The seasonal flow of Helmand violence
The sad news of three British fatalities over the weekend in Afghanistan shows that while casualties may have reduced in the past month, Helmand is still a very dangerous place for Nato troops.
Having written last week about speculation that British operations may have been scaled back because of the UK general election, I received a number of messages from those in the know.
They denied any such idea, and seemed nettled by the idea that they as professional military or civil servants would have gone along with such naked political expediency.
Accepting their denial that there has been any deliberate British "go slow", and the latest evidence that soldiers are still falling there, the recent reduction of casualties is still worth noting.
As I wrote last week luck, good or bad, plays its part. One of the Royal Engineers who perished at the weekend, for example, died in a road accident.
The bigger part of this reduction though seems to be explicable in terms of the opium harvest.
A great many of the young men who are normally shooting at or bombing Nato are apparently too busy at the moment bringing in their crop.
My contacts point to a seasonal pattern where violence falls in the run up to the harvest and picks up again once it is in.
In much of Helmand this pattern is repeated later in the year, as there are two crops.
This pattern reveals its own truths. Firstly that much of the violence is perpetrated by local farmers rather than international jihadists or Pakistani madrassa students.
One Nato official indeed, has told me that they calculate three quarters of attacks on their forces are carried out by people acting within a few miles of their home.
How far this reveals that the rural Pashtun insurgency in Afghanistan is essentially a revolt against government by northerners (backed by their foreign paymasters) rather than a part of the wider struggle between the West and militant Islam is a matter for interpretation and argument.
The lull in fighting also begs questions about the Nato and Afghan government security effort too.
If violence dips during the harvest, to what extent can these security forces be said to hold the initiative?
Can recent security operations be said to have succeeded if rural Afghanistan still imposes its rhythm upon the troops rather than Nato or President Hamid Karzai being able to demonstrate a steadily falling graph of violence?