Thursday, August 17, 2006
NATO commander: Taliban 'more dominant' than al Qaeda


NATO forces repeatedly have engaged Taliban fighters since taking over from U.S. forces in southern Afghanistan a few weeks ago.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- NATO's supreme allied commander, now leading troops in volatile southern Afghanistan, on Thursday called the Taliban "more dominant by far" than al Qaeda in the war-torn nation.

U.S. Gen. James L. Jones, the head of the U.S. European Command in addition to his NATO post, told reporters at the Pentagon that the terror network remains a "factor." But he said that militants from the Taliban -- the Islamic movement that ruled Afghanistan before being toppled following the September 11, 2001, attacks -- are more potent and "very intelligent."

NATO troops, most of whom are British and Canadian, officially took over from U.S. forces in southern Afghanistan several weeks ago. Fighting has flared up since in the Helmand, Uruzgan and Kandahar provinces, with eight militants killed by coalition forces Wednesday in Paktika province.

"Certainly the opposition is testing NATO to see if we, in fact, do have the will and the capability to stand and fight," Jones said. "And I think the evidence is, so far, that the answer is overwhelmingly yes."

In recent months, Taliban militants have re-emerged, cranking up their attacks against coalition, Afghan government and civilian targets. Jones cited fighters' ability to move "back-and-forth" between Afghanistan and Pakistan as a "main source of concern," adding that NATO plans to work with Pakistani officials to address that issue.

Rampant drug growing and trafficking in Afghanistan is another NATO priority, Jones added, especially as militants "are getting money" from the narcotics trade.
Posted By CNN's Washington Bureau: 8/17/2006 01:22:00 PM ET | Permalink
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