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Afghan Security Forces Lead Response to Taliban Prison Break

By Kristen Noel
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2008 – Afghan national security forces led successful operations last week to counter the Taliban’s raid on a Kandahar city prison, a U.S. military official said yesterday.

“The Afghan National Army -- much to the surprise of the Taliban -- deployed quickly, deployed in large numbers and deployed effectively and attacked them effectively and defeated the [enemy] forces and pushed them out,” U.S. Army Col. Thomas McGrath, commander of NATO’s Afghanistan Regional Security Command South, said in a teleconference with online journalists and bloggers.

Afghan and coalition forces conducted aggressive operations in and around Kandahar after the Taliban raided Sarposa Prison on June 13.

“The Taliban attacked the prison in a commando raid, which began with a suicide-truck bomber blowing up … at the main gate in downtown Kandahar,” McGrath recalled. “Other Taliban terrorists followed with rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun fire.”

McGrath said he estimates that 200 to 300 of the inmates who escaped during the raid were Taliban.

Afghan security forces mobilized very quickly, McGrath said, and led aggressive operations in Kandahar and the northwestern district of Arghandab, where the Taliban fled seeking sanctuary. Members of coalition embedded training teams were involved in these operations, he said, but only to mentor and assist the Afghan forces.

“It was evident that the Afghan national security forces were in the lead,” McGrath said. “We used their plan, not our plan. We let them lead the attacks, and they did quite well.”

McGrath said 80 Taliban were killed and 25 were captured during operations in Arghandab, and the district was fully secured in two days. “We were able to attack [the Taliban] and defeat them decisively,” he said.

Another 20 to 30 Taliban were killed southwest of Kandahar, he added.

McGrath said the success of these operations shows the Afghan forces’ flexibility and agility, and he credited the constant training the coalition provides.

“I don’t think they could have done this last year, … or maybe even six or seven months ago,” he said.

(Kristen Noel works for the New Media branch of the Defense Media Agency.)

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