KANDAHAR UPDATE….Yesterday I was puzzled by reports suggesting that the Taliban was preparing for a major, straight-up battle with NATO forces near Kandahar. Today, Afghan and NATO forces swept through the area and it turned out the Taliban didn’t want to stay and fight after all:

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi told journalists that the army had regained control of 10 villages that had been overrun by the Taliban after hundreds of militants escaped in a prison break at the main Kandahar jail last week.

Azimi said the fleeing Taliban had seeded the area with land mines at a time when villagers were about to begin harvesting their crops. Thousands of refugees had fled the district earlier this week as fighting loomed.

Azimi said 56 members of the Taliban had died in the coalition offensive. The governor of Kandahar province, Asadullah Khalid, put the figure of killed and wounded insurgents in the hundreds. NATO did not confirm either of those estimates.

“We don’t have a definitive assessment, though casualties were inflicted,” NATO spokesman Mark Laity said.

Taliban commanders acknowledged only six fighters were killed.

That’s a lot less puzzling. The Taliban staged a dramatic jailbreak, took over some territory, and then melted away when the real battle started. In other words, the usual.