In its first military operation, a newly established battalion of Afghan army commandos captured a Taliban bomb-maker and two of his collaborators. Thirty miles southwest of Jalalabad in Nangahar province, the commandos seized Haji Shir Khan, a Taliban leader responsible for numerous attacks on Afghan and coalition forces. They also seized weapons and explosives and more than eighty kilograms of opium. “The commandos represent a bright future for the Afghan national security forces,” said U.S. Army Major Chris Belcher, “and it’s no surprise after all of their training that they were successful.”
Afghan, NATO, and U.S.-led coalition forces have killed hundreds of Taliban insurgents in fighting across southern Afghanistan during the past few weeks. More than four-thousand people, mostly insurgents, have died in Taliban-related violence this year. “We’ve had quite a bit of success, especially in the south,” said U.S. General Dan McNeill, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. “We expect to keep that string of successes going,” he said.
General McNeill credits Afghanistan’s growing military for some of the progress. “Last year,” said General McNeill, “I believe the Afghans were committing about six-hundred recruits per month to go through training and become part of the army.” So far this year, he said, the number of new recruits per month has risen to around two-to-three thousand. General McNeill said plans to train an Afghan army of seventy thousand are “well on track” to be completed by the end of 2008.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said “opportunities are diminishing for those who would bring Afghanistan back to the days of oppression, fear, and death”:
“With improved security, prosperity, and social development, there are fewer places the Taliban can look for safe haven. The Afghan government is leading the nation towards a new future, and we will support that effort.”
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said the U.S. and thirty-seven other allied nations came to Afghanistan to prevent “the recurrence of another horrific attack” like the al-Qaida attack on the U.S. on September 11, 2001. “But we remain here,” he said, “to help the Afghan people chart a new future of stability, prosperity, and peace.”