The Brits made a foolish, in hindsight, deal a year ago and withdrew from Musa Qala in Helmand Province in the southwest of Afghanistan. Despite promises to the contrary, the Taliban took the city over earlier this year and have made it the center of opium distribution in Helmand if not of all of Afghanistan. On Friday, NATO and Afghan forces surrounded Musa Qala
and are pounding the Taliban. With some warning, most, if not all, of the civilian population is out and all that's left in the town center is the die hard Taliban, 12 of whom have already gone in search of several dozen virgins in Paradise. One Brit soldier has been killed and one other NATO soldier was killed in the area.
The good Captain Ed speculated
on what had taken the Brits so long to right their mistake and retake Musa Qala. I think he makes some sense, but I don't know for sure he is right. Usually the illegal combatants bug out with the populace as soon as we show up in force; and that's just what one Afghan general is saying happened here: The reports which we have received from the site so far indicate that most of the enemy personnel have laid down their weapons and are leaving the area in civilian clothes...
Contrast that to Ed Morrissey's happier take: Many have awaited this push to liberate Musa Qala, and wondered why it took almost all year to launch this operation. It could have something to do with the calendar. The brutal winter puts the poorly-equipped Taliban at a severe disadvantage, especially in options for retreat. They have little hope of melting away into the surrounding mountains now and for the next several months. They have three options now: surrender, die in Musa Qala, or freeze to death trying to flee an army prepared for the elements. They cannot just run away and live to fight another day -- and so the NATO forces have them right where they want them.
Expect to see the Taliban choose option 2. They will die in Musa Qala, and without many civilians around, they won't be able to take too many innocents with them.
I have to admit that the though of the die hards being destroyed by artillary in their fortified clubhouse is Musa Qala to my ears.
UPDATE: NATO is claiming victory
(about 24 hours after the Afghan leaders declared victory) in Musa Qala and NATO troops (including Estonian troops--see picture below) along with Afghan Army soldiers have taken the town, but how many Taliban died there and how many fled has yet to be clearly displayed
. The AFP had a grudging story yesterday
about the victory and ended with this bit of dis-information: [We kicked out the Taliban after 9-11] The Taliban has since regrouped and is waging a spiralling insurgency that this year alone has left around 6,000 people dead.
Yeah, most of them Taliban.
Labels: Afghanistan; Taliban Winter Ass Kicking