Pentagon Denies Taliban Takeover in Afghan District, Vows to Defeat Any Summer OffensiveBy Al Pessin
17 June 2008
The Pentagon says reports that Taliban forces have taken over several villages in southern Afghanistan are false, and that any Taliban offensive in the area will be defeated. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
Afghan National Army searches passengers at checkpoint in Arghandab district near Kandahar, 17 Jun 2008 The Pentagon says a U.S. patrol in the Arghandab district of Kandahar Province Tuesday encountered no Taliban forces.
News reports continue to indicate that hundreds of Taliban fighters have taken control of eight villages in the area about 15 kilometers from Kandahar City, where Taliban fighters freed about 400 of their comrades from a prison on Friday. The reports quote local residents as saying the fighters are preparing for a major battle with U.S. and NATO forces. And a Taliban spokesman is quoted as saying his forces will attack selected targets in Kandahar City next.
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell says it is not surprising that some Taliban forces may be massing in some areas because this is the height of the usual summer fighting season.
"If indeed there is a mounting of Taliban forces in advance of an attempt to take Kandahar, they will be put back again," he said. "In talking to our folks, they do not have any imminent concern that Kandahar is about to fall to the Taliban. Quite to the contrary, they remain confident that they have the necessary forces in place to secure RC [Regional Command]-South."
Morrell says there is no plan to further increase the number of U.S. forces in NATO's Regional Command-South, which includes Kandahar. But he says the command has the flexibility to do that if it becomes necessary.
The United States sent 2,200 Marines to the volatile region earlier this year to beef up NATO's combat power.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai gestures during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, 15 Jun 2008At his briefing Tuesday, the Pentagon press secretary also urged Afghan President Hamid Karzai not to send his troops across the border into Pakistan to attack militants based there. President Karzai made the threat on Sunday,
"In terms of an Afghan military operation across the border into Pakistan, that is not something that we feel is necessary at this point," he said. "Obviously, Pakistan is a sovereign country, so we would discourage them to take such a mission. And frankly, there are significant internal threats to President Karzai's administration at this point that he and his forces are probably more immediately focused on. And so while his forces are increasingly capable, we would encourage them to maintain their focus within the borders of Afghanistan."
President Karzai's spokesman has indicated there is no plan for an imminent attack on Pakistan, and that the president was only making "a strong point" about the need for a crackdown on the militants.