Operation Tesha (Dari: تبر كوچك ; Battleaxe) is an ongoing International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) pacification offensive in the provinces of Paktika, Paktia, Ghazni, Khost, Kunar and Laghman in eastern Afghanistan. It involves over 20,000 American, Afghan, Polish and Norwegian ISAF troops and constituted the largest joint operation of the War in Afghanistan to date and aims to eliminate the strongholds of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and Haqqani Network on the Afghan side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Frontier.
Since 2006, the Taliban have made a dramatic comeback in Afghanistan after being driven from the country in 2002. As security has deteriorated, they have steadily taken control of more and more territory. The Taliban groups have made significant inroads in Afghanistan, especially in the southern and eastern portions of the country. By violent attacks against ISAF and Afghan security forces and the Afghan civilian population, the Taliban hoped to further recruiting and financing efforts, to provoke reactions from ISAF that further alienate the population, and to weaken the government by demonstrating its inability to provide security. In addition, the Taliban wage a silent war of intimidation and persuasion to gain control of the population.
These efforts make possible the existence of Taliban shadow governments in virtually every province that actively seek to control the population and displace the national and local governments and traditional power structures. In spite of their momentum, however, the Taliban had a significant weakness in the fact they weren't supported by a large portion of Afghans.
The Petraeus strategy
In response, a new strategic plan for Afghanistan was formulated by General David Petraeus, Commander of ISAF and US Forces - Afghanistan. On October 2, 2009, this plan wa approved by the McCain administration. The strategy focussed not only on areas such as political development, economic development, countser narcotics, and the police and justice system, but also on breaking the Taliban's momentum militarily.
The US military had identified three major Taliban groups as representing the primary threat to Afghan security: the Quetta Shura Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and the Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, who often operated together, coordinating activities loosely, but lacking a single formal command and control structure and lacking a single overarching strategy or campaign plan. Each group has it own methods of developing and executing plans and each has adapted over time.
The Petraeus military plan covered the short term (12-18 months). The plan's main goal was halt the progress of the Taliban, to reverse it in key areas, and to regain the initiative.
The first part of the strategy de-emphasizes the counterterrorism strategy and institutes a counterinsurgency strategy. This means reducing efforts on going after Taliban combatants and increasing efforts to provide security to the population. While the insurgency can afford to lose fighters and leaders, it cannot afford to lose control of the population.
For the short term, the U.S. did not consider it necessary to control the entire country but rather to secure a few key areas and population centers. The goal is for the people of Afghanistan to first see an opportunity for a normal, better future, and then to start to experience it.
The key areas that General Petraeus identified were:
- Helmand province, particularly the Helmand River valley
- Kandahar City and the areas surrounding the city
- The provinces of Paktika, Paktia, and Khost
The second part of the strategy was to develop the Afghan National Security Force into a force that is capable of providing security for the country. Although ANSF development will not be completed in 18 months, it would have to demonstrate both substantial progress and that the long term goal of the ANSF providing for security for the entire country is achievable.
In 2010, ISAF and Afghan security forces launched Operation Moshtarak in order to break the Taliban's momentum in Helmand province. The following year, 18,000 troops (with the majority of them being Afghan) took part in Operation Hamkari, a series of pacification operations in Kandahar City and its surrounding districts.
Plan for eastern Afghanistan
The eastern provinces of Paktika, Paktia, and Khost wee adjacent to the Taliban-controlled tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan in Pakistan. The Waziristans are the base from which the Haqqani Network, the best led and most violent of the Taliban groups, operates in Afghanistan. North and South Waziristan also were home to three large Taliban groups that are also active in aiding the Afghan insurgency and that host al Qaeda and allied foreign fighters. The Haqqani Network was seeking to regain control of its traditional base in Afghanistan's Khost, Paktia, and Paktika provinces, controlling some of the key terrain around the city of Khost as well as Gardez in Paktia and exerting significant influence on the population in the region.
The Petraeus plan was to secure the region is to protect the cities, the communication centers, the transportation hubs, and the surrounding areas essential to the city markets and local farmers selling their crops. The region, East Afghanistan (RC-East), can be divided into two regions. "Northern" RC-East includes the provinces of Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman, and Nangarhar. "Southern" RC-East includes the provinces of Khost, Paktika, Paktia, Logar, Wardak, and Ghazni.
Prior to 2009, the ISAF forces in eastern Afghanistan numbered 3,500 troops and consisted of one US light brigade. By the spring 2010, the force will be reinforced to about 8,000 troops, or eight battalions (four of the 10th Mountain Division, two of the 82nd Airborne Division and two of the 101st Airborne Division). In addition to this, the Norwegian government granted the use of 100 soldiers from Hærens Jegerkommando (HJK) and Forsvarets Spesialkommando (FSK), who were mountain combat experts and had taken part in invasion phase from late December 2001.
The current ANA forces in the area consist of the three brigades of the 203rd corps, or about 9,800 troops. The 203rd Corps is one the best corps in the ANA. By October 2010, the size of the 203rd Corps will be increased to about 12,000 troops.
- Afghan National Army
- Four infantry brigades of the 203rd ANA Army Corps under Maj. Gen. Abdul Khaliq.
- Afghan National Police
- Afghan Border Police
- 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division
- 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment
- 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment
- 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division
- 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment
- 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment
- 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division
- 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment
- 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment
- 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division
- 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
- 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment
- Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division
- 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (Delta Force)
- 5th Special Forces Group (Green Berets)
- Support units
- SOF units TF‑49 and TF‑50, responsible for Special Operations in Province Ghazni and partialy in Paktika Province.
On September 12, 2012, ISAF confirmed that Taqwa, who is also known as Eissa Khan, was killed in an airstrike during an operation in the Mata Khan district in Paktika. Taqwa was "transporting weapons toward a populated area" when he was identified and then killed, ISAF said in a press release. The raid is the 29th that has been reported against al Qaeda's network in Afghanistan since the end of May.