Fresh Kandahar offensive may be delayed until fall

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Washington/Kandahar, May 18 (ANI): A fresh offensive against a regrouping Taliban in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar could be delayed until the fall, American commanders and policy makers have revealed.

With the Taliban taking the Afghanistan war to the streets and launching a campaign to assassinate key public officials, key military operations have been delayed to improve local governance and end the sense of dread that prevails on to Kandahar's dusty streets, the Christian Science Monitor (CSM) reports.

NATO officials had last year indicated major progress against the Taliban, but now, at the urging of Afghan leaders, U.S. officials have stopped describing the plan as a military operation.

Instead, they've dubbed it "Cooperation for Kandahar," a moniker meant to focus attention on efforts to build up local governance while reducing fears of street battles.

US commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal said: "It's important that we engage the population so that we shape the leaders, the natural leaders, the elders, political and economic leaders so that their participation helps shape how we go forward."

American and Afghan officials, however, so far have made little headway in building a foundation for a respected local government capable of winning the confidence of the nearly a million Afghans who live in and around Kandahar.

The largest impediment remains President Hamid Karzai's half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a controversial kingpin and reputed drug smuggler who reportedly has been paid by the CIA.

He reportedly wields virtually unchecked power over the region as the chairman of the provincial council as well as through local militias, security firms awarded lucrative contracts by the U.S.-led international force and an alliance with a small band of powerful tribal leaders.

Karzai denies any wrongdoing, and U.S. officials say they've been unable to uncover incriminating information on him.

Many U.S. defense officials and analysts are concerned that continuing to work with Ahmed Wali Karzai could jeopardize the public support that General McChrystal concedes is vital to his plan's success. (ANI)

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