KABUL (AFP) – This year has been the bloodiest for insurgent violence in Afghanistan as increasing numbers of terrorists change battlegrounds and head here from Iraq, the defence minister said Tuesday.
“The level of violence has increased every year and 2008 has been the worst of all,” Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak told reporters, referring to the launch of an insurgency after the extremist Taliban regime was ousted in 2001.
The minister, who did not provide figures, said the rise in militant attacks did not reflect inefficiency on the part of the growing Afghan forces or the international soldiers helping them.
He said that rather “the success of the coalition forces in Iraq and also some other issues in the neighbouring countries have made it possible that there is a major increase in the foreign fighters (in Afghanistan)”.
“There is a major concentration from the enemy side. There has been a lot of terrorists who were busy in other places (and) have been diverted to Afghanistan,” he said.
The hardline Islamic Taliban were forced from power in a US-led invasion following the 9/11 attacks that were blamed on Al-Qaeda, which then had bases in Afghanistan.
This year the number of international soldiers killed in Afghanistan has already passed the toll of roughly 220 reached last year. At least 3,800 other people were killed to July, at least a third of them civilians, the United Nations says.
Wardak said the militants were increasingly sophisticated. “There is no doubt that they are (more) well-equipped than before, they are well trained, they are more sophisticated and their coordination is much better than before.”
Nonetheless he did not believe they would be able to sustain their operations, he said, adding he was confident the military would be able to reverse any gains the militants had achieved.
Some countries involved in Afghanistan have in recent weeks expressed concern about the progress of the campaign, with a US intelligence report this month saying the country was on a “downward spiral.”