was a Canadian-led offensive by
major elements of the International Security
that began on September 2, 2006 as part of the
ongoing war in
. It aimed to establish government control over
an area of Kandahar Province
centered on the town of Panjwayi some
30 km west of Kandahar city.
is characterized by numerous small farming villages in the valley
of the Arghandab
NATO forces believe this area to be a Taliban stronghold. It was
previously assaulted in the Battle of
during the summer of 2006, but Taliban forces quickly
re-asserted their presence after the operation ended.
The operation involves most of the Canadian Forces
' combat troops in
Afghanistan, which provided the bulk of the force there, including
troops from 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment
Battle Group as well various company-sized formations from the US
Army (Special Operations Forces, and Alpha Company 2nd Battalion,
4th Infantry Regt, 207th Infantry Regt,4th BDE, 10th MTN DIV).
Dutch and Danish soldiers were also involved - albeit peripherally,
as well as hundreds of Afghan soldiers. The Dutch PzH 2000 howitzer
positioned with the Canadian M777
Echo Battery and made its combat debut with the Dutch Army
Afghan and NATO forces
killed more than 200 suspected Taliban
fighters in a major operation in southern Afghanistan, NATO said on
September 3, 2006. Four Canadian soldiers with the NATO-led
International Security Assistance Force were killed and nine others
were wounded in the fighting in Kandahar province, a
statement from the alliance said.
“Reports indicate that more than 200 Taliban fighters
have been killed since Operation Medusa began early morning on
September 2, 2006.
This figure was arrived at by reviewing
information from ISAF surveillance and reconnaissance assets
operating in Panjwaye and Zhari districts, as well as information
reported by various Afghan officials and citizens living
80 suspected Taliban fighters were captured by Afghan police and a
further 180 insurgents were seen fleeing the district, the
NATO said there were no reports of civilian casualties, despite the
heavy amount of firepower being used. Afghan Defense Ministry
spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi, citing intelligence reports, said 89
suspected Taliban militants and an uncertain number of civilians
had been killed during the first two days of fighting in Panjwayi
district. It was not immediately possible to gain independent
confirmation of the casualty reports, as the government has ordered
vehicles off the roads leading to Panjwayi during the operation. A
NATO statement said its troops reported dozens of insurgents killed
during the first day of the operation. It said many more have been
wounded, and a significant number arrested. The tough military
action has brought with it a risk of civilian deaths.
Twelve Canadian soldiers died in combat in the campaign, five
during the major combat operations, five in bombings and two in a
mortar/rpg attack during the reconstruction phase of the operation.
14 British military personnel
were also killed when their plane crashed
addition an American Army military adviser for the Afghan National
Army was killed during a gun battle near some stables in eastern
While supporting the operation a British Nimrod MR2
reconnaissance aircraft crashed,
killing all fourteen on board. This represented the largest single
fatal incident involving British troops in Afghanistan. The UK
Ministry of Defence believes the crash was not the result of
Stronger than expected resistance was put up by the Taliban forces
there, whom NATO expected to simply retreat. Instead, they prepared
for the decisive engagement, deciding to take advantage of the
defensively advantageous ground of the district, and laid traps for
the coming NATO troops. The NATO troops' objective was, basically,
to capture a grouping of villages known as Pashmul. Pashmul had
been the site of repeated battles throughout the summer of 2006,
with several Canadian soldiers being killed there on August
The air-offensive commenced on September 2 while ground forces
positioned themselves in a pincer, north and south of the Panjqayi
District. The air attacks led to the killing, in the first two
days, of around 200 Taliban fighters and the arrest of another
An odd decision made at RC(S) changed the tone of the battle.
Charles Company of the 1 RCR Battle Group was positioned for a
feint in the south while the bombing went on. Three days ahead of
schedule C Company was suddenly ordered to cross the Arghandab
River and move into Pashmul. Enemy resistance was severe. Several
Canadian vehicles were lost and four Canadian soldiers were killed
and nine were wounded in the intense fighting. Explosions echoed
across grape and pomegranate fields and clouds of dust rose amid
the greenery and dried-mud houses of the Panjwayi district, which
is about 12 miles from Kandahar city.
After Operation Medusa started, authorities in Kandahar warned
people not to travel off the main highway in the province, which
leads into Panjwayi. The road was blocked by soldiers — not far
from where bombing was taking place. Some military Humvees were
parked nearby. Observers reported that 180 Taliban fighters managed
to escape the district.
On September 4 there was a friendly fire incident. U.S. warplanes
mistakenly strafed Charles Company, as they were preparing to once
again attack Pashmul. The A-10 killed one soldier and wounded at
least 30, 5 of whom were seriously wounded. NATO said the friendly
fire incident happened after ground troops battling Taliban
militants requested air support. "Two USAF aircraft provided the
support but regrettably engaged friendly forces during a strafing
run, using cannons," NATO said in a statement. NATO later
identified the planes as US A-10
The friendly fire incident essentially rendered C Company combat
ineffective. Emphasis was switched from the southern flank of
Panjwayi to the north - which some claim had been the original
plan. As forces reoriented themselves the Canadian and Dutch
artillery as well as NATO air power resumed their attacks.
