- Associated Press - Monday, October 18, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The NATO coalition said Monday that Afghan and international forces have choked insurgent supply routes in some parts of Afghanistan, prompting militants to extort money from citizens to keep their operations sufficiently supplied.

“We are seeing instances where insurgents are receiving faulty ammunition and weapons through their supply channels,” said German Brigadier Gen. Josef Blotz, a spokesman for the NATO command in Kabul. “We have even seen instances where Taliban spokesmen attempt to blame this phenomenon on the coalition.”

Insurgents, however, are adapting, according to the coalition, which has been highlighting indications of progress in the war in the run-up to President Obama’s December review of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. NATO military officials claim the buildup of tens of thousands of international troops is taking its toll on the insurgents, yet they acknowledge fierce fighting against resilient militants, especially in the south.

“One way insurgents are coping with deficiencies is by expanding illicit taxation on Afghans in villages around the country,” he said, adding that insurgents were levying illegal taxes on farmers in Kunduz province in the north. “Money extracted from farmers is reportedly being used to fund further insurgent violence.”

Gen. Blotz said that in the past two weeks six Taliban leaders, including two shadow governors, have been killed and another was captured in the west.

He also said coalition forces found three large weapons caches in Khost and Paktika last week. Afghan and coalition forces seized more than 6,600 pounds of narcotics by stopping vehicles in southern Afghanistan on Friday, he said. Also, in the past week, 8,000 pounds of opium, heroin and ammonium nitrate, which is used to make explosives, were confiscated in Helmand province, he said.

Separately, airstrikes by international coalition forces on Sunday killed up to 14 suspected insurgents. An airstrike in northern Baghlan province reportedly killed around 10 people Sunday, a NATO statement said. It targeted a leader accused of planting bombs and supplying cash and weapons to Taliban leadership in the area. NATO was not able to confirm the number of casualties because neither international or Afghan soldiers could get to the area.

Another airstrike in southern Nimroz province killed four fighters who were planting a bomb, said provincial police Chief Abdul Jabar Pardeli. A Taliban commander was among those killed by Sunday night’s strike, he said.

Violence has risen in the south of the country as NATO and Afghan forces have attempted for months to push insurgents from their strongholds in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar.

Gunmen killed nine Afghan workers who were guarding a NATO supply convoy in the south of the country, police said Monday. The attack in Gereshk district happened on Sunday night, said the deputy police chief for Helmand province, Kamaluddin Khan.

NATO reported that a joint Afghan and coalition force discovered an insurgent weapons factor in Sangin district of Helmand province. The six, 55-pound barrels of homemade explosives, scales, a boiler room and drying area were destroyed in a precision airstrike, the coalition said.

Meanwhile, NATO forces said a detainee captured in an operation in the south was found dead in his holding cell Sunday. NATO said the man was being held in Kandahar province after being detained a day earlier, and the alliance is investigating the circumstances of his death. The international military coalition gave no further information.

In western Afghanistan, a roadside bomb killed three civilians Monday morning in Herat city, police said. Police spokesman Noor Nikzad said the bomb was hidden in a sack in an irrigation ditch. When officers went to inspect the object, it exploded. The three victims had been walking nearby. Mr. Nikzad said one police officer was wounded.

In the east, three Afghan civilians traveling in vehicles were killed and two others were wounded by a roadside bomb Monday in Andar district of Ghazni province. Also in the east, member of the Haqqani network who coordinated homemade bomb attacks against Afghan and coalition troops was captured Sunday night in the Tere Zayi district of Khost province.

Associated Press writer Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.


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