Anybody remember Operation Medusa back in September, 2006? That's when Canadian commanders told us we had the Taliban surrounded in Panjwai District, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. At the time we were told the bad guys had two choices - surrender or die. The Taliban, it seemed, discovered a third option - leave and come back when the heat died down.
Didn't matter much. Our leaders didn't have a pile of bodies of dead Taliban or stacks of captured weapons but at least we were assured that they'd driven the Taliban out of Panjwai District, itself a real accomplishment.
Then, in December '06/January '07 we were back in Panjwai District this time for Operation Falcon something or other and, once again, we saved Panjwai for the good, government-supporting (not) villagers. We've been saving that place, off and on, ever since.
Now in May, 2009, we're actually surrendering turf in Panjwai to the Taliban so we can fall back to defend Kandahar City. From the Notional Toast:
Canada's military has conceded hard-won territory west of Kandahar City to Taliban insurgents.
...The police substation [in Mushan village], also called a strong point, was dismantled last week, in a large-scale operation called Munkiredal, the Pashto word for deny.
In a briefing Sunday with reporters at Kandahar Air Field, Canadian officers explained that the 64 Afghans stationed inside the fortress, with a rotation of eight Canadian military mentors, were not able to disrupt insurgent activity in the area.
The village is about 40 kilometres west of Kandahar Air Field.
It is now under Taliban control, the officers said, as is much of the Panjwaii peninsula, an area of some 160 square kilometres where poppy is a major cash crop for insurgents.
The Canadian officers deny that Canada has abandoned the local population. "I can see how it could be [interpreted that way]," said Maj. Stephane Briand, operations planning officer for the Quebec-led battle group in Kandahar. "But the main reason for the draw back was to reassign [troops]."
Yes, indeed. I can see "how it could be interpreted that way" too, especially if you're an Afghan villager who has spent the past two years watching the Taliban drive government and Western forces out of your neighbourhood. It's pretty hard to see any other way it could be interpreted.
It could also be interpreted as an admission of the mounting threat the Taliban pose to Kandahar City and our need to fall back to defend the provincial capital even if that means surrendering the countryside.