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INSURGENCY Afghan violence doesn't show signs of stopping



Published: Fri, August 19, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A bomb attack killed two more U.S. soldiers Thursday.

COMBINED DISPATCHES

KABUL, Afghanistan -- With just a month until legislative elections, violence in Afghanistan shows no sign of letting up. Insurgents are waging an escalating campaign that killed two U.S. soldiers in a roadside bombing Thursday.

A surge of violence since winter has killed about 1,000 people in Afghanistan -- 59 American soldiers among them. Militants have stepped up assaults in the south and east trying to sabotage the U.S.-backed recovery, while U.S. and Afghan troops answer with their own offensives.

On Thursday, a homemade bomb hit a convoy of U.S. troops supporting crews improving a road from the main southern city of Kandahar to outlying mountains. Two soldiers in an armored vehicle were killed and two were wounded, the military said in a statement.

Taliban is back

Nearly four years after a U.S.-led military intervention toppled them from power, the Taliban has re-emerged as a potent threat to stability in Afghanistan.

Though it's a far cry from the mass movement that overran most of the country in the 1990s, today's Taliban is fighting a guerrilla war with new weapons, including portable anti-aircraft missiles, and equipment bought with cash sent through Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaida network, according to Afghan and Western officials. While it was in power, the Taliban provided safe haven to bin Laden and Al-Qaida.

The money is coming from "rogue elements and factional elements living in the Middle East," Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak asserted in an interview with Knight Ridder.

"Al-Qaida is channeling money and equipment," said Lt. George Hughbanks, a U.S. Army intelligence officer in Zabul province, one of the worst hit by the Taliban insurgency.

Terrorist tactics

The Taliban is now a disparate assemblage of radical groups estimated to number several thousand, far fewer than when it was in power before November 2001. The fighters operate in small cells that occasionally come together for specific missions. They're unable to hold territory or defeat coalition troops.

They're linked by a loose command structure and an aim of driving out U.S.-led coalition and NATO troops, toppling U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai and reimposing hard-line Islamic rule on Afghanistan, according to Afghan and Western officials and experts.

The Taliban insurgents have adopted some of the terrorist tactics that their Iraqi counterparts have used to stoke popular anger at the Iraqi government and the U.S. military.

The new American ambassador to Afghanistan, Ronald E. Neumann, said Thursday that the Taliban had "absolutely no chance" of derailing Sept. 18's parliamentary and provincial council polls because security would be too tight.




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