WASHINGTON – Violence in southern Afghanistan has dropped marginally compared to last year’s fighting season, despite an intensified push to clear out Taliban pockets, the commanding general of Regional Command South said Thursday.
Maj. Gen. James Terry, commander of the Army’s 10th Mountain division, said that recent high-profile attacks, including the killing of prominent Kandahar politician Ahmed Wali Karzai, half-brother of the Afghan president, show the Taliban have shifted to a strategy of terrorizing the population rather than direct military confrontation.
But the strategy is failing, Terry said, because provincial leaders from Kandahar continue to strengthen their ties with hinterland populations, helping to deny safe haven for insurgents. In addition, the sheer savagery of the tactics is backfiring.
“These kinds of attacks are working counter to their intent as insurgents are harming innocent civilians,” Terry said, speaking by video uplink from Afghanistan.
The rise in brutality directed at civilians was a factor for many of the approximately 200 insurgents who have laid down arms in recent months to officially reintegrate into Afghan society, he said.
Despite the overall drop in violence, Terry estimated that IED attacks have risen by about 5 percent. But the majority of IEDs encountered, he said, are being dismantled before they explode.