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NATO says Taliban insurgency weaker

Associated Press / May 10, 2011

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KABUL — NATO said yesterday that it has significantly weakened the Taliban insurgency, capturing or killing thousands of militants in Afghanistan during the past three months.

It also said the Taliban failed in an attempt to carry out attacks against key government buildings over the weekend in the southern city of Kandahar, birthplace of the Taliban and the economic hub of southern Afghanistan.

NATO and its top commander, US General David Petraeus, have said that a surge of 30,000 troops last summer helped coalition forces take, and hold, areas of Afghanistan that were long dominated by the Taliban.

Brigadier General Christine Whitecross, NATO spokeswoman, said NATO’s winter operations had sapped the Taliban and that in the past 90 days, NATO carried out 1,400 operations and killed or captured 500 insurgent leaders and 2,700 lower-level insurgents.

She added that NATO also was “taking more weapons away from a weakened insurgency,’’ adding: “In fact, we have seized more weapons caches in the past six months than in the previous two years.’’

Still, a highly coordinated attack over the weekend raised new questions about the effectiveness of the yearlong campaign to secure Afghanistan’s south and Kandahar in particular.

Taliban fighters on Saturday attacked the governor’s office, the headquarters of the Afghan intelligence agency, a police headquarters, and other buildings. After two days of fighting, Afghan forces supported by the coalition killed or captured all the insurgents.

Afghan officials said at least 25 insurgents, two members of the Afghan security forces, and one civilian were killed. At least four were arrested, and 40 people were wounded. The final two insurgents were killed late Sunday making a last stand in the Kandahar Hotel.

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