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Rice, Britain's Miliband Note Progress in Afghanistan Despite Taliban Insurgency


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the people of Afghanistan are turning against the Taliban insurgency, which she calls morally bankrupt and brutal. Secretary Rice made the comments during an unannounced trip to Afghanistan and VOA Correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Islamabad.

Secretary Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband visited Afghanistan's volatile Kandahar province, a former stronghold of the Taliban.

The two top diplomats met with NATO commanders and troops who are on the front line of the fight against the Taliban.

The pair then traveled to the Afghan capital for a meeting with President Hamid Karzai.

The United States and Britain are urging other NATO members to share more of the combat burden in southern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgency is strongest.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters in Europe today that he is disappointed some NATO members have not sent combat troops to Afghanistan, but he doesn't think there is a risk of failure.

While Rice told reporters she hopes NATO countries will supply more troops for Afghanistan, she says the coalition forces are meeting the challenge of defeating the Taliban.

"NATO and the coalition forces met the challenge of Taliban forces trying to come in large formations and they have turned to tactics that unfortunately are aimed at the most helpless and innocent people," said Rice. "What that says to me, not only are they dangerous, but they are morally bankrupt and they are brutal and the people of Afghanistan are the ones who are turning against that kind of barbarity."

Secretary Rice says she believes the counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan is having a positive impact, but the work is not complete.

President Karzai praised the NATO countries that have troops in Afghanistan.

"Now if all the members could contribute more we would be very, very happy, but I will leave the decisions on troop levels and all that to the military men within NATO," he said.

All three leaders endorsed the idea of a special U.N. envoy for Afghanistan to coordinate the work of the countries involved in helping to rebuild the country.

British Foreign Secretary Miliband says such an envoy needs to be appointed soon.

"We also want to see a strong, effective international coordinator in place, sooner rather than later, commanding the confidence of the U.N. and of the Afghan government," he said. "That is something that is very much at the heart of the idea that the international community has responsibilities that it has to fulfill in the most effective way."

More than six years after the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban, the Islamist militia's resurgence has led to a major increase in violence.

More than 6,000 people, mostly insurgents, died in fighting in Afghanistan last year.

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