Taliban pouring into Afghanistan from Pakistan: US commander
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Lt-Gen John Vines, the top American commander in Afghanistan, has charged that Taliban fighters, paid and trained by Al-Qaeda, are pouring into Afghanistan from Pakistan.
According to a report monitored here, Vines told American reporters travelling with Defence Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld that the Taliban were trying to regroup and regain control of the country they ruled until late 2001.
Gen Vines’ comments are being seen as the first confirmation from a top US military official of reports of a Taliban resurgence out of Pakistan into Afghanistan.
As many as 200 Taliban have been killed in Afghanistan this week alone, Vines said.
“They have been attempting to (regroup) for nine months. Every time, we’ve disrupted them, we’ve interdicted them, we’ve denied them sanctuary, and we’ve killed them,” Agence France Presse (AFP) quoted Vines as saying.
The most intense fighting in Afghanistan in a year has come during what the US military calls Operation Mountain Viper. Starting in late August, teams of American troops and local Afghan militia have hit Taliban fighters in the mountains of southern province of Zabul.
Vines said as many as 1,000 Taliban were in and around the area. He said they were among Taliban fighters who had either hidden out in Afghanistan or crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan.
“They’re attempting to regain power,” Vines said. “They’ve been attempting to do that for a year and a half.” US military officials have indications the recent Taliban resurgence is spurred in part by operatives of the Al-Qaeda network, who have been giving the Taliban training and funding, Vines said.
Apparently frustrated with the Taliban’s lack of success, their Al-Qaeda sponsors have urged the Taliban on or risk losing Al-Qaeda’s support, he said.
Vines called it a “use it or lose it” ultimatum from Osama Bin Laden’s network.
Some Afghans have said Pakistani officials still sympathetic to the Taliban have allowed the group to operate in the remote and largely lawless area along the border with Afghanistan, AFP reported.