US commander says Taliban have Afghan momentum
Kabul: The Taliban are advancing out of traditional strongholds in Afghanistan's south and east into the north and west, the commander of US and NATO troops in the country said in an interview published on Monday.
US Army General Stanley McChrystal, who will soon present an assessment of the war, said the resurgent Taliban would force a change of tactics on foreign forces and warned that record casualty figures would remain high for some months.
"It's a very aggressive enemy right now," McChrystal told a newspaper in an interview in Kabul. "We've got to stop their momentum, stop their initiative. It's hard work."
Violence across Afghanistan this year had already reached its worst levels since the Taliban were ousted by US-led Afghan forces in 2001 and escalated dramatically after major offensives were launched in the south over the past two months.
With thousands of US Marines and British soldiers aiming to push Taliban fighters out of populated areas in southern Helmand province, July quickly became the deadliest month of the war for troops in the country.
McChrystal said he planned to push more troops into Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban adjacent to Helmand. "It's important and so we're going to do whatever we got to do to ensure Kandahar is secure," he said.
There are now about 101,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, with US numbers at about 62,000. Washington has been pouring in thousands of extra troops this year, in part to help secure August 20 presidential and provincial council elections.