Medusa and the Kabul Cell
An Operation Medusa update and more on the suspected al Qaeda car bomb cell in Kabul
Operation Medusa is in its seventh day, and Afghan and Canadian forces of the Canadian Royal Regiment, along with Coalition air forces continue to pound Taliban positions in the Panjwai district in Kandahar. An ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] report indicates at least 40 Taliban were killed in the latest round of fighting, while ABC News Online puts the number at 50. Estimated Taliban casualties in Medusa over the past week are around 350, with over 80 detained.
The ISAF press release also confirms that the Canadian Army is indeed establishing a presence in the Panjwai region. "ISAF troops have moved into, and are now occupying parts of Panjwayi and Zhari districts." The main highway Route 1, which links Kandahar and Lashkar Gar, has been reopened to local traffic, indicating the security situation along the route has increased. Afghan police and army checkpoints dot the roadway to ensure the Taliban are not using the route as a major line of communications.
Walter Gaffney, a security expert in Afghanistan, provides an update on the two suicide bombing in Kabul this week. He confirms the suspicion that an al Qaeda car bomb cell is active in Kabul. A military intelligence source also indicated that it is highly likely a cell is active in the city.
It is in fact true that all indicators point to a "factory" being here in Kabul itself. The VBIED [Vehicle Bourne Improvised Explosive Device or suicide car bomb] last week against ISAF was spotted by police driving erratically (that really says something) and going extremely fast. I came up on the police man that had given chase from Freedom Square (don't know why they call it a square because it is a circle). He was smoking a Marlboro down to the filter because he wasn't too far behind the Hylux Surf when it slammed into the ISAF vehicle. I'll attempt to send you some pictures of that scene. This vehicle did not have license plates and would be stopped prior to getting into Kabul.
The one yesterday came from Freedom Square again and was in fact determined to be registered in Kabul. It then slammed into the American vehicle and was easily twice as large. This was the largest I've seen in Afghanistan, this was an Iraq type SVIED. The two Americans that were killed had been blown out of their vehicle approximately 50 yards away. As you know there are different rules here in Afghanistan and Iraq, as to distance that must be maintained between civilian vehicles and convoys, I am assuming that Afghanistan will up their distance allowed now and might even loosen up the rules of engagement.
It should be remembered that an accident in late May sparked a riot in Kabul, and forced the Coalition to reconsider the convoy rules. There are always security trade offs when altering the rules of engagement. The last two suicide attacks in Kabul killed many locals and has upset and angered the local businessmen in Kabul. Coalition forces are actively hunting the al Qaeda cell in Kabul, and they aren't alone.