Taliban Fortifying Afghan Positions

Taliban fighters controlling the Afghan town of Musa Qala in the southern province of Helmand appeared to be fortifying their positions Saturday, February 3, NATO officials said.

Taliban Fortifying Afghan Positions

"We have indications that Taliban are fortifying their positions in the district centre," spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Colonel Thomas Collins told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

A "substantial" Taliban force stormed a district also called Musa Qala late Thursday, February 1, disarming police and occupying the administration headquarters in the small town.

"We know there are fighters in the area but to the extent, I can't give you real details.... I can't give you a clear idea of what the nature of their control is in the town in this time," added Thomas.

"But they control a small area but to say they control the entire district is going too far."

The Afghan Defense Ministry confirmed that the police and administration structures in the district had been disbanded.

"It is under Taliban control since yesterday," ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi told AFP.

An ISAF statement late Friday said there were reports that "an unknown number of Taliban have entered the Musa Qala district centre in Helmand province, that pressure has been placed on the elders and the Afghan national flag has been taken down."


Provincial governor Asadullah Wafa said Friday civilians were fleeing the town fearing imminent ISAF and Afghan army strikes to drive out the Taliban.

Collins said ISAF was ready to support government forces preparing to retake the centre.

"We are confident it will come under full government of Afghanistan control," he said.

The Taliban movement, which was in government between 1996 and 2001 before being ousted by a US-led invasion, last year briefly took control of a handful of centers in remote parts of southern Afghanistan before being ejected by military forces.

The British military, which has the bulk if its deployment of 6,000 troops to Afghanistan in Helmand, in September withdrew its forces five kilometers (three miles) from Musa Qala town at the request of the government after tribal leaders said they would see the peace was kept.

But Defense Secretary Des Browne said on Thursday that he would send an additional 800 troops to southern Afghanistan as forces brace for a spring offensive by Taliban fighters.

The increase will bring Britain's force in the south, where it has spearheaded a NATO-led offensive against Taliban fighters, to some 5,800 by late summer.

The extra troops will be heading for the British hub in Helmand province, which has in recent months seen the worst of a Taliban-led attacks which claimed over 4,000 lives last year.

Most of the 46 British soldiers killed during the war have died there.

While recent months have been relatively calm compared with last year, military chiefs fear that Taliban fighters are preparing for a massive spring offensive as snows melt, allowing them to renew attacks on NATO targets.

Last month, the British commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan, General David Richards, warned in an interview that more soldiers were needed for what he said should be a year-long push to defeat Taliban.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16