More Troops Needed In Afghanistan - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

9/7/06

More Troops Needed In Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- NATO's top commander on Thursday urged allied nations to send reinforcements to war-ravaged southern Afghanistan.

Taliban militants are inflicting heavy casualties on foreign forces there and captured a remote town from police for the second time in two months.

Speaking in Belgium after visiting Afghanistan this week, Gen. James L. Jones said the coming weeks could be decisive for thousands of troops fighting Taliban in southern provinces, amid the worst upsurge in violence since the hard-line regime's ouster in late 2001 for hosting Osama bin Laden.

NATO had been surprised by the intensity of Taliban attacks since the alliance moved into the volatile region and by insurgents' willingness to stand and fight rather than hit-and-run, he said.

"In the relatively near future, certainly before the winter, we will see this decisive moment in the region turn in favor of the troops that represent the government," said Jones.

He said he was disappointed with the lack of commitment by some NATO nations.

But Jones remained confident that a meeting with top generals from the 26 NATO nations Friday and Saturday in Warsaw, Poland, would muster helicopters, transport planes and several hundred "flexible" reserve troops able to move quickly around the region to support NATO forces on the ground.

Britain, Canada and the Netherlands have taken lead roles since NATO took command in the south from a U.S.-led coalition August 1, pumping in around 8,000 troops. The alliance claims to have inflicted huge insurgent casualties including more than 250 in an offensive near Kandahar city since the weekend.

But at least 35 British and Canadian soldiers have died within 38 days, and militants show no sign of giving up.

Late Wednesday, Taliban militants reclaimed the southern Helmand provincial town of Garmser for the second time since July after police fled their compound late Wednesday, said local police chief, Ghulam Nabi Malakhail.

NATO spokesman Maj. Scott Lundy confirmed clashes in the town but was unaware that police had left.

Taliban forces held Garmser, a town of about 50,000 people, for two days in July, fighting 40 poorly armed police for 16 days before capturing it. U.S., British, Canadian and Afghan ground troops won it back and initially remained in the town before leaving it to reinforced Afghan security forces.

In other violence Thursday, Afghan police killed four Taliban fighters in southeastern Paktiya province's Zurmat district, said provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Anan Roufi. Three Taliban were arrested and three others fled.

A roadside bomb killed two police and wounded four in neighboring Paktika province late Wednesday, said Sayed Jamal, spokesman for the provincial governor. One Taliban was killed and seven wounded in two clashes in Ghazni province, south of Kabul, a provincial official said.

Meanwhile, in Kabul, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf acknowledged that al Qaeda and Taliban militants cross from Pakistan to launch attacks inside Afghanistan, but denied his government sponsored them.

"You blame us for what is happening in Afghanistan," Musharraf told Afghan government and army officials and lawmakers. "Let me say neither the government of Pakistan nor ISI (Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence) is involved in any kind of interference inside Afghanistan.

Musharraf's speech came a day after he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai resolved to cooperate to fight the "common enemy" of terrorism and extremism. Musharraf left for Pakistan later Thursday.

The NATO call for reinforcements comes as the alliance mulls whether to press on with plans to take command of the east of Afghanistan, currently under a U.S.-led coalition, before the end of the year. Such a move would raise the number of NATO forces in the country to around 24,000. The alliance already leads in the north and west of the country.

The Afghan Defense Ministry's chief spokesman said his country needs NATO reinforcements in the short term, but more help to rebuild its national army in the long run.

"We welcome and appreciate any NATO reinforcements to southern Afghanistan, which is necessary for the peace and stability of the country," said Gen. Zahir Azimi. "But in the long term, NATO should focus on building up the Afghan National Army."

Afghanistan currently has about 30,000 soldiers in its army and 60,000 lesser-equipped police. Its defense minister believes a Western plan to increase the army's size to 70,000 is insufficient and that at least double that number is needed.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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