NATO is saying that there weren't nearly as many Taliban fighters in the area as the Afghans said (and say) there were.
I see at least two ways of approaching this:
- Accept the possibility that Afghan officials over-estimated the strength of Taliban forces in Arghandab, and be happy that a major Afghani city isn't likely to fall into Taliban hands.
- Raise a hue and cry about how Afghan officials duped NATO into attacking Arghandab, claiming that Big Grape wanted the pomegranates, almonds, apricots, figs, and melons that grow there. And, of course, the Ayta grapes.
I think that #1 is a more sensible approach. It lacks the drama of the Big Oil scenarios, but it seems to have a better fit with reality.
Finally, I think that the Afghan authorities over-estimated the size of the Taliban force, as NATO has indicated. That doesn't imply a conspiracy, though. Considering what Afghanistan has been through, I think it's understandable if the current government accepted high-side estimates of the enemy's strength.
More, in the news:
- "Grim reminders of battle in Arghandab valley near Kandahar"
International Herald Tribune (June 20, 2008)
- "Afghan and NATO forces clear Taliban from Kandahar area"
International Herald Tribune (June 19, 2008)