The New York Times is reporting that NATO and Afghan forces have routed the Taliban in southern Afghanistan:
ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan — Afghan and NATO forces cleared Taliban guerrillas from a cluster of villages outside Kandahar on Thursday, removing for the moment any threat that they might try move into their former stronghold in the southern part of the country.
The Taliban fighters, who had infiltrated as many as 18 villages here, largely retreated before a force of about 1,100 Afghan soldiers that began moving into the area Wednesday, Afghan and NATO officials said. NATO planes and helicopters supported their advance.
For the Afghan army and NATO forces, which have suffered a number of setbacks in the area, the news seemed all good. Afghan soldiers killed 56 Taliban fighters during the operation, including a number of foreigners, Gen. Zahir Azimi, the spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, said at a news conference. The operation was carried out without loss of civilian life, Afghan and NATO officials said. The Afghan army suffered no casualties beyond the two reported on Wednesday.
The red circle on the map above is where the action is taking place. As you can see, it’s just a short distance to the Pakistani border. The thing to be noted in this is that there’s no way that the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters can stand up to the NATO force in Afghanistan toe-to-toe. But there’s also no way for the NATO force to hold the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters in one place to eliminate them completely.
Is there any way to keep the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters from doing this again (and again and again) without securing the border between the two countries? Is there any way for us to secure the border between the two countries without more troops than we’re able to support within the country? I honestly don’t think so. We need to get used to these sorts of actions being a permanent condition in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias is looking for some mission we can accomplish in Afghanistan on the cheap:
When you hear things like our commander in Afghanistan saying we need 400,000 troops you begin to think that the mission he has in mind isn’t the appropriate one. Whatever it is you need 400,000 troops to do is something we’re going to have to get by without doing, since we’re not sending 400,000 troops to Afghanistan.