Taliban lay death traps for troops in Kandahar operation

KAJAKI, AFGHANISTAN - AUGUST 31: (NO SALE, NO ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Independent:

The "daisy chain" of nine explosive devices had been hidden at the base of a wall flanking a narrow alleyway. Two deafening blasts came within seconds of each other, spraying shrapnel and debris in an arc as the patrol came alongside. It was the second time in five days that the American and Afghan forces had been targeted in Malajat, a notoriously violent area used by bombers and gunmen as a base from which to strike into Kandahar City.

The attacks illustrate the difficulties faced in attempting to clear the militants out of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban. There are, however, signs that the tide may be turning following a series of military operations in an area which, not so long ago, was regarded as "lost".

The offensive launched yesterday – one of "the most difficult and most important" to be carried out since the start of the war, according to Western commanders – comes at a pivotal time with a Nato summit in November set to shape the future course of action. General David Petraeus, the commander of Nato forces, is also to present his assessment of the campaign to the White House before the end of the year.

The Taliban have been ruthless in their attempts to hang on to their most important and symbolic military stronghold, assassinating over 500 tribal elders, religious scholars, and elected representatives in the process. The killings have been stepped up in the months preceding the Nato campaign.

Many of the murders have been planned and launched from Malajat, a feeder route into the city for insurgents. Three weeks ago a large US force, with a sizeable contingent of Afghan police, moved in, arresting suspects and seizing large amounts of bomb-making equipment and material. "After that we had a bit of a quiet time, no IEDs (improvised explosive devices) no shootings. You couldn't get too relaxed, but considering what the place was like..." Sergeant Robert Yonts said. Then, last week, a bomb went off two feet from him along a pathway, he received minor injuries, his eyes saved by protective goggles. "If it weren't for them I would be blind, simple as that," he said.

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There is much more.

We are starting to see more stories about the face of the battle for Kandahar. The Taliban tactic do not appear to be much different from what we have run into before. I suspect that they become more deadly as we settle into an area.
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