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THE WORLD

Taliban Returning in Force, General Says

September 08, 2003|From Associated Press

GARDEZ, Afghanistan — Taliban fighters, paid and trained by Al Qaeda, are pouring into Afghanistan from Pakistan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Sunday.

Lt. Gen. John Vines said the Taliban is trying to regroup and regain control of the country it ruled until it was ousted by the United States in late 2001. U.S., Afghan and coalition forces have responded with military operations against the radical Islamic fighters. As many as 200 Talibs have been killed in the last week alone, Vines said.

Vines added that as many as 1,000 of their forces were in the mountains of Zabol province south of the capital, Kabul. Some Afghan officials and defense policy analysts in the United States have said the Taliban's reappearance is the result of the U.S. decision not to commit a substantial number of troops outside Kabul as a deterrent after the Taliban was defeated.

The Afghan government, the United Nations and aid agencies have long appealed for peacekeepers to be deployed outside Kabul. Hopes this might happen have risen since NATO took command of the 5,000-troop International Security Assistance Force in August.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld flew to Kabul on Sunday to show support for President Hamid Karzai's government, which is plagued by political uncertainty, record opium poppy crops, violent warlord rivalries and an urgent need for basic services.

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