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American Forces Press Service

Insurgents in Afghanistan Take Aim at Softer Targets

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4, 2005 The numbers of attacks on U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan "have not significantly increased from this time last year," a senior U.S. military operations officer in Afghanistan reported today.

The insurgents, however, do seem to be increasing their attacks against softer civilian targets, Army Brig. Gen. James G. Champion, deputy commanding general of operations and intelligence for Combined Joint Task Force 76, told reporters in the Pentagon via an audio link.

The pressure is clearly on for the insurgents in Afghanistan, Champion said, noting recent Taliban recruiting drives have proven to be "mainly ineffective."

Champion explained that insurgents in Afghanistan, including diehard Taliban remnants, are having difficulty convincing seasoned fighters to join them. The insurgents have lately turned to drafting 14- and 15-year-old boys into their ranks, he said.

There are now about 18,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, Champion said, noting that U.S. and coalition forces have been aggressive in seeking out and engaging the enemy since good weather arrived this spring. "The attacks you are seeing are pretty much initiated" by elements of Combined Joint Task Force 76, which is the combat operations arm of Combined Forces Command Afghanistan, Champion said.

The U.S. and coalition focus in Afghanistan is to root out Taliban and al Qaeda-affiliated elements. As part of this mission about 75,000 Pakistani troops arrayed along the Afghan-Pakistani border have been "very active" lately in cooperating with U.S. and coalition forces in establishing insurgent-blocking checkpoints, Champion said.

Coordination between U.S., coalition and Pakistani forces "is getting better every day," Champion said, adding that Afghan leaders in Kandahar City recently renounced the Taliban's cause.

As insurgent forces in Afghanistan are increasingly pressured by U.S. and coalition troops, the insurgents seem to be employing more improvised explosive devices directed against softer civilian targets, Champion noted. Apparently becoming more desperate, the insurgents appear to be directing more attacks, including the use of suicide bombers and IEDs, "on innocent civilians" and against moderate religious leaders who've rejected Taliban ideology, he said.

"That's something we've not seen in Afghanistan before," the general said. However, "the Afghan population have been key players in our area of alerting us to IED" placements, as well as leading U.S. and coalition forces to IED makers, Champion said.

Although insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq both use IEDs, Champion said he doesn't see any connection or relationship "between the tactics and techniques of the two groups in the two different theaters."

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