- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 18, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan intelligence agencies believe Taliban and al Qaeda forces are preparing a major offensive against Kabul, moving into positions as little as 12 miles from the capital and sending recruits from the U.S. and Britain into the city to collect information needed to kidnap Westerners and prepare for spectacular suicide attacks.

The information, provided in Afghan security reports seen by The Washington Times, coincides with preparations for a major battle in the southern city of Kandahar, which have dominated headlines in recent days.

Interviews with eyewitnesses during a recent visit to Khost province, adjacent to the Pakistani tribal regions of North and South Waziristan, appeared to confirm other intelligence reports of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters moving from Pakistan to Afghanistan, presumably for a spring offensive.

Until recently, U.S. and Afghan officials had dismissed speculation of an enemy surge as snow melted in mountain passes used as key infiltration and supply routes.

But the destruction of the main prison in Kandahar in a brazen attack last week that freed hundreds of Taliban prisoners prompted the Afghan government to fly about 700 reinforcements from Kabul to Kandahar earlier this week.

Unreported thus far are Taliban and al Qaeda plans for Kabul, the seat of President Hamid Karzai’s government located about 300 miles northeast of Kandahar.

“Spectacular/High Profile attack in Kabul,” is expected to take place in the upcoming months and “female suicide members present in Kabul. … U.S./British citizens” one recent security report states.

“They want to send a message,” said one Afghan security official in Kabul with access to the same report. “I don’t know if that message can be stopped.”

Intelligence reports further suggested that al Qaeda had successfully recruited U.S., British and German citizens, presumably for their advanced language skills and ability to mix with Westerners without arousing suspicion.

Some of al Qaeda’s recruits are plants introduced to infiltrate locations frequented by foreigners to gain knowledge of building layouts and activities, said a second security official.

In March, the Taliban senior commander, Mullah Bradar, was threatening that attacks would increase in the spring using new techniques, and he warned Afghans working with the government to quit their jobs or risk being targeted.

“My best friend, I asked him not to go work in Paktika province for the coalition as an interpreter,” said an interpreter from Khost province who works for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

“He needed the money and did not listen. A little more than a week ago he was captured by Taliban. They poured acid on his body and shot him through the mouth.”

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