Taliban vow to step up attacks in Afghanistan
Threat made as US troops to surge
KABUL, Afghanistan - The Taliban vowed yesterday to launch a wave of attacks in a spring offensive as a surge of American troops arrives in Afghanistan, a threat delivered on the same day that 42 militants were reported killed in clashes.
Taliban leaders regularly boast of impending attacks that never materialize - such as proclaiming that hundreds or thousands of suicide bombers were waiting to attack around the country - but the new threat from a top-tier commander could signal a more aggressive stance.
A US military spokesman said the Taliban's warning showed the militants are worried by the rising number of troops.
Mullah Berader, a top deputy to Taliban commander Mullah Omar, said the Taliban would unleash ambushes, roadside bombings, and suicide attacks today against foreign and Afghan troops, and "whoever is supporting invaders in our country."
"As American and NATO countries plan to send more troops to Afghanistan, it is necessary for the Afghans and Afghan mujahideen to defend their country," militant spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement he attributed to Berader.
Taliban fighters have increased attacks the last three years in a resurgence following the toppling of their radical Islamist regime by a US-led invasion in late 2001.
President Obama has ordered 21,000 more US troops to the country to bolster the 38,000 American and 32,000 allied troops already in the country.
Given the influx, US commanders have long said they expect a spike in violence this summer, the season when Taliban attacks are most numerous.
Many of the new troops will deploy to southern Afghanistan, the Taliban's stronghold.
Colonel Greg Julian, spokesman for the US military, called Berader's threat a sign that the United States is making the right move by pouring troops into the militants' southern strongholds, where they fund their operations with profits from opium poppies and heroin.
"This is a demonstration that this is the worst possible thing that could happen in their mind. They don't want to see an increase in troops because they know they will be forced away from their source of income and it could lead to their demise," Julian said.