Afghan and NATO troops retook the town of Musa Qala in southern Afghanistan on Monday, forcing the Taliban to withdraw from the only sizable town they hold in the country, Afghan and NATO officials said. There was no clear picture of casualties, but the Taliban and civilians said there had been heavy bombardment overnight.
The news came as Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain made a surprise visit to Afghanistan and met with President Hamid Karzai. About 7,000 British troops are deployed in Helmand Province, in southern Afghanistan. Retaking Musa Qala, which they abandoned more than a year ago, has been one of their main objectives in the province, which has the highest level of Taliban activity as well as illicit opium production. [complete article]
The Taliban, the Afghan army and the Nato-led forces recognise there is a stalemate in the battle for Afghanistan. Neither side appears in a position to win and impose terms, so they search for a symbolic victory that will signify the course of the war.
Now that Musa Qala has been retaken, the international forces and the Kabul government can claim, once again, that victory is not far off – bolstering shaky domestic public support and encouraging locals to consider them as probable eventual winners.
The Taliban will wait to see what the spring brings. After all, they just have to avoid defeat. The losers, of course, are the villagers. Not much of Musa Qala is likely to have survived the fighting. [complete article]