Kabul: A military offensive in southern Afghanistan is chasing the Taliban out of their stronghold in Kandahar province, the Afghan President`s half brother said.
"Most of them I believe left before the military operation started," Ahmed Wali Karzai said late Wednesday. "They are running ... I don`t know (where)."
NATO and Afghan forces began an operation to wrest control of Kandahar province in July, an attempt to regain the initiative in the nine-year war by taking the battle to the heartland of the insurgency along the Pakistani border.
"Things are changing very well. There`s a lot of progress in security ... Some (Taliban) were arrested. Some were killed," said Karzai. "There`s no single Taliban base in Kandahar province right now."
That claim could not be immediately verified.
Karzai heads a provincial council in Kandahar and says government officials are moving in to set up institutions in areas cleared of Taliban by security forces. Improving residents` quality of life is crucial to winning their long-term support and maintaining control of territory.
In Kandahar city, one resident said people were less afraid now to turn in information about insurgents.
"The Taliban are weak now and people are not so afraid of them, so now people can help the government," said Salam Bacha Barakzai, a 41-year-old teacher. "You can see that Taliban are being arrested everywhere. That`s because the people are helping."
The operation began by setting up checkpoints in the city of Kandahar. Then extra NATO and Afghan forces, including specialised paramilitary police, flooded into the city and eventually began moving into neighbouring Arghandab district to the north. The fertile valley is a breadbasket for the area. Afghan and NATO forces are now moving into the volatile districts of Zhari and Panjwai, trying to consolidate their gains.