Afghan, NATO troops 'clean-up' in Arghandab

US Ambassador to Afghanistan William Wood said Arghandab will not fall to the Taliban because the latter lack support from the region, where Afghan and NATO troops embarked in a "clean-up" operation on Wednesday. (C. Billet).


The Taliban can "raise a lot of dust" but Arghandab will not fall to them because they cannot hold ground for lack of Afghan popular support, the US ambassador to Kabul predicted here Wednesday.

"We're coming off of two difficult events in Kandahar province -- the break-in to the prison and the Arghandab fighting," Ambassador William Wood told reporters during a visit to Washington.

"I would like to point out that six months ago, there was also fighting in Arghandab and there was lots of headlines then that said Arghandab is about to fall, and that wasn't right then and it's not going to be right now," he said.

Afghan and NATO troops backed by helicopter gunships killed 35 Taliban rebels Wednesday in a huge "clean-up" operation to drive out militants entrenched in villages near Kandahar.

Two Afghan soldiers also died in the offensive in southern Arghandab district, which was launched after a burst of insurgent activity including a mass rebel jailbreak in Kandahar that embarrassed President Hamid Karzai.

"The Taliban can raise a lot of dust at any given moment and a given point.  They can't stay. They don't have the loyalty of the people," Wood told reporters.

"They've lost leaders, they've lost fighters, they've lost territorial dominance, they lost Sayghan and Musa Qala districts last year," he said.

"And we are getting reliable reports of some divisions inside of the Taliban and some dissatisfaction among the rank and file of the Taliban with their focus on terrorism against innocent civilians," he added.

"This doesn't mean that the fight is won, by any means," he said.

But he believed the United States, the international community and the government of Afghanistan are "much more confident as we approach the midpoint of the 2008 fighting season than we felt before 2007 fighting season began."

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