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Friday, September 22, 2006

Afghanastan: TALIBAN STRENGTH IN SOUTHERN AFGHANASTAN SURPRISED U.S. GENERAL

Washington---The U.S. general commanding American forces in Afghanstan said Thursday that he had not anticipated the strength of the Taliban in the southern part of the country.

By: DPA
September 21, 2006

The Taliban has been able to take advantage of the weakness of the Afghan government in the south to establish a presence that NATO and U.S. forces have been working to roll back for months, said Lt. Genl. Earl Eikenberry.

"I don't want to at all understate the capability that Taliban has developed here, as I said, over the course of the past year in several districts and several of the provinces," Eickenberry said.

"I would have said (a year ago) that it would not be at the level that we did find this spring and summer," the Genl. said.

NATO has inflicted heavy casualties on the Taliban since Operation Medusa began and forced them to retreat and dispense, the alliance's chief commander, U.S. General James Jones, told reporters Wednesday.

He said Taliban forces fought in organized divisions against NATO and "paid a very heavy price for it." One senior U.S. official said NATO had "wiped the floor with the Taliban."

The Taliban resurgence in Afghanastan forced the U.S. military to raise its troops level there to about 21,000 and Jones has pressed NATO to send more soldiers in an effort to secure all regions of the country and assist the government in Kabul in establishing authority.

"We're still at a stage now, about four-plus years into this campaign, where the challenge is developing the government of Afghanastan, extending its influence, developing Afghan national security forces," Eikenberry said.

Defeating the Taliban has been complicated by the militia's ability to scurry across the border into Pakistan and then later launch raids.

The pourous border has been a source of tension between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart, Pervez Musharraf. The two leaders were in New York this week and were to meet seperately with U.S. President George W. Bush in the next several days before holding three-way talks aimed at boosting cooperation.

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