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NATO credibility in Afghanistan at stake if fails to curb militancy
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20:50, February 28, 2008

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NATO's hesitation to contribute more troops to Afghanistan would benefit Taliban militants as their elusive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar defined it a defeat of the alliance and vowed to continue war as long as the foreign troops remain in the post-Taliban country.

Omar in his latest but first statement in 2008 issued to media on Feb. 11 described the reluctance of NATO member states to boost their military presence in Afghanistan as U.S. defeat and called on the European nations to give up support for the U.S. interest in Afghanistan.

"Our fighters would accelerate their attacks against American and its allied troops in Afghanistan," the one-eyed Omar said in the statement read out by his purported spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid from undisclosed location.

He also stressed that the "United States has failed in Afghanistan and is attempting to bring more troops from European nations to this country just in order to hide its failure."

Omar, the most wanted man in the U.S. who has escaped the biggest manhunt in the region, issued the statement in the backdrop of expressing reluctance by key members of the western military alliance and Washington's request for reinforcing troops in the war-torn country.

Both U.S. Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have been lobbying since long to woo further military support of the alliance's member nations in war on terror in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Gates and NATO's Secretary General Jaap De Hope Scheffer bluntly warned at the defense ministers' conference of the alliance's member states early this month in Vilnius that violence and terrorism could escalate across the world if NATO fails in Afghanistan.

NATO's chief during his recent visit to Afghanistan also described the alliance' mission in Afghanistan as a "necessity and not a choice" and warned if Taliban and terrorists are not contained their activities would expand to Europe.

Nevertheless, none of the member states had made pledge to send reinforcement to Afghanistan.

Germany, a key ally of the Untied States in war on terror, frankly rejected Washington's request to deploy troops in Afghanistan's troubled southern region and German chancellor Angela Merkel stressed on Feb. 18 that Berlin has no plan to expand its military mission in Afghanistan despite pressure from NATO allies.

Australia and New Zealand, according to media reports, have decided not to send additional troops to Afghanistan.

Canadian government's military mission which is due to end next February has linked the extension to contributing at least 1,000 more troops to Kandahar where 2,500 Canadian troops have been stationed.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has also warned, "If NATO can't come through with that help, then I think, frankly, NATO's own reputation and future will be in grave jeopardy."

On the contrast, in an attempt to allay international community's concern over Taliban threat and extremism, the Taliban chief stressed in the statement that the "Taliban represent no threat to anyone as they want to have good relations with all nations in line with the Islamic law."

And to isolate Washington in war on terror in Afghanistan, the Taliban reclusive leader moreover asked U.S. allies, "to avoid the deaths of their soldiers for the sake of U.S. interests."

Conflicts and Taliban-related violence had left more than 6,000people including 1,200 civilians dead in 2007, the bloodiest year since the fall of Taliban hierarchy six years ago.

This year, according to observers' prediction, would experience more violence mostly in the shape of suicide bombings and roadside blasts.

U.S. commander of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan General Dan Mc Neill told newsmen early this year that "What do expect to see insurgents do this year I think they would stay on IEDs (improvised explosive devices), and they will increase the number of suicide bombers."

More than 60,000-strong international troops with 50,000 of them from 39 countries serving under the command of NATO and the rest under the flag of U.S.-led Coalition forces have been stationed in Afghanistan to stabilize security there.

Nearly 700 servicemen of the NATO-led ISAF forces with 415 from U.S., 87 from Britain and 78 from Canada have been killed in Afghanistan over the past six years.

Afghans in the beginning had warmly welcomed the deployment of international troops in their country as the herald of prosperity and development.

However, the multi-national troops' failure to root out Taliban militants and ensure stability has undermined its popularity though vast majority of Afghans are still support the long-term presence of the international forces in their country.

Moreover, lack or little coordination with Afghan troops against militants in past years which in many cases claimed civilian lives has angered the locals and thus facilitated Taliban to benefit.

Local protests over civilians' lives had prompted President Hamid Karzai to call on international troops more than once to coordinate military operations with Afghan authorities.

In the eyes of Afghans, more than six years have passed from the collapse of Taliban regime but the well equipped U.S. troops and the mighty military alliance of NATO have failed to at least spot and arrest Mullah Omar and his guest Osama.

Definitely, there have been tremendous achievements in Afghanistan. However, like many in the world, the ongoing insurgency and tug of war have disappointed many war-weary Afghans towards international troops' ability in completing their mission.

Source: Xinhua

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