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U.S.: Afghan offensive ineffective

Story Highlights

• U.S. Commander said Afghan insurgents are proving ineffective
• Taliban and other fighters are targeting civilians cooperators
• No concrete evidence to show Iranian influence in Afghanistan
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The commander of U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan said Tuesday he doesn't believe insurgents have begun their expected spring offensive, and credits closer cooperation between soldiers and Afghan citizens as a deterrent.

While he did not have data with him to support his comments, Army Col. Mark Schweitzer told Washington reporters via teleconference from the Forward Operating Base in Khowst that there has been a decrease in attacks using improvised explosive devices and that the insurgents are proving ineffective. He said he would provide evidence later.

"I hope this is their spring offensive, because it's not very effective," Schweitzer said.

Last year, better weather saw a surge in violence around the country. But Schweitzer downplayed attacks as "modest" compared to the level of violence since the beginning of the year.

Schweitzer described suicide attacks in the south of the country as desperation tactics by Taliban fighters and other insurgents.

"We have an increase of some (small) attacks, but I would not call it a spring offensive," Schweitzer said.

Taliban and other forces in Afghanistan have started focusing their attacks on average Afghani citizens to keep them from cooperating with coalition forces. Recent intimidation attacks included the burning of schools and suicide bombings.

Aiding the Americans are a Polish battle contingent, and the Afghan national security force as well as the army. Border police are being trained, but are not able enough to operate on their own, Schweitzer said. Governors in five provinces -- Paktika, Paktia, Khowst, Ghazni and Logar -- have also been cooperating with the military.

Asked about Iranian influence in his area, Schweitzer said he didn't know whether there is any.

"We've only seen a few number of specific weapons that we think are of Iranian origin," he said. "Is it state-sanctioned? I have no ability to link that together at this time."

Schweitzer commands the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, which is carrying out Task Force Fury in the five provinces. He assumed leadership of the task force in January, with the goal of fighting the insurgency, stabilizing the restive region and promoting reconstruction.


story.khost.blast.jpg

Afghan policemen stand at the site of a suicide attack in Khost province, east of Kabul.

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