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Coalition forces capture Taliban commander

Associated Press / July 10, 2010

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KABUL, Afghanistan — International and Afghan troops captured a Taliban commander responsible for bringing Pakistani militants across the border to launch attacks, the alliance said yesterday as US-led forces intensify their pursuit of insurgent leaders.

The coalition is hailing a string of successes in capturing or killing dozens of key militant leaders since April, but it has not managed to reduce violent insurgent attacks across the country.

Two NATO service members died yesterday in separate roadside bombs in the south, and an explosion ripped into a convoy of NATO and Afghan forces in an eastern province, killing one civilian and wounding nine others. Last month was the most deadly of the nearly nine-year-old war for international troops, with 103 foreign forces killed.

President Obama has sent 30,000 more American troops to Afghanistan to carry out the war’s counterinsurgency strategy, which focuses on securing the Afghan population and reversing Taliban gains.

While international forces patrol new areas to try to protect the population, their comrades in special forces, working with elite Afghan commandos, have been staging raids almost every night trying to weaken the insurgents’ operational capacity.

On Tuesday, coalition and Afghan special forces arrested a Taliban commander in the eastern province of Nangarhar. NATO officials said the man — whom they would not identify for security reasons — facilitated an influx of operatives for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani militia accused in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks and suspected in a string of more recent attacks in Afghanistan.

“Capturing this commander degrades the Taliban’s operational and facilitation capabilities,’’ said Colonel William Maxwell, director of the NATO-led international forces’ Combined Joint Operations.

Joint Afghan-international raids have led to the arrest of more than 100 Taliban figures since April, NATO says. In the past two weeks, at least 23 mid- and senior-level insurgent leaders and 217 lower-level fighters have been captured or killed, it says.

“We’ve stepped up operations over the last six months,’’ said NATO spokesman Colonel Wayne Shanks. “What this is, is directly targeting the insurgent network, their leadership, their facilitators who bring in either weapons, supplies, money, resources.’’

The campaign against the Taliban leadership echoes a strategy used successfully against both Sunni and Shi’ite insurgents in Iraq.

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