KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan police have arrested a Taliban commander in the southern province of Kandahar while 15 insurgents have been killed in clashes with Afghan and NATO troops, the government said on Sunday.
The violence came days after the United States and its NATO partners reaffirmed long-term commitment to Afghanistan.
The United States has urged allies to redouble efforts in the face of rising Afghan violence and is sending an extra 3,500 Marines. France has promised another 700 troops for NATO’s 47,000-strong Afghan force.
Police captured Taliban commander Abdul Jabar on Saturday, the Interior Ministry said.
Jabar, who the government said organized attacks in the south, was captured while on his way towards Pakistan. He was a deputy of Mullah Mansour Dadullah, a prominent Taliban commander captured in Pakistan in February, it said.
“He was involved in Taliban insurgent operations against the Afghan state and coalition forces,” the ministry said in a statement.
Also on Saturday, 15 insurgents were killed in two clashes about 40 km (25 miles) west of Kandahar city, the Defense Ministry said, in an area where NATO and Afghan forces have repeatedly battled the Taliban in recent years.
The Taliban, ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001, have vowed to step up their violent campaign to expel foreign forces and bring down the Western-backed government.
Violence surged last year with more than 6,000 people killed, almost a third of them civilians.
A Taliban spokesman dismissed France’s decision to send more troops.
“It makes it easier for us to find and hit targets,” spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said by telephone.
“Whoever sends troops to Afghanistan is basically fighting a U.S. war and getting its soldiers killed to protect U.S. interests,” he said.