by Jim Emerson
Before dawn this weekend, approximately 475 Taliban fighters escaped from a large prison in Kandahar. The prisoners opened their cell doors and left the prison through a well-prepared tunnel. Like the classic movie The Great Escape, they managed to escape without being detected. This is not be a Hollywood script but may have been influenced by one.
In a well thought-out plan to break out, the prisoners took five months to build a tunnel from a local house to the section of the prisons where the fighters were being held. The 1,000-foot-long tunnel was designed and dug by engineers who added electricity and a ventilation system. Once the prisoners arrived at the end of the tunnel, they were met by waiting cars and buses. The drivers knew how to leave Kandahar without detection. The coordination of this operation was flawless, and whoever was the mastermind should be considered extremely dangerous.
The prisoners had keys to their cells on the night of the escape, most likely provided by guards loyal to the Taliban. The tunnel was built with the help of prison officials who provided the Taliban with cell locations and Taliban-sympathetic guards put in positions to insure the tunnel diggers could operate with impunity.
Once out of prison, the final leg of escape was accomplished by drivers who knew where the compromised checkpoint guards were and where other routes out of town were located.
So far 71 escapees were captured or killed. Those prisoners were most likely not part of the Taliban. A commander who can arrange the logistic,s the expertise, and the loyalties of his spies has to be a good student of Sun Tzu or have professional guidance from the Iranians or the Pakistanis.
Escaping is a good military tactic because it ties up the security forces by forcing them to look for escaped prisoners, thereby allowing the hostile forces time to stage future attacks. Additionally, the escapees can provide valuable intelligence on how they were handled, moved, and processed during their capture.
Another effect of the escape is that it makes the civilian population fearful of the Taliban and doubtful of its government and its security forces. Unless they regain the faith of their people, the governors of Afghanistan will find themselves in the same position as those of Egypt.
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This article originally appeared on CoachIsRight.com and is reprinted with permission.