S. air strikes in Heratyan village, Sangin District. [ [http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20070517/news_lz7e17macken.html Mounting death toll angers Afghans | The San Diego Union-Tribune ] ]

Border with Pakistan

Helmand has a southern border with the Balochistan province of Pakistan. Many domestic and international observers have criticized Pakistan's efforts towards securing the border against Taliban insurgents, who are reported to use Balochistan as a training and staging area.Fact|date=February 2007 Some reports cite the political alliance of Pakistan's military government with Balochistan's pro-Taliban Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam party as the reason for Pakistan's reluctance to commit to greater security measures.Fact|date=February 2007


*Lashkar Gah


*Lashkargah (district)
*Musa Qala
*Nad Ali


*Asadullah Wafa
*Dad Mohammad Khan
*Sher Mohammed Akhundzada
*Engineer Mohammad Daoud

ee also

*2007 Helmand province incident
*Dashti Margo


External links

* [http://www.usaid.gov/locations/asia_near_east/afghanistan/weeklyreports/020105_report.html USAID information]
* [http://www.culturalprofiles.org.uk/Afghanistan/Units/87.html Provincial Government site]
* [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/02/AR2007020201474.html Op/Ed by Holly Barnes Higgins who spent a year in Helmand with USAID]
* [http://www.afgha.com/?q=node/1609 Wafa Replaces Daud as Helmand Governor]

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