Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday Sign of Hope March 25th 2007

Offensive against Taliban succeeding, Nato says


KABUL: Nato commanders said they were pleased with the initial results of a spring offensive launched this month to pre-empt the Taliban in their southern strongholds.

The deployment of several thousand Nato and Afghan troops as part of Operation Achilles in the southern province of Helmand – Afghanistan's poppy-growing heartland – has put the guerrillas on the back-foot, senior officers said.

The comments came hours after Afghan and NATO troops killed 12 suspected Islamist insurgents overnight when they tried to attack a military base in the southeastern province of Paktika, on the border with Pakistan.

The attackers were repulsed with small arms fire, backed by air support and artillery, a statement from the coalition said. Two coalition and two Afghan soldiers received minor wounds.

"Achilles is delivering positive results and our efforts have resulted in eroding the enemy's capacity to fight," said Major-General Tonne van Loon, the southern command chief of Nato's International Security Assistance Force.

Troops had encircled the fighters and prevented them from getting reinforcements, including foreign fighters from across the border in Pakistan, he told a news conference.

Clashes between the Taliban rebels and coalition troops has escalated with the end of winter in Afghanistan in what is expected to be a crunch year for both sides.

Last year saw the worst violence in Afghanistan since US-led forces ousted the Taliban from power in late 2001. More than 4000 people died in fighting in 2006, including about 1000 civilians.


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