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The Battle for Musa Qala Has Begun

5:41 PM, Dec 7, 2007 • By BILL ROGGIO
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The assault on the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala in the southern Afghan province of Helmand is officially underway. After a month of rumors and a feint by a British armored column to the outskirts of the town in mid-November, Afghan National Army and international troops pushed to the edge of town. "This operation will continue for the next few days," the International Security Assistance Force press release stated.

The BBC reported the attack is occurring from three directions, and U.S. forces will conduct the final strike into the city. British, American, Estonian, and Danish troops conducted an air assault on the outskirts of Musa Qala City, while a large Afghan National Army force set up a blocking position outside the city.

The Taliban boast over 2,000 fighters in their ranks, and vow to fight, not flee. "Our lines are so strong that the foreigners will never break them," a local Taliban commander named Enqiadi told a report from IWPR at the end of November. "The foreigners say they are going to launch a major operation in Musa Qala. We are ready for that. In Musa Qala alone, we have 2,050 fully armed fighters. It will be very easy for us to resist the attack. We want to take the whole province this winter."

Helmand province has been the hub of the Taliban insurgency in the south since the British negotiated a controversial deal with the Taliban and withdrew from the district center in October 2006. The Taliban consolidated their gains and militarily overran the district center in February 2007, and have been in control ever since. Last month there were reports a senior Taliban tribesman in Musa Qala was seeking to negotiate a deal with the Afghan government, but the tribal leader did not turn on his fellow Taliban.