Kabul: Nine security guards were killed and
a Taliban rocket attack on a military base destroyed six
armoured vehicles in Afghanistan on Tuesday, after another deadly
weekend for foreign forces and civilians.
Insurgent violence showed no sign of letting up in the
build-up to a key NATO summit, where the continued presence of
foreign forces in the country -- and the timetable for their
withdrawal -- is likely to be high on the agenda.
The Taliban high command meanwhile ruled out a negotiated
settlement, calling reports that they were involved in peace
talks "misleading rumours" and vowing to step up their
campaign of targeted strikes at coalition troops.
"The aim is to entangle the enemy in an exhausting war of
attrition and wear it away like the former Soviet Union," the
militant group said in a statement attributed to its one-eyed
leader, Mullah Omar.
"Our strategy is to increase our operations step by step
and spread them to all parts of the country to compel the
enemy to come out from their hideouts and then crush them
through tactical raids," he added.
Today`s deadliest strike was on a telecommunications
tower in northern Kunduz province. Nine security guards, an
Afghan police officer and seven Taliban were killed, local
Telephone antennae have become a target for the Taliban
and other insurgents since the militant group banned mobile
telephone communications at night in areas they control.
The rebels maintain that the Afghan security forces and
their international backers in the 150,000-strong US-led NATO
force track down militants using mobile phone signals.
NATO leaders gather in Lisbon on Friday for a two-day
meeting that is likely to be dominated by the conflict in
Afghanistan, amid calls for foreign troops to begin handing
over security powers from next year.
There are indications that there is a growing recognition
within the 28-member bloc that a full withdrawal is likely to
come later rather than sooner, with the end of 2014 -- or
beyond -- seen as more realistic.
The US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard
Holbrooke, said on a visit to Islamabad that some troops would
withdraw from July next year as the coalition aimed to
transfer security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.
But relations with Kabul have been strained after
President Hamid Karzai at the weekend called for military
operations to be scaled back and a reduction in what he said
were "intrusive" night raids that risked fuelling the