Tue, Aug 24, 2010 - Page 5 News List

Tide has turned against Taliban, Petraeus says

AFP , LONDON AND WASHINGTON

US General David Petraeus said yesterday that the international troops he commands in Afghanistan have turned the tide on the Taliban’s “momentum” there, although he said that tough battles still lay ahead.

In an interview with the BBC, he also played down the prospect of a rapid withdrawal of US troops next year, repeating his insistence that a target of July next year was only a “date when a process begins.”

As the death toll of US troops in Afghanistan rose again with the death of four soldiers on Sunday, Petraeus said the road ahead could be bloody, but added that foreign forces were making progress.

“The momentum that the Taliban have established over the course of recent years has been reversed in many areas and will be reversed in the other areas as well. This will entail tough fighting,” he told the BBC.

According to extracts of the interview, the general also repeated his view that the US administration’s date of July next year to start withdrawing US troops would not herald a swift exit from the country.

“July 2011 ... is the date when a process begins. It is not the date when the US forces begin an exodus and look for the exit and a light to turn out,” he said.

Meanwhile, January’s capture of top Taliban commander Abdul Ghani Baradar may have been a bid by Pakistani intelligence to thwart talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, the New York Times said late on Sunday. Baradar was a top military strategist and trusted aide of the militia’s shadowy leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

He was arrested in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi reportedly in a secret raid by CIA and Pakistani agents, an operation that was described as a huge blow to the group.

Citing unnamed Pakistani officials, it said Pakistan’s intelligence had set out to capture Baradar with the CIA’s help because it wanted to end secret peace talks between Baradar and the Afghan government that excluded Pakistan, the Taliban’s longtime backer.

In the weeks after Baradar’s capture, Pakistani security officials detained up to 23 Taliban leaders, many of whom had been enjoying Islamabad’s protection for years, the report said. These developments resulted in the talks coming to an end.

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