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Coalition Forces Say Suicide Attacks Damaging Taleban Support

Military commanders in Afghanistan say attacks against civilians and U.S.-led forces have stepped up in recent weeks. Although the uptick in violence comes as no surprise, U.S. and Afghan officials claim the renewed offensive is hurting the enemy. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.

Since Saturday (June 16th), insurgent attacks in Afghanistan's volatile south has resulted in more than 100 military and civilian deaths.

The U.S. commander in southeastern Afghanistan, Colonel Martin Schweitzer, calls the attacks against NATO and U.S.-led forces "militarily insignificant". "What’s happening more often than not, I'll tell you, about nine out of ten times they're targeting the communities, they're targeting the children, they're targeting the teachers, they're targeting the doctors, and they’re targeting government officials."

Speaking to reporters via satellite, Colonel Schweitzer said the Taleban suicide bombers were hurting their cause. "The Afghan people do not appreciate that particular approach. And despite what may or may not be hitting the airwaves, down there on the ground, in these communities, in these surrounding communities, they tell us day in and day out that they don't like it. They don't want to be a part of it and they want more Afghan National Army forces on the ground securing their communities."

Since the start of the year, the attacks have claimed more than 2,400 lives, including civilians, militants and Western and Afghan military troops.

Afghan Army Major General Abdul Khaliq says in the battle for the hearts and minds of Afghan citizens -- his army is winning. "They are just hating the enemy because they understand that the enemy -- that is the Taleban and the al-Qaida net -- are not giving them any good things."

But some international groups disagree. The Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief -- or ACBAR -- says goodwill toward U.S. and foreign forces has faded since the fall of the Taleban five years ago. The group cites botched airstrikes by U.S. forces -- such as one earlier in the week that killed seven children.

Colonel Schweitzer denied news reports that coalition troops knew children were inside the al-Qaida safehouse when they launched the strikes. "I can guarantee you personally. As well as what we coordinated with the different formations that there was an assessment that there were no children on that particular target and that was the assessment by the military community at large, period."

The aid agencies claim the indiscriminate use of force by U.S. troops has killed more Afghan civilians than the insurgents have killed. U.S. Army figures show the opposite.