War in Afghanistan

Taleban insurgents bolder, says Nato general

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 July, 2006, 12:00am

Taleban insurgents are growing stronger because the world's attention is distracted by Iraq, a top British general says.

'I'm critical of the whole international community for not listening sufficiently closely to all Afghans, in particular the Afghan government,' General David Richards, commander of the Nato force in Afghanistan, told the BBC.

His comments follow criticisms by President Hamid Karzai of the way anti-terror operations have been conducted.

Mr Karzai said last week it was unacceptable that hundreds had been killed in Afghanistan, even if they were Taleban.

General Richards will take command at the end of this month in southern Afghanistan, where the rebels are most active.

'There's no doubt there is a resurgent Taleban problem,' he said.

Asked why, he replied: 'Largely, it's because people took their eye off this ball and a vacuum was allowed to develop and that vacuum was filled by the Taleban.

'I think, probably internationally, for a while Iraq absorbed people's interest and resources.'

Afghanistan in recent months has suffered the worst violence since a US-led attack ousted the Taleban government in December 2001 for failing to hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

But General Richards said it 'is not too late to put the Taleban back in the box'.

'As well as the stick, we need to offer many more carrots,' he said, adding that the Nato force would be able to offer development and humanitarian aid.

The violence has continued, with suspected Taleban rebels kidnapping an Afghan security worker in southern Afghanistan and two militants being killed in a separate incident.

The man working for USPI, a US private security firm, was abducted on Thursday in the southern province of Ghazni.

During a hunt for the kidnappers police detained six men for suspected involvement in the kidnapping but there was no news on the fate of the security worker.

The Taleban have threatened to target Afghan nationals working for the foreign military or civilian companies.

Meanwhile, two suspected Taleban fighters were killed and four were injured, also on Thursday, after they attacked a police building in neighbouring Zabul province, police chief Noor Mohammad Paktin said.

'The Taleban left their dead fighters on the ground and made off after we resisted,' he said.

Taleban spokesman Mohammad Hanif claimed responsibility for the attack and for the kidnapping, repeating calls for Afghans to not work for 'infidel foreigners'.

He said the fate of the snatched man had yet to be decided.