December 9, 2007

Musa Qala Leaders Captured

NATO and Afghan forces captured two Taliban leaders in Musa Qala, the only city held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Their capture comes amid the long-awaited push to liberate Musa Qala and end its ten-month loss. The Taliban has been forced into the city center, and the coalition forces have patiently kept up the pressure:

Two senior Taleban leaders have been captured in heavy fighting for the southern town of Musa Qala, the Afghan defence ministry has said.

Afghan and Nato forces are trying to recapture the town, the only major centre in Taleban hands. ...

The heavy blows from the ground and the air seem to have forced the Taleban to pull back closer to the centre of Musa Qala, but they say they withdrew from two frontline villages because of civilian casualties there.

Nonetheless, Taleban commanders have said they will defend the town from fortified positions covered by minefields.

Musa Qala is believed to be mostly empty of civilians, many of whom fled after tribal elders were told of the attack and warning leaflets were dropped from the air, says the BBC's David Loyn in Kabul.

Ever since the Taliban took over in Musa Qala, the drug trade has escalated sharply. In fact, it has become the center of drug trafficking in Afghanistan. Just as with the forces of Maulana Fazlullah in Pakistan, the Taliban has no problem with indulging in vices for their own sake.

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.


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