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By Ravi Khanna
31 December 2008
NATO forces in Afghanistan say the Taliban in recent months have been using more sophisticated weapons and techniques in their attacks against its forces, and it has welcomed the U.S. decision to move more troops to Afghanistan.
|An Afghan official inspects wreckage of a car used in a suicide car bomb attack targeting a convoy of NATO's military forces in Herat province, Afghanistan, 26 Dec 2008|
As schoolchildren walked past a military checkpoint Sunday, a bomb-loaded truck veered toward them and exploded. The flash was captured by a U.S. military security camera. At least 16 young students were killed.
Such suicide bombings have increased across Afghanistan during the last two years, and the U.S. says it plans to send between 20,000 and 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan over the next six months to reinforce the 32,000 U.S. forces already in the country.
Meanwhile, NATO says it is waiting for President-elect Barack Obama's move to the White House, and makes clear the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.
"President-elect Obama has been very clear that he intends to look at the problems of Afghanistan through a much wider lens, not just Pakistan, very much India-Pakistan and its effect on security in Afghanistan," NATO spokesman James Appathurai said. "He has talked about bringing in other regional actors as well.
He says the military alliance remains open to a discussion on the new strategy. First, he says, NATO has to see what the U.S. intends to do and then find out how NATO can help in achieving that.
Appathurai says he is encouraged that Pakistan in recent months has increased its cooperation with NATO forces in Afghanistan. He says he just returned from a visit to the first Border Control Coordination Center in the Khyber region.
"Where you have Afghan national security forces, NATO forces, and Pakistani frontier corps and regular army, all together, cooperating, sharing intelligence, and coordinating operations," he explained.
Pakistan in recent months has intensified its crackdown on militant Taliban fighters who cross over from Pakistan into Afghanistan to carry out attacks against NATO forces. Appathurai says Pakistan is now realizing that militants crossing the Pak-Afghan border are a threat to both countries.
"What Pakistan is seeing now is that insurgents are coming from Afghanistan into Pakistan to support operations there," he said. "So a mirror image of the problem that Afghanistan is facing."
In recent months, Afghan President Karzai has said he would welcome Taliban leaders to take part in peace negotiations and also in the upcoming elections. The proposal was backed by Washington, provided there are no talks with al-Qaida.
Appathurai says NATO is also not opposed to peace talks with the Taliban.
"If the Afghan government chooses to engage in talks with the Taliban, elements of the Taliban, that is their decision. NATO will support it," he said.
NATO spokesman Appathurai says there also has to be an increased government capacity to deliver security and reconstruction and development elements to their own people, and NATO will have to help provide security to make that happen.