- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2003

From combined dispatches

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban militants may be planning “spectacular attacks” against American-led coalition forces, the U.S. special envoy and ambassador-designate to Afghanistan said yesterday, the second anniversary of the start of the war that ousted the hard-line Islamic regime.

The envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, urged neighboring Pakistan to take stronger action against Taliban insurgents and their al Qaeda allies who take shelter on its side of the border.

“We know the Taliban have been more active in recent weeks and months, and there are indications that they may be planning even larger attacks, more-spectacular attacks,” Mr. Khalilzad said. “Our forces and our coalition partners are prepared to prevent and respond to any increased Taliban activity.”

Meanwhile, NATO-led peacekeepers in Kabul said they arrested a commander of a renegade faction thought to be allied to Taliban forces.

Ghulam Rabbani Abu Bakr, from the Hizb-e-Islami faction of one-time Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, was arrested in a morning raid in the city center, Reuters news agency reported.

Thursday, Pakistan’s army swooped down on a suspected al Qaeda mountain hideout in the country’s northwest in its largest offensive against Osama bin Laden’s network. Eight suspected terrorists were killed and 18 captured.

But Afghan and Western officials have long complained that the country’s Afghan-border region has become a safe haven for militants, who cross back and forth across the porous frontier to launch attacks.

“Pakistan cannot become a sanctuary for the Taliban and al Qaeda people who want to attack Afghanistan,” Mr. Khalilzad said at a news conference for Afghan journalists.

The Taliban forces see the rebuilding of war-shattered Afghanistan as a threat, Mr. Khalilzad said, which is the main reason for the recent attacks against aid workers and government officials. Taliban and al Qaeda fighters have launched increasingly bolder assaults on coalition troops.

Mr. Khalilzad, nominated by President Bush to be U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, is in the country for about 10 days to meet President Hamid Karzai to discuss the latest security and political situations.

There were no ceremonies in Afghanistan to mark the anniversary of the Oct. 7, 2001 start of Operation Enduring Freedom, which ousted the Taliban. Sixteen American troops died and uncounted numbers of Taliban troops and civilians lost their lives during the war. Since then, 20 U.S. soldiers have been killed in fighting.

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