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Pentagon: Afghan Insurgent Offensive Could Begin Wednesday


A senior U.S. military officer says he expects Afghan Taleban insurgents to launch a new series of attacks starting Wednesday to mark the Afghan New Year. The officer spoke at a news conference at the Pentagon, and VOA's Al Pessin reports.

Major General Michael Barbero says NATO and coalition forces in Afghanistan expect the insurgents to launch a summer offensive, as they have in past years, with the first attacks coming perhaps within hours. "We expect increased activity. I think that's the pattern they've established, and that's what we should expect, [that] they'll try to disrupt the festivals and celebrations attendant to the Afghan New Year," he said.

General Barbero says Afghan insurgents have increased their use of suicide bombings during the last six months, but he says most of the attacks are not as effective as they were designed to be. He says he expects the insurgents to focus on small arms attacks, but to continue trying suicide bombings as well.

U.S. officials have said they want this year's summer offensive in Afghanistan to be a coalition and NATO offensive. General Barbero, who is the deputy operations director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says part of that is called Operation Achilles, and it has already started.

"Operation Achilles is designed to maintain the initiative and to blunt any of the enemy's offensive. It is focused in the south and along the border areas and its goals are improved security, improved economic prosperity, major infrastructure repair and a demonstrated commitment to the people by the government of Afghanistan for the long run," he said.

The general says the effort has already resulted in a decrease in violence and increased cooperation from tribal elders in the targeted areas. He says allied forces are planning new offensive operations all the time, but he would not provide details.

The general also reports Afghan military recruiting has increased 300 percent and the retention rate is up more than 50 percent, while the number of Afghan soldiers deserting their units has declined by more than one third.