Taliban Fighters Infiltrate Area Near Southern Afghan City

Taliban Fighters Infiltrate Area Near Southern Afghan City
June 17th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Taliban Fighters Infiltrate Area Near Southern Afghan City

Taliban Fighters Infiltrate Area Near Southern Afghan City
New York Times
June 17, 2008
Pg. 6
By Carlotta Gall
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Hundreds of Taliban fighters have swarmed into a strategically important district just outside Kandahar, the biggest city in southern Afghanistan, apparently in a push for control just days after 400 Taliban members escaped in a spectacular breakout from the Kandahar prison, officials said Monday.
Afghan military reinforcements arrived in Kandahar on Monday and have already deployed in Kandahar Province, said a NATO spokesman, Mark Laity. The soldiers flew from Kabul and more can be expected to follow, he said. NATO forces based in Kandahar Province have also redeployed to be better prepared for any potential threat, he said.
A government spokesman, Parwez Najib, confirmed the news that Taliban fighters had infiltrated parts of the district, Arghandab. “There is not fighting yet,” he said. Afghan and foreign forces are aware of the presence of the Taliban, he added.
It was unclear whether any of the fighters were among the prison escapees.
The move by the Taliban on Arghandab, a district that is critical to the security of the city of Kandahar and therefore to the entire south of Afghanistan, comes amid an increased sense of crisis in Afghanistan. Kandahar is still reeling from Friday’s brazen attack by the Taliban on the prison, in which they released some 1,200 inmates, 400 of them members of the Taliban, including some district commanders.
In a sign of his increasing frustration with the threats to his government, President Hamid Karzai raised the possibility Sunday of sending Afghan troops into Pakistan to hit militant leaders who had vowed to continue a jihad in Afghanistan.
His comments, which Pakistan protested Monday, were welcomed by Afghan tribesmen gathered for a council meeting in the southeastern province of Paktika. “People here have long been asking the government to solve the problem of infiltration from Pakistan,” the provincial governor, Muhammad Akram Khapalwak, said after the meeting. “People were saying today that Mr. Karzai has been too late in saying this, and it should have been said two years ago.”
In Arghandab, local journalists working for the BBC and Al Jazeera quoted local government officials as saying that 500 Taliban fighters had swarmed into 10 villages in the district.
Families were fleeing their homes in Arghandab to take refuge in the city, they said. Some of the families said they had been told by the Taliban to leave, an indication the Taliban intended to make a stand and fight.
Arghandab is a rich, thickly populated river valley of orchards and vineyards running northwest from Kandahar into a range of barren mountains that have been a refuge for mujahedeen fighters and Taliban insurgents. Control of Arghandab is considered critical to control of the city of Kandahar and has been the source of forces that have seized the city in the past.
The Taliban have been pushing into Arghandab for months and have made several attacks on police posts and tribal leaders from the area over the last year. The deaths of Mullah Naqibullah, the longtime leader of the Alokozai tribe that populates Arghandab, and another senior commander, Abdul Hakim Jan, who was killed in a huge suicide bombing in February, have critically depleted the tribe, which has always fiercely opposed the Taliban.
Canadian troops and the Afghan police pushed back a Taliban force after it made a brief show of force in Arghandab in October. Families fled as the troops moved into the district, but the Taliban fell back quickly and the operation was over within days.
Abdul Waheed Wafa contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.

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