debkafile Reports: British PM plays up Afghan gain to divert attention from debacle in S. Iraq
After four days of heavy fighting, Afghan National army and international forces covered by US and British marines entered the outskirts of the strategic town of Musa Qala in northern Helmand, south of Kabul, Monday, Dec. 10. Wednesday, the Afghan government flag was unfurled in the two center.
debkafile‘s military sources report that some 6,000 troops participated in the Mar Kardad (snakepit) offensive to retake Musa Qala- 4,500 international troops including American air units and 82nd airborne division troops, British marines, a sprinkling of Danish and Estonian personnel and some Dutch air units. The rest were Afghan soldiers. The Taliban force holed up in the beleaguered town since February, four months after British soldiers quit the town, was estimated at 2,000 strong.
The plan was for the international force to retake the town, the only Afghan urban center captured and held by Taliban, and hand it over to the Afghan army according to the pattern practiced in Iraq.
However, debkafile‘s military sources report that even after Musa Qala has fallen and falls and is handed over to the Afghan army, at least four difficulties remain.
1. As the Afghan and international columns advanced on Musa Qala, the Taliban began launching diversionary attacks further south in the province at Sangin and Sarwan Kala.
2. Some of the Talilban fighters were ordered to go to ground by mingling with the civilian population. Others slipped out of the town to Baghran away from combat.
3. Because Musa Qala is on the crossroads of the opium poppy-growing province, the drug barons fully support the Taliban with weapons and logistic supplies.
4. The local Afghan population did not cooperate with the assault forces partly because their livelihood depends on the poppy crops but also because they feared the Afghan soldiers fighting with the NATO units will loot their homes.
5. Even after Musa Qala is captured, the NATO-Afghan forces still have to fight for control over the rest of Helmud province.
Therefore, the Taliban commander in the battle arena, Mullah Ahmad said Monday that his forces control the situation and their retreat from the town ahead of the advancing troops was orderly and tactical.