The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan says new tactics by his forces
are yielding results against Afghan insurgents, but adds that success will depend
partly on developments across the border in Pakistan.
Lieutenant General David Barno says U.S. troops in Afghanistan are moving
away from staging quick search-and-attack missions against anti-government
Instead, he says, they are using long-term deployments in and around Afghan
communities in an effort to enlist local help in maintaining security. General
Barno says these changes are showing results.
"Improvised explosive devices ... have been uncovered to us, and turned over
or pointed out in areas where coalition forces would have encountered them.
And the same is true of rockets and other very, very dangerous things that
were actually aimed at coalition facilities," he said.
Afghanistan continues to face an armed insurgency, led by remnants of the
country's former Taleban regime.
Suspected Taleban militants have recently stepped up attacks against Afghan
and U.S. targets. General Barno said the increased activity coincides with
warm spring weather and the country's preparations for elections in September.
The U.S. commander said he is paying close attention to developments in Pakistan,
where Afghan insurgents and foreign terrorists are believed to take refuge.
Pakistan has offered an amnesty to foreign militants who surrender, but General
Barno says he doubts this will prove effective.
"We have some concerns that could go in the wrong directions ... It is very
important that the Pakistani military continue with their operations to go
after the foreign fighters in particular, who, in my judgment, will not be
reconciled," he said.
Pakistan has said it will conduct further military actions to flush out those
foreign militants who do not turn themselves in.
Gen. Barno's comments follow a peace agreement between the Afghan government
and top members of a key Taleban ally, the Hizb-i-Islami. A group of Hizb-i-Islami
commanders told government officials Saturday they would no longer take part
in the insurgency.
One of the group's leaders, Abdul-Qadeer Karyab, says he and his comrades
will transform themselves into a political party in time for the election.
But former prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, now the top Hizb-i-Islami
leader, and some forces loyal to him continue to fight against the government.