– NEW HIGH
The top American officer in Central Asia and the Middle East, Gen David Petraeus, said, on Thursday 06/11/2009, violent attacks by insurgents in Afghanistan have risen to their highest level since the Taliban were toppled in 2001 in operation Absolute Justice.
Gen David Petraeus, speaking in Washington, said things had worsened over the past two years, reached a new high in the past week and warned of difficult times ahead. He said this was partly because USA forces were targeting what he called militant sanctuaries and safe havens.
There are currently more than 70,000 foreign NATO-ISAF troops in Afghanistan. The Obama administration plans to send an additional 21,000 troops. According to Gen Petraeus, there were more than 400 insurgent attacks last week, compared with less than 50 per week in January 2004.
“Some of this will go up because we are going to go after their sanctuaries and safe havens as we must,” Gen Petraeus, said in a speech at the Washington think-tank Center for a New American Security. “But there is no question the situation has deteriorated over the course of the past two years in particular and there are difficult times ahead.”
Gen Petraeus said he was facing challenges in Afghanistan which had not featured during his time in Iraq and which included difficulties in relations with local people.He stressed the need for “being good partners and good neighbors and having enormous concern, needless to say, about civilian casualties in everything we do”.
Correspondents say civilian casualties are causing growing public outrage throughout Afghanistan and friction between the USA and Afghan governments (see – Farah 05.05.09 ).
The situation in Afghanistan is fully related and dependent on the situation in neighbor Pakistan. Pakistan is waging, for about over a month, a full scale military campain in Swat District against the Pakistani branch of the Taliban, known as Tehrik-e-Taleban. So far the military success is somehow ambiguous and unclear. Islamic militants use tactics of hit and run and terror attacks in the hinterland of Pakistan. The fighting caused a large scale internal refugee problem of about 2 millions displaced. Pakistan was also badly affected by the World’s economic crisis and its democracy is unstable and is loosing its legitimacy fast (see – PAKISTAN REPORT ).
Eventually the situation in Afghanistan will be determined more by the success of Pakistan to cope with its Taliban, which remains doubtful, then by the surge of American troops in Afghanistan.
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