According to General Ghulam Mayar, the Taliban has so far helped an estimated 476 political prisoners escape from the Afghanistan prison in Kandahar, an estimated 106 of whom are Taliban commanders. Security forces discovered the tunnel ranging from 360 meters to 1000 meters. The tunnel was dug from the outside and went under the Kabul-Kandahar highway into the prison.

According to Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, only 3 Taliban prisoners knew of the project. When it was time to leave, the 3 Taliban prisoners led others to the tunnel one by one. There were Taliban fighters and suicide bombers on hand in case a fight broke out with the security forces. At the other end of the tunnel, vehicles were waiting for the newly escaped prisoners.

The governor of Kandahar criticized the security forces for the escape citing that work for the underground tunnel had been going on for months. The governor asked the public to provide information to security authorities if they saw any Taliban in their area.

This is the second largest prison break at the Sarposa prison, which is the largest prison in southern Afghanistan. The prison houses senior Taliban figures. 3 years ago on June 13, 2008, the Taliban were successful in freeing 1200 prisoners, 350 of whom were Taliban members. This led to an attack that killed 15 security guards.

The escape on Monday comes at an intense time during the Taliban’s fight in southern Afghanistan. As the Taliban is pushed into the rural areas outside the city under pressures from NATO troops, the Taliban’s holding has weakened. Bringing back a large group of experienced fighters may reverse the trend, potentially leading to an increase presence of Taliban members in local cities.