Latest Channel 4 News:
Row over Malaysian state's coins
'Four shot at abandoned mine shaft'
Rain fails to stop Moscow wildfires
Cancer blow for identical twins
Need for Afghan progress 'signs'

PM bolsters Middle East offensives

By Alex Thomson

Updated on 10 December 2007

Gordon Brown made a surprise visit to Afghanistan following his trip to support British troops in southern Iraq.

As the Taliban were being driven out of the Afghan town of Musa Qala after a four-day battle, Gordon Brown arrived in Helmand province to hail the role of British troops. The prime minister immediately announced new reconstruction projects to win over the local population and to try and ensure the area doesn't fall back into the hands of the Taliban.

Mr Brown flew to Afghanistan from Iraq and visited British troops at their Camp Bastion base in Helmand before going Kabul for meetings with President Hamid Karzai. Mr Brown said today's actions by Afghan troops, supported by Nato forces, were a "very important" milestone.

The taking of Musa Qala

The Taliban had assembled about a thousand men in Musa Qala but they've long since realised you don't fight NATO head on - almost all of those men will have slipped away to the hills long before Afghan and NATO soldiers entered these streets around noon, today.

In April this year we filmed with America's 82nd Airborne as they searched houses along the Helmand River south of Musa Qala - the 82nd were heavily involved with the major British and Afghan army push to enter Musa Qala over the past 3 days.

British forces - around 4000 deployed northwest from Sangin on Friday. They moved up the Helmand River valley. En route there were some small skirmishes as they took up position to the south of Musa Qala.

Leaflets had been dropped on the town advising people to leave, north of the town the US 82nd Airborne infantry were dropped in by helicopter. A large force of Afghan Army soldiers completed a virtual ring around Musa Qala.

NATO cannot beat the Taliban any more than the Taliban can beat NATO

Probably more by contrivance than coincidence, Gordon Brown was in Helamnd Province this morning - though nowhere near the fighting. But the soldiers and Gordon Brown know perfectly well they cannot win here.

NATO doesn't have the soldiers. Other countries refuse to send reinforcements. NATO cannot beat the Taliban any more than the Taliban can beat NATO. In an insurgency, it is the winning the people that is vital to victory.

But convincing the people could be tough. The British have failed here once already. NATO destroying the mosque, among other buildings, dislodging the Taliban first time around. The British - to the fury of the Americans - handed the place to local elders - and the Taliban took it back.

So now the plan's for the Afghan Army to take control. A good example of the Afghan Army running an Afghan town. But a large target for Taliban hit and run attacks. The Afghan army cannot manage without NATO. And NATO needs reinforcements. Yet again President Karzai pleaded for them today. But the world doesn't want to know.

So there was no big Battle of Musa Qala. Tonight there are new uniforms patrolling the bazaar. But the Taliban have left to fight another day.

Send this article by email

More on this story

Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.

Watch the Latest Channel 4 News

Watch Channel 4 News when you want

Latest International politics news

More News blogs

View RSS feed

Living with the Taliban

Taliban on the Afghan frontline

A rare film of Taliban fighters on the Afghan frontline.

Pakistan appeal


Actor Art Malik on why he is fronting the DEC's flood appeal.

Tackling Taliban IEDs


Bomb disposal soldiers on lonely walk to defuse bombs.


Channel 4 © 2010. Channel 4 is not responsible for the content of external websites.