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NATO, Afghan Troops Battle Taliban

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

We begin this hour in Afghanistan, the scene of a heated fight between the resurging Taliban and NATO and Afghan government soldiers. Taliban fighters have occupied several villages in recent days, all just outside the southern city of Kandahar. The fight follows a brazen prison raid on Friday in Kandahar that freed several hundred Taliban fighters.

NPR's Ivan Watson visited today's battlefield and filed this report.

IVAN WATSON: The push to dislodge several hundred Taliban fighters from the Arghandab valley begun early this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTER)

WATSON: Attack helicopters and war planes roared over the dense pomegranate orchards and vineyards in the valley, located just 10 minutes' drive north of Kandahar. Afghan soldiers kept journalists away from the fighting at a checkpoint overlooking the valley. Sporadic explosions could be heard in the distance as Afghan army pickup trucks with mounted machine guns raced back and forth from the front.

WATSON: Shortly before noon, a column of Canadian armored personnel carriers rumbled through towards the command center, where Canadian officers oversaw the operation.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIREN)

WATSON: Less than 10 minutes later, an APC raced back with sirens blaring.

(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTER)

WATSON: Then a Black Hawk helicopter with a red cross on its side landed nearby in a cloud of dust for what appeared to be a medical evacuation. This afternoon the governor of Kandahar told journalists two Afghan soldiers had been killed and three more wounded in a battle that he says left some 20 insurgents dead. He also said the combined NATO and Afghan force had succeeded in regaining control of four villages, while the Taliban continues to hold six more villages. Taliban spokesman have issued counter claims - that they killed 16 Afghan soldiers and destroyed several army trucks.

WATSON: The Arghandab valley is just one front in the long and deadly counterinsurgency campaign that's being fought across southern and eastern Afghanistan. At the sprawling NATO airbase in Kandahar, British flags flew at half-mast after four British soldiers were killed yesterday by a roadside bomb in turbulent Helman province. Among the dead was Britain's first female military casualty. And at a small chapel on Kandahar air base, American servicemen fired a 21 gun salute during a memorial service in honor of four U.S. Marines who were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan's western Farah province on Saturday.

Ivan Watson, NPR News, Kandahar, Afghanistan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ivan Watson
Ivan Watson is currently based in Istanbul, Turkey. Following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, he has served as one of NPR's foreign "firemen," shuttling to and from hotspots around the Middle East and Central Asia.