On 25th April, a week before the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, nearly 500 Taliban prisoners escaped from Saraposa prison on the western edge of Kandahar City. Their escape route was a tunnel dug from a compound outside the prison, rented for the purpose by local insurgents. The breakout was described by Hamid Karzai as a “disaster.”
Although the attention of both political leaders and the public has now turned to the aftermath of bin Laden’s death, the consequences of this prison break are likely to be profound for Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and, therefore, western prospects in Afghanistan.
In July 2010, ISAF launched a key element of their new surge strategy in Afghanistan. Operation Moshtarak (Together) was intended to secure Kandahar City and the surrounding area, long regarded as central to the success of the current campaign. The operation involved the insertion of a US airborne brigade into three nearby provinces and major deployments of the Afghan national army and police in and around the city of Kandahar itself. The aim was to form three security rings around the centre of the city. The operation also involved the construction of a completely new security infrastructure: vehicle check points, police stations and, in the countryside, long barriers intended to neutralise the Taliban and secure the population in Kandahar. Moshtarak also involved furious military activity, including major air assault opera…