[QODLink]
Central & South Asia
Afghan violence 'worst since 2001'
US commander says attacks will continue to rise as troops go after fighters.
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2009 01:31 GMT
The increase in violence has corresponded with the arrival of more US troops in the country [EPA]

Violence in Afghanistan has spiked to its highest levels since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the general in charge of US forces in the Middle East and Central Asia says.

General David Patraeus, the head of US Central Command, said the number of attacks in the country spiked to its highest point last week, and he predicted that the trend was very likely to continue.

"The past week was the highest level of security incidents in Afghanistan's history, at least that post-liberation history," Petraeus told a forum in Washington DC on Thursday.

"There are some tough months ahead. Some of this [violence] will go up because we are going to go after their sanctuaries and their safe havens as we must," he said.

Attacks soared by 59 per cent to 5,222 incidents from January to May, compared with 3,283 attacks in the first five months of 2008, according to US military officials and excerpts of a report by Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).

There were 1,450 attacks in May, according to Isaf, surpassing the 1,400-mark for only the second time since January 2007. The last time monthly attacks topped 1,400 was last August.

More troops, more violence

In video

Taliban fighters reclaim Afghan province
More videos...
The spike has corresponded with the arrival of more US troops as part of Barack Obama's strategy on Afghanistan.

The US president is pouring thousands more troops into Afghanistan as part of a larger strategy to roll back Taliban influence and stabilise the war-torn nation.

Petraeus, who formerly commanded US troops in Iraq, is overseeing the military portion of the Obama strategy.

The US has already increased its military presence in Afghanistan to 56,000 troops, from about 32,000 in late 2008, and Petraeus said he expects to see a total 68,000 troops in the war zone in the second half of this year.

Analysts have warned that the Obama strategy could lead to sharply higher US casualty rates, potentially diminishing support for the war at home as members of congress head into mid-term elections in 2010.

Military officials blame the increase partly on a mild winter, which allowed Taliban and other fighters to cross freely into Afghanistan from havens in Pakistan.

But rising violence was also driven by heightened Nato and Afghan military operations, which increased by about one-third from January to May, Isaf said.

Civilian deaths

Meanwhile, the US military has launched an investigation into claims that civilians were killed in an air raid in Afghanistan's western Ghor province.

US troops are under pressure over civilians killed and wounded in its attacks [Reuters]
An Afghan official said 10 civilians, including five children, were killed in the attack in the Shahrak district on Tuesday, along with 12 Taliban fighters.

The US military said the attack was aimed at Mullah Mustafa, an alleged Taliban commander.

It initially claimed to have killed him, but said in a statement on Thursday that "credible reports surfaced that Mustafa survived the attack".

"A thorough review of intelligence and surveillance supports initial reports that all killed in the strikes were legitimate enemy targets," the statement said.

"In addition, we are working closely with Afghan partners to investigate unconfirmed reports of civilians among Mustafa's party."

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
More than 400 gaming dens operate on native lands, but critics say social ills and inequality stack the deck.
The Palestinian president is expected to address the UN with a new proposal for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Nearly 1,200 aboriginal females have been killed or disappeared over 30 years with little justice served, critics say.
Ethnic violence has wracked China's restive Xinjiang region, leading to a tight government clampdown.
Malay artists revitalise the art of puppeteering by fusing tradition with modern characters such as Darth Vader.