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In Shadow of Assassination, Afghan & NATO Troops Launch Major Kandahar Firefight

According to an early-morning press release from ISAF, the NATO force in Afghanistan, Afghan troops supported by NATO forces have concluded a “five-day operation” north of Kandahar city that sounds major:

Directly contributing to the ongoing efforts of Hamkari security operations in Kandahar City and nearby districts, the five-day operation saw heavy fighting with one period of non-stop, close-quarter combat lasting the entire day and resulting in the death of a significant number of insurgents. Through this operation, the combined force dealt a major blow to more than 100 insurgents and their commanders. After days of intense operations, the combined force succeeded in taking all key positions in the region and forcing remaining insurgents to flee the area.

It’s unclear what a “major blow” this actually is. And it doesn’t appear that the force intends to hold the Shah Wali Kot area: “Afghan leaders from the combined force then met with members of the local community to plan ways the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan could assist them in keeping out the Taliban.” Apparently no civilians were injured. If so, that gives a sense of how secure the insurgents felt operating away from civilian cover.

While the timetable of the operation means that this wasn’t a retaliation for the assassination yesterday of a Kandahar district governor, the announcement of the operation occurs in its shadow. And it underscores the intensity of the fight in and around Kandahar that Gen. David Petraeus and Michele Flournoy, the undersecretary of defense for policy, will resume testifying about in a few minutes before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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