PANJWAII DISTRICT, Afghanistan — June got underway Monday with a bang — two of them, actually — for Canadian soldiers deep in the Taliban badlands of southern Afghanistan’s Panjwaii district, more evidence of a seasonal escalation in potentially lethal insurgent activity.
The new month followed one in which Canadian soldiers took only a few minor casualties, including one who was shot clear through the arm but luckily suffered little damage. Another soldier’s eardrums burst as the result of an explosion.
“So far we’ve been quite lucky,” said Maj. Steve Jourdain, commander of a small patrol base, rapping his knuckles on the wooden table in front of him.
“There is a good star shining upon this place.” Everyone, of course, is hoping the streak of relative good fortune continues. The odds, however, appear to be diminishing.
The end of the poppy harvest means more idle hands, more human fodder for Taliban recruiters to press into battle against Canadian and other international forces fighting to bring stability to the violence-racked country.
“There really is a fighting season,” Jourdain said at the small base about 35 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city. “What I would expect is maybe more direct-fire engagements, more attempts to contact the troops on the ground.”
An increase in insurgent activity has been apparent in recent days to those on the base, home to more than 150 infantrymen, along with combat engineers, an artillery troop and members of the Afghan National Army.