Around 2,500 troops are based in Camp Bastion, with hundreds flying the 30 minute journey to the frontline in Musa Qala. The base also hosts the regional hospital, and has received casualties from the battle over the last few days, although officials would not say how many.
A spokesman for the Nato-led force said that Afghan army troops entered the centre of Musa Qala today, on the fourth day of the operation to recapture it. but fighting was continuing. In Kabul, a Defence Ministry spokesman said that Afghan, British and US forces had "completely captured" the town.
A British military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Eaton, said that he could not confirm that the Taleban had left the town’s centre but said he would not be surprised if that were the case.
"This is what happens. We have had a number of operations in the past where once the Taleban realize they are overmatched, they tend to leave," he said. "I wouldn’t be surprised if that is the case here. Ultimately our aim is to take Musa Qala, and if we take Musa Qala without a big fight, that’s fantastic."
From a news report that I heard about two days ago, one Afghani said that he had seen a convoy of Taliban leaving town by the hundreds. I thought, "Well why didn't we see them from the air and do something about it? Why did we just let them drive off into the sunset? This is no way to run a war.
Here's an article that never made out of the EB que.
Allies prepare to seize Taliban stronghold
By Tom Coghlan, Kabul Correspondent
Last Updated: 3:01am GMT 06/12/2007
A key Taliban-held town in southern Afghanistan is expected to fall to British troops and the national army within a matter of days.
Residents report that Nato aircraft have dropped leaflets warning of an imminent assault on Musa Qala in the north of Helmand province.
The town is of huge symbolic value to the Taliban. It has been in its hands for 10 months and is the only urban centre that the Islamist group has been able to take and hold.
Western sources have told The Daily Telegraph that it is planned that Afghan forces will lead the assault - the first time that the fledgling national army has undertaken an operation on such a scale.
After advancing from the base at Sangin, the British and Afghan troops are now said to be just two miles from the town. Local people have now begun to flee into the surrounding desert.
"Anything could happen, it is in God's hands," said a member of the tribal council of the town, who begged not to be named for fear of reprisals.
The air-dropped leaflets gave warning that the Taliban would be pursued from the area and urged the tribal leaders in Musa Qala to eject the insurgents themselves.
Contacted by satellite telephone, Taliban commanders stated that they had already mined routes to the town, which is about the size of Cambridge. They also claimed to have captured and destroyed a British tank.
"I have 300 Mujahideen with me," said Mullah Ahmad Muslim. "We have brought our best artillery. We have ZSU anti-aircraft guns in place to attack the helicopters."
But when asked whether the Taliban would stand and fight in Musa Qala, he did not rule out the possibility of a withdrawal into the Taliban-held mountains to the north. "The Mujahideen are ready to fight. It is hard to say whether we will make a tactical withdrawal. We will see."
One town resident said that Mullah Tor Jan, the overall Taliban commander in the town, had told local leaders that they would "save the town from destruction" by withdrawing once a "screen" of his fighters to the south of the town was breached by British forces.
However, on their website, the Taliban issued a blood-curdling rejoinder to the warnings of imminent attack. It read: "Foreign occupiers and their internal mercenaries are once again targeting Musa Qala.
"They are dropping leaflets from the air calling on the people to leave their homes as the area will be bombed and their homes will be rebuilt in a modern style.
"It is a known fact that wherever they have gone with all their power, their strength has melted, their equipment has been destroyed, their skulls have remained [on the battlefield], and they have left the battlefield defeated and broken. The Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate are completely confident that the enemy will not be able to advance one step, and with every step their tanks will be set on fire."
One local tribal leader said: "Everyone knows that the town can be taken, but to keep power there is the key thing.
"It depends on the skill of the government to make the people trust them.
"If they are not skilful, then the people will turn to the Taliban."
It's been reported that Musa Qala was the only town in Afghanistan under Taliban control. This November 2006 Bill Roggio report sheds light on why:
Further south, in Helmand province, the secret deal between the British and pro-Taliban tribal leaders has reached the predictible conclusion. The Times Online reports Musa Qala has now fallen back into the hands of the Taliban. Nafaz Khan, the former chief of police of Musa Qala who fought along with the British of the Royal Irish Regiment, said the negotiations to turn Musa Qala over to 'local tribesmen' was just a ruse. "Those British soldiers were cursing with us when we were all told to leave... They said that they had fought and lost friends to keep the town. And now these tribal elders who are in charge of Musa Qala are the same who gave the Taliban support when they fought against us. The deal was just a clever trick to get the foreign soldiers to go.” Nafaz Khan's statements are backed up by Haji Dad Mohammed Khan.
We recently heard that some 60% of Afghanis want some kind of power sharing arrangement between the Karzai government and the Taliban. It seems that in large parts of the country outside of Kabul, there are no police and no courts, which means no way to resolve disputes . Supposedly, the Taliban come in and bring a judicial system and security. And we have Brits who do either do not want to fight or are out manned by a ragtag militia of rag heads...kinda like Bush and the Democrats.
The Marines were recently turned down when they offered to redeploy from Anbar to Afghanistan. Why? Maybe the Brits said "No way we want those cowboys over here!" It's disgusting. Why don't we just pack up now? Fold our tents and come home.
Well, I heard (from an Afghani government education spokesman) that Afghan has over six million children enrolled in school. A record number, two-thirds of whom attend in tents... Tents! The spokesman said that they need three times the amount they are currently being budgeted for education. Hey, that sounds familiar doesn't it. I wonder if he's an NEA man. That country will be a worse investment than a boat.
This ain't no way to build an empire.