Coalition routs Taliban in southern Afghanistan

Arghandab/Kabul (Afghanistan), Oct. 21 (ANI): American and Afghan forces have reportedly routed the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, forcing many hardened fighters to flee strongholds that they have held for years.

The New York Times quoted NATO commanders and local Afghan officials, as saying that rout had been carried out through a series of civilian and military operations around the strategic southern province of Kandahar with the help of 12,000 American and NATO troops.

NATO commanders, however, were careful not to overstate their successes. But they did say that they are making "deliberate progress" and have seized the initiative from the insurgents.

Western and Afghan civilian officials have been are more outspoken, saying that heavy losses for the Taliban have sapped the momentum the insurgency had in the area.

"We now have the initiative. We have created momentum," said Major General Nick Carter, the British commander of the NATO coalition forces in southern Afghanistan, who has overseen the Kandahar operation for the last year.

He added: "It is everything put together in terms of the effort that has gone in over the last 18 months and it is undoubtedly having an impact."

Lt. Col. Rodger Lemons, commanding Task Force 1-66 in Arghandab, said he had seen insurgent attacks drop from 50 a week in August to 15 a week two months later.

He said: "A lot are getting killed. They are not receiving support from the local population, they are complaining that the local people are not burying their dead, and they are saying: 'We are losing so many we want to go back home.' "

The Taliban, however, has described their pullback as a tactical retreat.

Residents say the Taliban have been stunned by fast-paced raids on their leaders and bases.

A Taliban fighter reached by telephone, who spoke to a reporter only on condition that he not be named, confirmed that the insurgents had pulled back but would seek to reinfiltrate once the main push was over. (ANI)

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