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Taliban resurgence worries embattled NATO commanders

Declan Walsh and Jonathan Steele

U.S. report calls for inducting more troops into Afghanistan

KABUL: News that the Iraq Study Group recommended a fresh injection of U.S. combat troops for Afghanistan will come as sweet relief to embattled NATO commanders.

Once the White House's proudest foreign policy success, Afghanistan is slowly starting to resemble the sort of quagmire the U.S. is struggling to escape in Iraq.

This year's dramatic Taliban resurgence has seen record numbers of suicide attacks and roadside bombs, a booming drugs trade and almost 4,000 deaths including 190 foreign soldiers.

While the U.S. provides about half of the 40,000 outside troops in Afghanistan, the ISG highlights a glaring fact facing soldiers on the ground — it is not enough.

Diverted attention

It says: ``The huge focus of U.S. political, military, and economic support has necessarily diverted attention from Afghanistan. We must not lose sight of the importance of the situation inside Afghanistan and the renewed threat posed by the Taliban. If the Taliban were to control more of Afghanistan, it could provide Al-Qaeda the political space to conduct terrorist operations ... It is critical for the U.S. to provide additional political, economic, and military support.''

Some but not all of the extra soldiers could come from units withdrawn from Iraq, the report says.

In a section arguing for dialogue with Tehran over Iraq, it also notes that Iran and the U.S. have cooperated over Afghanistan.

But the report says that even after the eventual U.S. withdrawal of combat brigades from Iraq, America would retain a considerable military presence in the region, in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar, as well as Afghanistan.

This will help the U.S., among other missions, ``to deter even more destructive interference in Iraq by Syria and Iran'' — an apparent threat of military strikes against the two countries.

Analysts say U.S. failure to send sufficient troops to Afghanistan in late 2001 was a blunder. —

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

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