Islamabad: NATO`s civilian representative in
Afghanistan acknowledged on Tuesday that the Taliban was a strong
opponent in Kandahar, the main battleground in US-led efforts
to beat back their nine-year insurgency.
Mark Sedwill, who is holding talks in Pakistan with key
government officials on political issues related to NATO`s
role in Afghanistan, reiterated that a summer offensive in the
Taliban`s spiritual capital would intensify gradually.
"The Taliban are strong... in some parts of the districts
outside Kandahar (city) they are actually dominant," Sedwill
told reporters in Islamabad.
The United States and NATO allies are sending thousands
of extra troops into Afghanistan. Their military deployment is
set to reach 150,000 by August, when military planners intend
to have Kandahar under Afghan government control.
"It will be a series of efforts, not really operations...
but efforts to reinforce and improve security in an
incremental way across the city and the districts immediately
outside," Sedwill said.
Kandahar, the capital of the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, is
seen as the key battleground for reversing the escalating
conflict, which is taking an increasing toll on foreign forces
and Afghan civilians.
Sedwill said NATO was planning to ensure minimal trauma
to local people.
"We are doing it very much with the consent of the
population," he said.
"We would want this to be done as peacefully as possible
so that the people, the population of those areas, see
improved security quickly."