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'Desperate' Taliban Likely to Step Up Violence

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2005 – "Desperate" Taliban members and their al Qaeda allies are likely to launch more violent attacks with the approach of parliamentary elections this fall, the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan told reporters in Kabul today.

Army Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, who heads Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, called the election of Hamid Karzai as Afghanistan's president last October a "strategic defeat" for the Taliban and said much of the organization is close to collapse.

Some Taliban leaders have expressed interest in joining the political process in Afghanistan, Barno said, but others are clinging to hopes of reversing the country's course.

"As the terrorists' capability grows more and more limited," he predicted, "hard-core fanatics would desperately try to do something to change the course of events in Afghanistan."

These terrorists "want to reassert themselves," Barno said. "And I expect they would be looking here, for the next six to nine months or so, to stage some type of high-visibility attack to garner media publicity."

Despite the terrorists' weakened capabilities, they continue to threaten the country's stability, the general said. "I think we must be realistic and clear-eyed with the understanding that the enemy is still dangerous," he said.

Barno delivered his comments after the Taliban's threat to intensity attacks against U.S. and Afghan troops following a full in terrorist activity following the national elections last October.

The coalition has assured the Afghan government that it will help ensure security for the Sept. 18 parliamentary elections, Barno said.

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