Taliban flee to desert as Nato storms stronghold
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Tuesday 03 August 2010
British troops in Afghanistan yesterday entered an insurgent stronghold targeted in a major Nato offensive unopposed after Taliban fighters abandoned their defensive positions.
Soldiers just "kept going" when attacks they faced outside the town of Saidabad suddenly stopped. Around 1,600 residents of the town, about one-fifth of the population, had remained, but there were no signs of fighters.
Operation Tor Shezada – "Black Prince" in the Dari language – is the first of a series of campaigns through which Nato commanders seek to inflict a military defeat on the insurgency as politicians in the West clamour for troops to be pulled out. Intercepted Taliban messages prior to the advance indicated the insurgents, facing hundreds of British and Afghan troops descending from the north, and US Marines to the south, had decided to live to fight another day. It is believed that some of the 180 fighters, who had been carrying out raids against the Americans in Marjah and the British in Nad-e-Ali, have headed west into the "Dasht" desert area.
Troops from the Somme Company, 1st Battalion the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, accompanied by Afghan troops, held a public meeting in one of the town's compounds and local people were promised construction projects. The elders said their main concern was security, and, in particular, IEDs (improvised explosive devices) pitted around the area, many of them recently planted to stop the British and Afghan advance. The district governor for Nad-e-Ali, Habibullah, is expected to visit Saidabad soon and local elders would be asked to present a list of urgent public works.
Military commanders are fully aware, however, that the lack of overt armed opposition does not mean the Taliban had gone away. A series of localities "liberated" in the past subsequently come under attacks after the Taliban had been able to reorganise.
Soldiers moved along farmland and waded through waist-deep irrigation ditches to reach the town after dark. Major Darren Newman, officer commanding Somme Company, said: "It appears the presence of overwhelming forces... has effectively meant the insurgents fled before we arrived."
On the road to Saidabad, locals were circumspect about what the future may hold. Ayub Din, a farmer, said: "We do not know whether the Taliban will return. They have in the past, so we shall wait and see."
- 1 King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
- 2 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 4 Presidential optical illusion offers clues to how brain processes faces
King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia's new king has already overseen a beheading
Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary: Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Ukip Jelly Babies cause uproar on Amazon
Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...
£250 - £300 per day: Investigo: Growing international marketing business requi...
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ORM Consultant is required t...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of educat...