Taliban Vows Attacks Against Troops

KABUL (AP) - The Taliban vowed Wednesday to launch a wave of
attacks in a spring offensive as a surge of American troops arrives
in Afghanistan, a threat delivered on the same day that 42
militants were reported killed in clashes.

Taliban leaders regularly boast of impending attacks that never
materialize - such as proclaiming that hundreds or thousands of
suicide bombers were waiting to attack around the country - but the
new threat from a top-tier commander could signal a more aggressive
stance.

A U.S. military spokesman said the Taliban's warning showed the
militants are worried by the rising number of international troops.

Mullah Berader, a top deputy to Taliban commander Mullah Omar,
said the Taliban would unleash ambushes, roadside bombings and
suicide attacks Thursday against foreign and Afghan troops,
government officials and "whoever is supporting invaders in our
country."

"As American and NATO countries plan to send more troops to
Afghanistan, it is necessary for the Afghans and Afghan mujahedeen
to defend their country," militant spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid
told The Associated Press in a statement that he attributed to
Berader.

Taliban fighters have increased attacks the last three years in
a resurgence following the toppling of their radical Islamist
regime by a U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.

President Barack Obama has ordered 21,000 more U.S. troops to
the country to bolster the 38,000 American and 32,000 allied troops
already in the country.

Given the influx, U.S. commanders have long said they expect a
spike in violence this summer, the season when Taliban attacks are
most numerous. Many of the new troops will deploy to southern
Afghanistan, the Taliban's stronghold.

Col. Greg Julian, spokesman for the U.S. military in
Afghanistan, called Berader's threat a sign that the U.S. is making
the right move by pouring troops into the militants' southern
strongholds, where they fund their operations with profits from
opium poppies and heroin.

"This is a demonstration that this is the worst possible thing
that could happen in their mind. They don't want to see an increase
in troops because they know they will be forced away from their
source of income and it could lead to their demise," Julian said.

The U.S. and other NATO countries now have some 70,000 soldiers
in Afghanistan - a record level.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday he would send
700 more soldiers by July to boost security for Afghanistan's
August presidential election, but said Britain's troop numbers
would return to the current 8,300 by November.

Australia plans to add 450 soldiers, increasing its force to
about 1,550, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced Wednesday, saying
Obama persuaded him to increase the deployment during discussions
last week.

In fighting Wednesday, coalition and Afghan forces reported
killing 42 militants in three clashes. No casualties were reported
for Afghan or international troops.

Combat generally rises as the weather warms, and even more
violence is expected as U.S. troops continue to move into areas
they previously had not operated in.

In the largest battle, a convoy of Afghan police and soldiers of
the U.S.-led coalition was attacked during a patrol in southern
Uruzgan province, a statement said. The troops fired back and
called in attacks by aircraft, killing 23 insurgents.

Nine other militants were killed when troops came under fire
during a search operation in neighboring Helmand province and 10
insurgents died southwest of Kabul when international and Afghan
troops attacked compounds believed to belong to Taliban operatives,
the coalition said.

Also Wednesday, a German soldier was killed and nine German
soldiers were wounded in two attacks in northern Afghanistan. The
attacks came as German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier met
with Afghan officials in Kabul.

Some 3,750 German soldiers are based in Afghanistan.


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