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US General: New Tactics Against Afghan Insurgents Yielding Results - 2004-05-03

The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan says new tactics by his forces are yielding results against Afghan insurgents, but adds that success will depend partly on developments across the border in Pakistan.

Lieutenant General David Barno says U.S. troops in Afghanistan are moving away from staging quick search-and-attack missions against anti-government insurgents.

Instead, he says, they are using long-term deployments in and around Afghan communities in an effort to enlist local help in maintaining security. General Barno says these changes are showing results.

?Improvised explosive devices ... have been uncovered to us, and turned over or pointed out in areas where coalition forces would have encountered them. And the same is true of rockets and other very, very dangerous things that were actually aimed at coalition facilities,? he said.

Afghanistan continues to face an armed insurgency, led by remnants of the country's former Taleban regime.

Suspected Taleban militants have recently stepped up attacks against Afghan and U.S. targets. General Barno said the increased activity coincides with warm spring weather and the country's preparations for elections in September.

The U.S. commander said he is paying close attention to developments in Pakistan, where Afghan insurgents and foreign terrorists are believed to take refuge. Pakistan has offered an amnesty to foreign militants who surrender, but General Barno says he doubts this will prove effective.

?We have some concerns that could go in the wrong directions ... It is very important that the Pakistani military continue with their operations to go after the foreign fighters in particular, who, in my judgment, will not be reconciled,? he said.

Pakistan has said it will conduct further military actions to flush out those foreign militants who do not turn themselves in.

Gen. Barno's comments follow a peace agreement between the Afghan government and top members of a key Taleban ally, the Hizb-i-Islami. A group of Hizb-i-Islami commanders told government officials Saturday they would no longer take part in the insurgency.

One of the group's leaders, Abdul-Qadeer Karyab, says he and his comrades will transform themselves into a political party in time for the election.

But former prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, now the top Hizb-i-Islami leader, and some forces loyal to him continue to fight against the government.