The North Atlantic Treaty Organization's International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan has assumed command of military operations in southern Afghanistan. NATO forces are already responsible for multinational military operations in much of northern and northwestern Afghanistan. The number of NATO troops is expected to increase from about ten-thousand-five hundred to around eighteen thousand by mid-August.
The increase comes as Taleban remnants have stepped up attacks in six southern Afghan provinces. NATO spokesman, Major Luke Knittig, says securing Afghanistan is a challenge:
"This is probably the toughest mission the alliance has ever embarked upon. Maybe not the largest, but certainly the most complex."
"We are not going to tolerate the existence of any kind of haven for terrorist elements in Afghanistan," said Francesc Vendrell, the European Union's envoy to Afghanistan. Mr. Vendrell says security problems in southern Afghanistan are serious but will be overcome by "a combined military, political, and reconstruction approach." U.S.-led coalition forces continue to work with Afghan troops to root out Taleban insurgents in eastern Afghanistan.
At least eight people were killed when a car bomb exploded outside a mosque in Nangarhar province. "I was the target and it was the work of Afghanistan's enemies," said Gul Agha Sherzai, governor of Nangarhar.
General Peter Pace, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the Taleban "may be a day-to-day tactical problem" for coalition and NATO forces in Afghanistan "but we are a long-term strategic problem for them." General Pace says the Taleban "can pick and choose some battles, but they cannot take over this country again."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.