Hunting the Taliban

The Associated Press reports on a successful air strike against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan:

U.S. warplanes hunting Taliban fighters bombed a religious school and mud-brick homes in southern Afghanistan on Monday, killing dozens of suspected militants and 17 civilians in one of the deadliest strikes since the American-led invasion in 2001.

Taliban violence escalates each spring in Afghanistan with snow melting on mountain passes. But the scale of the assaults — and of U.S.-led coalition response — has been greater this year, as thousands of NATO forces prepare to deploy in the volatile south, the heartland of the ousted Islamic regime.

U.S. military spokeswoman Lt. Tamara Lawrence…confirmed that coalition troops were on the ground during the attack.

The AP is to be commended, I think; the article notes that civilians were killed, but doesn’t turn into an anti-American expose. Instead, the Governor of Kandahar is quoted:

Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid said the airstrike killed 16 civilians and wounded 16. “These sort of accidents happen during fighting, especially when the Taliban are hiding in homes,” he said. “I urge people not to give shelter to the Taliban.”

And an American spokesman adds this:

U.S. military spokesman Col. Tom Collins said, “It’s common that the enemy fights in close to civilians as a means to protect its own forces.

“We targeted a Taliban compound and we’re certain we hit the right target,” he told the AP.

The AP also acknowledges which way the momentum of the conflict is going:

“The Taliban has suffered extraordinary losses in the last three or four weeks — several hundred Taliban killed in the field,” [Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry] said. “We’re the ones that are moving. They’re the ones who are trying to hold.”

Successful attack, good reporting.

UPDATE: This account describes the coalition forces’ attempt to capture Taliban leaders meeting in the village of Azizi, and says that at least 50 Taliban fighters were killed.

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