08 February, 2007

Musa Qala: General McNeill's first test. (Updated and revised)

Last September, Brigadier Butler, the British task force commander in Afghanistan agreed a truce, brokered by village elders, with the Taliban at Musa Qala in Helmand province, the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, the Taliban retook Musa Qala, a move which Afgha.com interpreted as possibly heralding "the start of an offensive by the Taliban in order to preempt NATO reinforcements that are arriving in southern portions of the country."

The ISAF responded with an air strike in which the Taliban commander in Musa Qala, Mullah Abdul Ghafoor, was killed. The ISAF say the operation was a precision strike intended to remove Ghafoor.

People's Daily Online quotes an ISAF spokesman as saying that the ISAF will assist government forces to retake the town. For the moment, however, the Taliban remain in control. According to the Pakistani Daily Times, the Afghan government is attempting to negotiate a peaceful withdrawal.

The Institute for War and Peace has eye-witness accounts of the take-over and reports that the remaining inhabitants are bracing themselves for an expected NATO assault. So far, the Daily Times says, the IASF has only dropped leaflets warning the Taliban to leave the area.

We wait to see what the ISAF's next move is. It will be US General General Dan McNeill's first major test since taking rotating command of ISAF forces. General McNeill is expected to take a hard line with the terrorists.

Over at the The Fourth Rail, Bill Roggio has more.

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