Taliban “surge” into Pakistan, destroy NATO convoy

Some 200 Taliban militants destroyed more than 160 Humvees and trucks bound for NATO forces in Afghanistan Dec. 7 in a pre-dawn raid on the terminal where they were parked in Peshawar, Pakistan. The war material was offloaded for transit to Afghanistan at the Pakistani port of Karachi. Meanwhile, the Pentagon reveals that most of the additional US troops arriving in Afghanistan early next year will be deployed near the capital, Kabul—in what the New York Times calls “a measure of how precarious the war effort has become.”

The Third Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, NY, is scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan in January and will consist of 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers. The “vast majority” of them will be sent to Logar and Wardak provinces, adjacent to Kabul, said Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, spokesperson for US forces in eastern Afghanistan. A battalion of at least several hundred soldiers from that brigade will go to the border region in the east, where US forces have been locked in some of the fiercest fighting this year.

In all, the Pentagon is planning to add more than 20,000 troops to Afghanistan in response to a request from Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top commander in the country. Nearly all would be diverted from Iraq, officials say. There are about 62,000 international troops currently in Afghanistan, including about 32,000 Americans. US commanders “say they desperately need more,” and US force levels are slated to rise to about 58,000. The US and NATO are also hoping to expand the Afghan army to 134,000 from nearly 70,000 over the next four or five years.

US President-elect Barack Obama has meanwhile called for an “effective strategic partnership with Pakistan that allows us in concert to assure that terrorists are not setting up safe havens in some of these border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.” While pledging to take the fight “fiercely” to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, he called for a regional pact against extremism. “We can’t continue to look at Afghanistan in isolation. We have to see it as part of a regional problem that includes Pakistan, includes India, includes Kashmir, includes Iran,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

But some say the Taliban are pushing outward from tribal areas toward Peshawar in a “surge” of their own—trying to make headway before Obama takes office and sends more troops to Afghanistan. “The Taliban will want to gain maximum ground before troops come,” says Ahmed Rashid, author of Descent Into Chaos, a book about Pakistan and Afghanistan since 9-11. (CSM, Dec. 8; NYT, NYT, AFP, AFP, Dec. 7)

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