“Afghan forces recapture district,” by Amir Shah for the Associated Press:
KABUL, Afghanistan – Hundreds of Afghan soldiers and police retook a district outside the capital from the Taliban on Friday, pushing out militants who had seized the area in fierce fighting a day earlier, a senior Afghan official said.
Marajudin Pathan, the governor of Ghazni province, said a hastily organized force of more than 250 officers encountered no resistance when they swept into Giro.
“The district is under our control,” Pathan told The Associated Press by telephone. “There was no resistance because the cowardly enemy escaped.”
He said police, assisted by Afghan soldiers and troops from the U.S.-led military coalition, were combing villages in search of any fighters still hiding there.
The Taliban takeover of Giro, just 110 miles from Kabul, helped undermine claims by the Afghan government and its foreign backers that President Hamid Karzai has expanded government control of the country.
Militants have repeatedly overrun towns in rural areas, especially in the south and east, despite the presence of NATO and U.S. troops whose numbers have swelled to the current 47,000.
But the Taliban’s hold is usually short-lived.
The Taliban’s strategy appears at least in part to be projecting the message that while they are not in control, neither is Karzai, and as evidenced by previous operations like this one, they can swoop in more or less at will, at least until help arrives (most often involving NATO).
Officials said more than 100 suspected Taliban attacked Giro on Thursday evening, setting fire to buildings and cutting telephone lines.
The district mayor, police chief and three policemen were killed during several hours of fighting, deputy governor Kazim Allayer said. Pathan estimated that about 10 of the militants also died.
NATO and the U.S.-led coalition said they were aware of the incident, but had no details.
NATO-led forces are pushing forward with their biggest-ever offensive in southern Afghanistan to root out militants in the opium-producing heartland of Helmand province.