Da The Seattle Times del 31/07/2006
Originale su http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex...

NATO in Afghanistan set to command its first ever ground combat operations

di Fisnik Abrashi

KABUL, Afghanistan — NATO troops today assumed command of military operations in volatile southern Afghanistan from the U.S.-led coalition, marking the first time the alliance has conducted land-combat operations.

A NATO-led force, made up mostly of British, Canadian and Dutch troops, took over in the south today from a U.S.-led anti-terror coalition that was first deployed nearly five years ago to unseat the hard-line Taliban regime for harboring Osama bin Laden.

The mission is considered the most dangerous and challenging in the Western alliance's 57-year history. It coincides with the deadliest upsurge in fighting in Afghanistan since late 2001 that has left hundreds of people, mostly militants, dead.

"In one sense it is historical," said British Lt. Gen. David Richards, the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. "But also it is important for the world that Afghanistan is not allowed to be tipped back to its pre-9/11 state and allow a Taliban look-alike government with its sympathies to come back into power."

NATO officials say Richards will effectively become the first non-U.S. general to command Americans forces in combat operations. The alliance's 8,000-strong NATO deployment in the south includes some U.S. troops.

"Today's transfer of authority demonstrates to the Afghan people that there is a strong commitment on the part of the international community to further extend security into the southern region's provinces," Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, commander of U.S.-led coalition forces, said in a NATO statement.

The takeover followed two days of intense fighting that left at least 30 Taliban dead.

On Saturday, a joint force of coalition and Afghan troops killed 20 suspected Taliban militants who had attempted an ambush in Shahidi Hassas district of Uruzgan province, a coalition statement said. There were no casualties among coalition or Afghan forces.

Afghan soldiers and police killed six Taliban fighters and captured eight Sunday during a clash in southeastern Paktika province, said Said Jamal, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Four militants died in separate explosions while planting bombs in southern Kandahar province.

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