- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO’s top commander yesterday urged allied nations to send reinforcements to southern Afghanistan, where resurgent Taliban militants are inflicting heavy casualties on foreign forces and have captured a remote town for the second time in two months.

Gen. James L. Jones said after a trip to Afghanistan that the coming weeks could be decisive for thousands of troops fighting in the south of the country amid the worst upsurge in violence since the hard-line Taliban regime’s ouster in late 2001.

He said in Belgium that NATO needed “additional insurance in terms of some forces that can be there, perhaps temporarily, to make sure that we can carry the moment.”

That could take the form of helicopters, transport planes and several hundred “flexible” reserve troops able to move quickly to support NATO forces around the region. Gen. Jones said he was confident that a meeting with top generals from the 26 NATO nations today and tomorrow in Warsaw would authorize the reinforcements.

“In the relatively near future, certainly before the winter, we will see this decisive moment in the region turn in favor of the troops that represent the government,” Gen. Jones said.

NATO has been surprised since moving into the region by the intensity of Taliban attacks and by insurgents’ willingness to stand and fight rather than hit NATO forces and run, he said.

NATO took command of southern Afghanistan from a U.S.-led coalition on Aug 1.

Britain, Canada and the Netherlands have taken lead roles in the south since NATO took command there, pumping in around 8,000 troops and bringing the NATO force’s presence to about 20,000 nationwide. The alliance claims to have inflicted grave insurgent losses, including more than 250 in an offensive near Kandahar city since the weekend.

But at least 35 British and Canadian soldiers have died within 38 days, and militants show no sign of giving up.

Late Wednesday, Taliban militants reclaimed the southern Helmand provincial town of Garmser after police fled their compound there for the second time since July, police said.

NATO spokesman Maj. Scott Lundy confirmed clashes in the town but said he was unaware that police had left.

Taliban forces held Garmser, a town of about 50,000 people, for two days in July, after defeating 40 poorly armed police in 16 days of fighting. U.S., British, Canadian and Afghan ground troops won the town back and left it to reinforced Afghan security forces.

In Kabul, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged that al Qaeda and Taliban militants cross from Pakistan to carry out attacks inside Afghanistan, but denied his government sponsored them.

“You blame us for what is happening in Afghanistan,” Gen. Musharraf told Afghan government and army officials and lawmakers. “Let me say neither the government of Pakistan nor [the Inter-Services Intelligence agency] is involved in any kind of interference inside Afghanistan.”

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