Canadian troops pushed deep into the warren of fields in Panjwai district Wednesday morning, hunting Taliban under bright moonlight after enduring hours of co-ordinated attacks by the insurgents.
The soldiers crept forward on foot, into terrain so difficult that armoured vehicles could not advance for fear of getting stuck in the rutted fields, irrigation trenches and dry canals.
It was the first major incursion by either side in the past 24 hours, in the continuing struggle for control of Panjwai district. Operation Medusa, launched four days ago to control the volatile region southwest of Kandahar city, has settled into a siege, with hundreds of Canadian troops and their allies encircling about 700 insurgents who fiercely defend their foothold near Afghanistan's second-largest city.
U.S. forces taking part in the battle said Tuesday they had killed between 50 and 60 suspected Taliban militants. NATO and Afghan officials have said about 200 insurgents have so far died in the operation.
The stillness broke around 1 p.m., when a white sedan carrying three men in traditional Afghan dress appeared on Highway 1, driving west, deep inside the Canadians' security cordon. The sedan was stopped by Canadian soldiers, who questioned the occupants about how they ended up driving along a road already blocked by other checkpoints.
“Our guys became suspicious right off the bat,” said Major Geoff Abthorpe, commander of Bravo Company. “Then we found the gunpowder residue on their hands.”
One of the men had fired a gun recently, according to a field test, while another had faint traces of gunpowder. The third was clean, but none of them could explain how they got inside the Canadian cordon. Soldiers have been hearing reports about Taliban trying to escape Panjwai district, and the three were taken for questioning at Patrol Base Wilson.
A mobile phone belonging to one of the detainees started ringing during the initial questioning, Major Abthorpe said. A military interpreter answered the call, and discovered that he was talking with a senior Taliban commander.
On such small events do great battles turn. We might get to take out one of the big turbans because one of his minions didn't set his cellphone to vibrate. And perhaps shorten the war a little, and leave a few more men alive and unharmed.
We get 'em by the balls, and their hearts and minds will follow.
This is not the demoralized force going through the motions on a failing mission that our native fifth column would like you to believe.
The Maple Leaf Forever!
Source: Globe and Mail