News Brief – August 10, 2009
The Taliban have moved out of traditional strongholds in Afghanistan's south and east, gaining momentum as they advance into the north and west, the top U.S. and NATO commander said in an interview on Monday.
U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, said the Taliban are resurgent having forced a change of tactics on foreign forces.
"It's a very aggressive enemy right now," McChrystal told The Wall Street Journal in an interview in Kabul. "We've got to stop their momentum, stop their initiative. It's hard work."
Violence has reached its worst levels since the Taliban were ousted in 2001 and escalated dramatically following major offensives southern Helmand province in July.
Attacks have also become increasingly brazen, with suicide bombers and gunmen attacking government buildings. Earlier Monday Taliban fighters seized government buildings in a provincial capitol near Kabul, battling American and Afghan forces for several hours in Pul-e-Alam.
July was the war's deadliest month for foreign troops with thousands of American and British troops fighting to push Taliban fighters out of populated areas in Helmand,.
At least 41 U.S. troops were killed, easily surpassing the previous highest monthly toll of 26 in September last year. At least 71 foreign troops in total were killed in July.
Britain has suffered its worst ground combat casualties in a generation, with 22 killed in July, raising questions about whether its troops are adequately supplied and equipped and whether they should be there at all.
The Journal said McChrystal's remarks showed he believed the Taliban were "winning" and had gained "the upper hand", but his aides later tried to downplay the extent of the Taliban’s advances.
"He did say that NATO forces are facing an aggressive enemy employing complex tactics, but during the course of the interview he also observed that insurgents in Afghanistan face their own problems in terms of popularity, cohesiveness and ability to sustain morale and fighting capacity," said McChrystal's spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Sholtis.
There are now about 101,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, with Washington planning to increase the number of its troops to about 68,000 by year's end, more than double the 32,000 it had stationed in Afghanistan at the end of 2008.
McChrystal is reported to want a "very significant expansion" of the Afghan army and police.
Last updated 14/08/2009