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  June 18, 2008

Kandahar braces for Taliban offensive

Taliban and NATO forces both assert that they are in control
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In anticipation of a Taliban offensive, the Afghan army flew four plane-loads of soldiers to Kandahar from the capital Kabul. The deployment comes a day after Taliban forces were seen mobilizing in the Arghandab district just north west of Kandahar. Taliban forces destroyed bridges and planted land mines in preparation for battle. Anand Gopal of Inter Press Service says "there has been a general shift in the balance of power in the last few months." Jointly produced by The Real News Network and Inter Press Service.


ZAA NKWETA (VOICEOVER), PRESENTER/PRODUCER: The Afghan army today flew four plane-loads of soldiers to Kandahar from the capital, Kabul, in anticipation of a Taliban offensive. The army displacement comes a day after Taliban forces destroyed bridges and planted mines in villages just outside Kandahar in apparent preparation for battle against NATO forces.

SARDAR MOHAMMAD, AFGHAN POLICE OFFICER: There are more than 500 Taliban in the Arghandab region. They are planting mines. Now Afghan army and police, with the help of Canadian and American forces, have surrounded these areas and are set to launch a military operation against the Taliban.

NKWETA: The Taliban regime was ousted from power in a 2001 US-led invasion. The push into the Arghandab district came three days after a coordinated Taliban attack on Kandahar's prison that freed 900, including 400 fighters. Kandahar they consider as a main stronghold. Presidential spokesman Humayoon Hamidzada maintained that the situation was under control.

HUMAYOON HAMIDZADA, AFGHANISTAN PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN: About the situation in Kandahar, as I said before, the Afghan national army is in charge of the situation. There are, of course, some security incidents that have taken place, but the Afghan National Army, supported by the NATO forces, they are in Kandahar, and they are addressing the situation.

NKWETA: Not so, says this Taliban commander.

UNIDENTIFIED TALIBAN COMMANDER, ASSOCIATED PRESS VIDEO: Exactly, we have 80 to 100 percent control here. We are using the specific tactics of Iraq. We used to fight just in the south and east, but now we are fighting around the capital. The troops don't have any power off the road. The power is all in the hands of Taliban.

NKWETA: The US and NATO have pleaded for additional troops over the last year and now have some 65,000 in the country. But Taliban fighters are still finding some measure of success against the international alliance, according to Anand Gopal of Inter Press Service.

ANAND GOPAL, INTER PRESS SERVICE: There's been a general shift in the balance of power in the last few months. This spring is the most violent spring since 2001. There's been [inaudible] casualties and killings on both sides. The latest US intelligence estimate from a couple of months ago says that the Taliban controls about 10 percent of the country, and the Karzai government controls about 30 percent of the country. And that number's changed significantly in the last few years.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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