Canadian and Dutch artillery and NATO air strikes killed at least
51 suspected Taliban militants. Maj. Scott Lundy said earlier that
an estimated 700 militants were "trapped" in an area spanning
several hundred square miles in Panjwayi and Zhari districts, some
in fortified compounds, others moving in the open. Also on the
fourth day, first reports of civilian casualties emerged with
people saying that at least 10 civilians from the same family were
killed in the bombing since the start of the operation.
On the fifth day Canadian and Dutch artillery and NATO air strikes
continued pounding Taliban positions killing another 40 fighters
who tried to break through NATO lines and escape. Forward observers
reported that the Taliban fighters that remain have entrenched
themselves and were ready for a fight. Five soldiers were wounded
in a mortar attack on a Canadian patrol.
The next two days there was a lull in fighting. But it flared up
again on September 8, 2006. Ground combat renewed and in the
fighting on the 8 and 9 September another 40 Taliban fighters and
one American soldier were killed. "We are engaging with everything
from direct fire to artillery and air strikes," an official with
the NATO-led ISAF said. Three insurgent positions, a bomb-making
factory, and a weapons cache were destroyed, and ISAF troops
occupied parts of Panjwayi and Zhari districts. "Afghan and ISAF
troops have reopened Highway 1 to civilian traffic and will
maintain a patrolling presence to ensure civilians can travel the
route in increased safety," ISAF said.
Late on September 9, 2006 the fighting started up again and lasted
until morning of the 10th. NATO said 94 militants were killed in
both Panjwayi and neighboring Zhari districts. Late on the 10th
insurgents staged a counterattack which led to the killing of
another 92 militants, many falling easy prey the crack Canadian
scouts positioned on hills.
The next four days there was virtually no fighting with NATO
reporting that the Taliban have fled. NATO troops, however, found a
large number of booby traps left behind by the Taliban. On
September 14, the 11th day of the operation, troops began moving
ahead into Taliban-controlled areas of Pashmula. As the hours
unfolded evidence of the Taliban's presence mounted: 50 kilograms
of nitrogen, dozens of batteries, rocket-propelled grenades,
ammunition, tunnels and bunkers. Meanwhile, connections to drug
trafficking were evident at the compound. NATO and Afghan soldiers
had to check every building and scour every inch of ground before
victory could be declared and residents allowed to return to their
homes. "Caution is the name of the game today," Major Geoff
Abthorpe, a commando squad leader, said Wednesday as the day began.
"Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast." As NATO troops forged ahead,
they were on the lookout for Taliban fighters. The insurgents had
showed a stronger-than-expected resistance, but it now appeared
they've fled their stronghold, which some had suspected would serve
as a last stand. Many Canadian soldiers were excited and had
anxiety because they were worried that the Taliban managed to flee
to fight another day. But at the day's end an Afghan interpreter
with the Canadian troops reported that he heard radio chatter from
the Taliban, and that they were saying about pulling together in a
spot to dig in and fight.
But the Taliban didn't dig in. Instead some 400 heavily armed
Taliban crossed into the western Farah province, taking control of
its Gulistan district after chasing away the police and burning the
district headquarters and a local clinic on September 14, 2006.
NATO announced the operation over on September 17, 2006. They said
that the operation was a success in destroying the Taliban force
that was massing near Kandahar, and the Taliban have been driven
from both Panjwayi and Zhari districts of Kandahar province.
A day after NATO declared victory a suicide bomber in Panjwayi
district of Kandahar province killed four Canadian soldiers while
they were on a security patrol. While the operation was going on,
in other attacks by the Taliban, in the same period, four American
and four British soldiers were killed along with dozens of Afghan
soldiers and police, and dozens of civilians.
Military operations of Operation Medusa did not stop on September
17 though. The seventeenth was the date that the major combat of
the operation ended. After that the next phases of operation Medusa
began which included reconstruction of infrastructure and roadways,
combined with efforts to help the local people return home and link
the regional economy to the rest of the country.
Despite suffering a brutal battlefield defeat, the Taliban retained
their presence in Kandahar province and did not lose their will to
On October 6, 2006 anonymous commanders from five NATO countries,
were demanding their governments "get tough" with Pakistan over the
alleged support and sanctuary the Pakistani Interservices
Intelligence (ISI) provided to the Taliban during operation
Despite the end of combat operations, heavy fighting continued in
the area. In the last week of October 2006, dozens of civilians
were reported killed in ISAF operations. A local council member was
quoted as stating, "The government and the coalition told the
families that there are no Taliban in the area any more. If there
are no Taliban, then why are they bombing the area?"
In the months following Operation Medusa, Afghan and international
concern over the number of civilians killed in the assault. In
particular, a NATO investigation into an airstrike in October found
that 31 civilians were killed, including 20 people in a single
extended family. On 3 January 2007, a NATO spokesman acknowledged
that "The single thing that we have done wrong — and we are
striving hard to improve on next year — is killing innocent
The follow-up operation, Operation Falcon Summit
did not involve such heavy firepower, instead using small infantry
units searching villages in co-operation with tribal elders.
- "Civilians reported killed by airstrikes as NATO
hunts Taliban" October 19, 2006 accessed 19 October 2006.
- BBC Europe.
- Alauddin Khan, Afghan officials say 60 civilians killed in NATO
operation, AP via Globe and Mail, October 26, 2006.