Eyes on Helmand for Gauging NATO Gains

With the Taliban ramping up for its spring fighting season, the coming months will be a critical test of gains made by NATO and US troops across the southern portion of Afghanistan in the last 18 months, US defense officials have said. In Helmand province, which resides in NATO’s Regional Command-Southwest, the enemy doesn’t hold any key terrain, Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, the former top Marine in Afghanistan, told reporters Thursday in Washington, D.C. “He has lost across the board on the battlefield and he’s been pushed into the desert, up into the mountains, into areas away from the population,” said Mills. There is a question of how the enemy will fight back, explained Mills. He thinks the enemy will change tactics, having been unsuccessful in direct combat largely since the increase in coalition forces in the region. Helmand has been the center of the Taliban’s lucrative poppy trade. Mills is waiting to take over Marine Corps Combat Development Command. He’s been nominated for promotion to the rank of lieutenant general.