Canadian and Afghan soldiers are still hunting for Taliban insurgents holed up in the orchards and fruit groves surrounding Kandahar, but the major battle has come to an end, a Canadian military official said Thursday.
Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson wouldn't comment on the number of casualties in Wednesday's military operation, but local governor Asadullah Khalid said hundreds of Taliban insurgents were killed and wounded in the fighting.
At least two Afghan soldiers died; there was no mention of any Canadian casualties and no word on the number of civilians killed.
The Afghan National Army led the operation under Canada's guidance, moving into the rural Arghandab region after reports emerged that hundreds of Taliban fighters were gathering there and preparing for possible attacks.
Local officials and residents said upward of 650 insurgents were in the area and had seized villages, bombed bridges and planted landmines in preparation for an attack on the city of Kandahar, just 15 kilometres away.
NATO, which is leading the foreign mission in Afghanistan, downplayed the Taliban's capabilities, saying there were far fewer than 650 fighters and the city was never truly under threat.
Residents will be compensated: Thompson
Khalid, the Kandahar provincial governor, said that residents of Arghandab who fled their homes in the hours before Wednesday's battle may be able to return within three days. The time frame will be crucial for most residents, who run fruit farms in the area and are at the height of harvest season.
Thompson said people whose homes were destroyed in the battle will be compensated.
He stressed that the military will need to maintain a strong presence in Arghandab to ensure that the Taliban does not move back into the area. Thompson said humanitarian projects will also be crucial.
Wednesday's battle came after a bold attack last Friday on Kandahar's prison, during which insurgents managed to set free 400 suspected Taliban militants.