Coalition expects Taliban spring assault

March 4, 2011 at 10:19 AM
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KABUL, Afghanistan, March 4 (UPI) -- Taliban militants likely will initiate a campaign in the spring to reclaim ground in Afghanistan lost last year to U.S. troops, U.S. military officials said.

Officials said one element of the expected offensive could be the use of suicide bombing teams against those associated with the Afghan government or coalition forces, The Washington Post reported.

"We're seeing the beginnings of that through these multiple suicide bombers trying to create a sensational attack that has far-reaching impact," said Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the second in command in Afghanistan. "It will take courage on the part of the Afghan people and Afghan leaders to lead their way through that, and we're going to support them."

U.S. commanders in Kabul, as well as officers in insurgent strongholds in the south and east, said coalition forces are better positioned now to repel the insurgency -- pointing to 70,000 new Afghan forces and the seizure of some Taliban sanctuaries.

Rodriguez said he expected more Taliban attacks on targets such as the newly created village defense forces, former insurgents who switched sides, and anyone else who "supports our efforts," the Post reported Thursday.

However, many Afghans remain skeptical about the progress, the Post said. The level of violence, which usually falls off during the winter, is higher than in previous years, and government corruption still undermines public support.

U.S. military commanders said they won't know with any certainty how they're doing until spring.

"I think we've thwarted or halted the momentum the enemy had, and I really think we've started to turn it the other way," Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, the eastern region's commander, told the Post. "I think we won't know that until the spring."

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