12 Mar. 2008

Press Conference

Opening remarks by Brig. General Carlos Branco

On 10 Mar, ISAF Forces conducting security operations in southern HELMAND were engaged by a group of Insurgents. During the ensuing fight, two women and two children, part of a group of civilians who were in the vicinity of the action, were killed. We deeply regret the loss of innocent life and injuries by civilians, and we are saddened that casualties were caused as a result of a deliberate attack against ISAF forces instigated by insurgents. Our troops go to great lengths to minimize the risk to the civilian population, but maintain the right of self defense which obviously includes returning fire against insurgent firing positions.

On the tragic issue of civilian casualties, you will note that ISAF will inform you of such unfortunate events, events which are thoroughly investigated. This is not the case for the insurgents, whose propaganda attempts to seize every opportunity to accuse NATO troops of killing civilians, no matter what the circumstances, to create the perception that ANSF/ISAF are responsible for all civilian casualties. We emphasise that ANSF/ISAF care for human life and human values, and that there is no moral equivalent between ANSF/ISAF forces and the Insurgents, who have been seen to deliberately use the civilian population as human shields, employ IED attacks that kill civilians and often operate amongst them.

Regional Command North continued supporting the efforts of GIRoA in addressing the humanitarian situation afflicting a large part of the population, by assisting authorities, International Organizations and NGOs with aid deliveries throughout its Area of Operations. In Regional Command West the military activity was focused on security operations in Farah and Golestan. 

Regional Command South continued operations in Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan, maintaining pressure on the insurgents. Most of these operations reached their stabilization phase, and as a consequence, insurgent activity levels have reduced.

Regional Command East continued a high operational pace, maintaining constant pressure on the insurgents. Two large scale operations were completed during this week: operation MONGOL and Operation SADA MIAM in Kapisa Province.  The goal of Operation MONGOL, a combined operation with ANSF, was to disrupt insurgent and counter-insurgency networks in the Ghazni province. On the other hand, operation SADA MIAMI was a cordon and search operation to further destroy insurgent networks and prevent them from negatively influencing the local citizens. In this Regional Command we are seeing increasing signs of the population actively resisting the insurgents: population evicting an urgent leader and denied him access to the district; threatening the insurgents after receiving humanitarian aid; and coming to the aide of an ANP checkpoint under attack and assisted defending the site.

In Regional Command Capital security continues to improve. Several operations were punctuated by several successful weapons cache finds and numerous unexploded ordnance recoveries.  It has continued to focus on assistance and medical engagements where more than 1,100 civilians have been treated this week. Also continued engagements with the populace through government outreach. A significant boost for GIRoA and security in the UZBIN Valley was achieved when a shura of 54 maliks from Surobi district agreed to support ANSF and ISAF activity in the area.