Friday, October 9, 2009

Wire: Taliban Has Grown Fourfold

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2009 -- Newswire services this afternoon reported that Taliban-led insurgents fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan have increased nearly fourfold since 2006, according to a U.S. intelligence estimate submitted to President Barack Obama.

The news was in an article published Friday on the Web site.

The intelligence report says that the number of Taliban fighters has grown to 25,000, from 7,000 four years ago, the officials said on Friday as Obama convened a fifth cabinet-level meeting on U.S. military strategy in Afghanistan.

Obama has been considering a request by the senior commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan for up to 60,000 extra troops to be deployed to the region.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has warned that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan risks failure unless more troops are sent to combat the Taliban and provide training and support to Afghan government forces.

Officials said on Friday that Obama -- who agreed early in his presidency to send 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan -- still has not made any firm decision in regard to McChrystal's request.

The U.S. intelligence estimate that 25,000 Taliban forces are ranged against the US and NATO presence in Afghanistan includes members who are less committed to the fight, officials said.

From the article:

A US counterterrorism official said the figure was a "rough" estimate because it is difficult to ascertain the size of armed opposition groups that tend to operate in small units.

"You're not talking about fixed formations that rely solely on full-time combatants. Numbers ebb and flow. Bands of fighters appear and vanish," the official said.

A US defence official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that while the size of the Taliban force is far smaller than the combined US and Nato presence, the fighting methods they employ help overcome the asymmetry.

"By the very nature of insurgency, you do not need a lot of insurgents to inflict a lot of damage, because they are able to choose the time and the place to engage," the official said.

(Report from newswire sources.)

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