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Afghan force meets stiff resistance -

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Afghan force meets stiff resistance

Broadcast: 16/02/2010

Reporter: Hamish Fitzsimmons

A push into Afghanistan's south has slowed amid fierce resistance from the Taliban, after US forces
reported the capturing of a Taliban high commander.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: There are unconfirmed reports tonight of the capture in Pakistan of the
Taliban's second in command.

The New York Times says a joint operation between Pakistani intelligence and the CIA captured
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Karachi last week.

The news came as the NATO operation in Afghanistan continued to take Taliban strongholds in the
south of the country. The Coalition forces were slowed though by stiff resistance around the key
town of Marjah. And more civilians have been killed. The toll rose today by three to 15. Eight
Coalition soldiers have died in the operation.

Hamish Fitzsimmons reports.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS, REPORTER: Progress is being slowed by improvised explosive devices and snipers.

But as things began to look less positive for Operation Moshtarak, American government officials
told the New York Times the Taliban's second in command had been captured in Pakistan last
Thursday.

CNN PRESENTER: This is a big deal.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: A huge deal. I mean, arguably more important than
Mullah Omar from a military point of view, because Mullah Omar really is more of a religious figure
than an operational commander of the Taliban.

This guy also is the number two political figure in the Taliban.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is the deputy to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and is
its chief military and political strategist.

Last year he told Newsweek magazine there would be no end to Afghan resistance.

MULLAH ABDUL GHANI BARADAR, NEWSWEEK, 2009 (male voiceover): "The history of Afghanistan shows that
Afghans never get tired of struggling until they have freed their country.

"We shall continue our jihad till the expulsion of our enemy from our land."

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: As marines clear the path to Marjah, Coalition partners are keen to highlight
the involvement of Afghan National Army troops in this assault.

STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, COMMANDER, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ASSISTANCE FORCE: While this is an Afghan-led
operation, I think it highlights the special partnership that we've developed that I'm very proud
of.

SHER MOHAMMAD ZAZI, GENERAL, AFGHAN ARMY (voiceover translation): Our brave armed forces and ISAF
forces are continuing for their operation in Marjah. With the help of God they already achieved
success; in the near future we will be witness to a Marjah free from the presence of the Taliban.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: That freedom may come at some cost. Though thousand fled, some people have been
caught up in the fighting.

At this stage at least 15 civilians are confirmed to have been killed, including 12 in one rocket
attack.

NADIR NADIRI, AFGHAN INDEPENDENT HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION: We would like to see that the civilian
causality comes to the minimum level and we also request that an investigation to be carried out to
see how these civilians have lost their life.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Operation Moshtarak has emphasised civilian authorities assuming governance
after the Taliban have been driven out. Those officials are trying to reassure locals.

GULAB MANGAL, HELMAND PROVINCIAL GOVERNOR (voiceover translation): The Afghan National Army should
inform one of the villagers that they are going to search a house and soldiers should tell one of
the villagers to go with them and knock on the door.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: But if more civilians are killed it may become difficult to convince people to
turn away from the Taliban.

Hamish Fitzsimmons, Lateline.