US military onslaught forcing Taliban commanders to flee Kandahar, claim locals

Last Updated: Thu, Dec 23, 2010 10:20 hrs

Afghan Taliban commanders have reportedly fled Kandahar because of the US military attacks against the insurgent group in the region that was once controlled by them.

The Guardian quoted tribal elders and ordinary villagers living at the centre of the US military surge in and around Kandahar city, as saying that it has severely damaged the Taliban's capability, with senior commanders and foreign fighters fleeing the key districts like Zhari, Panjwai and Arghandab.

They also said that local Taliban fighters have been promoted to leadership positions to continue attacks against coalition forces, but in the absence of their original leaders, locals in the insurgent group have shied away from fighting.

"Two months ago the Taliban were everywhere. They were attacking NATO forces every day and they were searching people and arresting anyone whom they suspected of working for the government. But after the big operations began, the commanders all ran away and the local fighters now just stay at home, or they work as day labourers and even on US cash-for-work schemes," the paper quoted a tribal elder from Zahri district, as saying.

Another tribal elder from Panjwai district said that local Taliban operatives cannot fight and are afraid of airstrikes. He also said that inhabitants of the region like the Afghan army and are "happy that the Taliban are gone."

Zhari and other districts bordering Kandahar city have been the main targets of a major effort to quell the insurgency in the Taliban's home province of Kandahar, the paper said.

US officials hope the upsurge in American troops and a huge increase in night raids targeting Taliban commanders will deal with the insurgency problem in the region and reverse its momentum countrywide.(ANI)