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Taliban vow fresh offensive after Afghan winter

Written by: Staff

Spin Boldak (Afghanistan), Nov 22: The Taliban are plotting a fresh offensive against foreign troops in Afghanistan when the bitter winter ends early next year, a top Taliban commander said today.

The Taliban have this year unleashed the worst violence against the Afghan government and foreign troops since the hardline Islamists were ousted from power in late 2001.

But the violence has tailed off sharply in recent weeks.

Afghanistan's NATO force says that's because the Taliban suffered heavy losses, particularly in fighting in the south in September.

But Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah said their attacks had eased off because the harsh Afghan winter had started earlier than usual.

''The Taliban are drawing up our strategy for attacks on American and NATO occupation forces next summer ... The suicide and other attacks will intensify as the weather gets warmer,'' Dadullah told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Afghan fighting has ebbed and flowed with the seasons for decades, tailing off during the late November to March winter when mountain passes get snowed in.

The melting snow in the spring traditionally heralds a new round of violence.

''It's difficult to stay longer in the mountains in winter ...

that's why, like previous years, Taliban attacks have lessened,'' Dadullah said.

Winter set in early this year with icy rain falling in valleys and snow on higher ground across much of the country in recent days.

The one-legged Dadullah said fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar was in Afghanistan, personally leading the insurgency with other commanders.

Afghanistan says Omar and other top Taliban members are directing the insurgency from sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan.

Pakistan says no Taliban leaders are there.

More than 3,700 people have been killed in Afghanistan this year, according to a recent report drawn up by Afghan and foreign officials.

Most of the casualties have been militants but more than a quarter of them were civilians. More than 150 foreign troops have also been killed, most of them American, British and Canadian.

Fighting was particularly heavy in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. NATO said hundreds of Taliban were killed in a two-week offensive in Kandahar in September.

More than 40,000 foreign troops are in Afghanistan, the most since US-led troops routed the Taliban in the weeks after the September 11 attacks on the United States.


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