Hundreds of Taliban fighters have taken over several villages in a district just north of Kandahar City, a local official says.
Mohammad Farooq, the government leader in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province, said Monday that about 500 Taliban had moved in.
A tribal leader said the militants could easily use the many grape and pomegranate orchards to mount an attack on Kandahar itself, where a brazen attack on a prison last week freed about 400 Taliban fighters.
"All of Arghandab is made of orchards. The militants can easily hide and easily fight," said Haji Ikramullah Khan.
"It's quite close to Kandahar," Khan added. "During the Russian war, the Russians didn't even occupy Arghandab, because when they fought here they suffered big casualties."
NATO spokesperson Mark Laity said NATO and Afghan military officials are sending troops to the district to "meet any potential threats."
Laity seemed to link the jailbreak with the Taliban push into Arghandab.
"It's fair to say that the jailbreak has put a lot of people (rebels) into circulation who weren't there before, and so obviously you're going to respond to that potential threat," he said.
Wrecked vehicles sit outside Kandahar's Sarposa prison,
which Taliban militants attacked Friday. (CBC)
Taliban fighters take villages near Kandahar after jailbreak
Hundreds of Taliban fighters took over several villages in southern Afghanistan on Monday just outside the region's largest city, and NATO and Afghan forces were redeploying to meet the threat, officials said.
Mohammad Farooq, the government leader in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province, said around 500 Taliban fighters moved into his district and took over several villages.
Arghandab lies just north of Kandahar — the Taliban's former stronghold — and a tribal leader from the region warned that the militants could use the cover from Arghandab's grape and pomegranate orchards to mount an attack on the city itself.
"All of Arghandab is made of orchards. The militants can easily hide and easily fight," Haji Ikramullah Khan told the Associated Press. "It's quite close to Kandahar. During the Russian war, the Russians didn't even occupy Arghandab because when they fought here [in the 1980s] they suffered big casualties."
Most of Canada's 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan are based at Kandahar Airfield.
The Taliban push into Arghandab comes three days after a sophisticated attack by insurgents on Kandahar's Sarposa prison that freed hundreds of insurgent fighters.
NATO spokesman Mark Laity said alliance and Afghan military officials were redeploying troops to the region to "meet any potential threats."
"It's fair to say that the jailbreak has put a lot of people into circulation who weren't there before, and so obviously you're going to respond to that potential threat," he said.
Tribesmen back Karzai
Also on Monday, hundreds of Afghan tribesmen, elders and clerics gathered in the east of the country in support of President Hamid Karzai's threat to send troops after Taliban militants inside Pakistan, officials said.
Pakistan has reacted strongly to the Afghan president's words, with Afghanistan's envoy in Islamabad summoned to the Pakistani foreign ministry on Monday to provide an explanation of Karzai's statement.
Ghami Mohammad Yar, spokesman for the governor of Paktika province, which borders Pakistan, said several hundred tribesmen had come to the governor's compound to express support for Karzai.
"We are ready to sacrifice, as before, for the protection of our homeland borders," Yar said. Mohammad Akram Akhpelwak, Paktika's governor, said gatherings of support were being held in three other areas of Paktika.
Speaking Sunday in Kabul, Karzai threatened to send Afghan troops to fight notorious Taliban leaders inside Pakistan in an angry warning that he will no longer tolerate cross-border attacks.
The threat — the first time Karzai has said he would send forces into Pakistan — was apparently in response to the Sarposa prison break.
Bush offers U.S. help
Karzai has long pleaded with Pakistan and the international community to do more to establish order in the lawless tribal areas along the Afghan border, which have become safe havens for Taliban and al-Qaeda militants.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammed Sadiq, said Monday his office would issue a formal response to Karzai.
"Naturally, we think that he did not use his best judgment by making this statement," he said.
U.S. president George W. Bush offered his country's help to calm tensions along the Afghan-Pakistan border but he also expressed support for Karzai's focus on shutting down tribal safe havens on the frontier.
"That's the policy of Afghanistan, it needs to be the policy of Pakistan," Bush said Monday after talks with British prime minister, Gordon Brown in London.
American troops could help ease the "testy situation," Bush said.
CBC's Paul Hunter in Kandahar says people in Afghanistan have strong feelings about the Taliban allegedly using Pakistani soil to launch cross-border attacks but they'll wonder whether they're president is serious when he threatens to send Afghan forces in hot pursuit of insurgents.
"People here support the notion," Hunter says, "but they're not sure Karzai means it. Nor are they sure it's do-able, militarily."
But hey, at least now we have proof that confirms the requests Canadian troops have been asking for since they entered Afghanistan..... they needed more troops to help them out in that area, they needed more air support and more NATO forces from other countries to step up and help in that area..... it didn't happen, and now this is what happens, considdering we can't cover the entire area all the time by ourselves.
But it's still somehow our fault, where other countries are asking why the hell we wern't covering the jail, or why we didn't have them in a better and more secure prison in the first place.
The sh*t's hitting the fan now, and it's about to get much worse, esspecially if the Afghan government decides to hold true to their threat of crossing the borders.