NATO’s International Security Assistance Force killed a senior Taleban commander and several other extremists in a precision airstrike on a Taleban compound in the village of Lower Jal-Jay in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. NATO officials say the commander was responsible for an insurgent attack at the Kajaki Dam.
In a joint operation with Afghan security forces, NATO troops also raided a terrorist compound in Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province. NATO troops have evidence that the compound was manufacturing explosive devices. Ten suspected insurgents were captured. Dutch Colonel J.F. van Griensven, commander of NATO troops in Uruzgan province, said that “the success of this operation sends a direct message to insurgents that we will not tolerate their attempts to hamper reconstruction and development efforts and initiatives taking place in Uruzgan.”
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says defeating the extremists in Afghanistan requires reconstruction and development programs in addition to military and security assistance. For this reason, President George W. Bush will request over two billion dollars in reconstruction aid for Afghanistan over the next two years, in addition to more than eight and a half billion dollars in security assistance.
Afghan authorities warn that Taleban insurgents are preparing to step up attacks in the spring. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says Taleban insurgents must not be allowed to threaten Afghan reconstruction and development efforts:
“I think it is important for us to take the initiative in dealing with security threats, that we act together on this.”
Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai says the Afghan people, together with the U.S., NATO, and other international partners, “are ready to give terrorists a serious blow when they come.” In public meetings this year, Mr. Karzai has stressed that when the Taleban attacks schools, civilian officials, and Afghanistan's international partners, they are in fact attacking Afghanistan's future.
Secretary of Defense Gates says more must be done by Pakistan, the United States, NATO, and Afghanistan to stop insurgents from operating along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. “There is a mutual interest,” says Mr. Gates, “in improving our effectiveness, improving our coordination, and the understanding that we have a real opportunity this spring.”