Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Iraq militants 'in Afghan switch'

Abdul Rahim Wardak
Abdul Rahim Wardak said many Taleban were foreign militants

Foreign militants are flowing into Afghanistan because of the success of the "troop surge" in Iraq, the Afghan defence minister has said.

Abdul Rahim Wardak said in some encounters last year 60% of the Taleban fighters were foreign.

"Afghanistan is definitely the front line in the war against the global terror now," Mr Wardak said.

He was speaking after meeting Nato's supreme allied commander for Europe, US Gen John Craddock.


Mr Wardak said: "As the result of success and the 'surge' in Iraq, there has been a flow of foreign terrorists into Afghanistan.

"So that might have changed the equation, the defeat in Iraq. And more focus in Afghanistan is something which I would like the international community to pay more attention to."

New US President Barack Obama has said Afghanistan is the top US military priority.

Thousands more US troops are planned for Afghanistan.

Mr Wardak said his talks with Gen Craddock also focused on training for the Afghan army and reducing civilian casualties.

The US hopes to increase Afghan troops from 80,000 to 134,000 in 2012.

Mr Wardak said more US troops would not mean more civilian casualties.


"There will be less requirement for indirect fire and less air strikes," he said.

Mr Wardak said there were about 15,000 Taleban fighters in Afghanistan.

He added: "There have been engagements... in 2008, and in some of these engagements, actually 60% of the total force which we have encountered were foreign fighters."

Gen Craddock provoked controversy before his visit by reportedly suggesting Nato troops could target Afghans merely suspected of involvement in the drugs trade.

Gen Craddock's comments suggesting the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) could go after opium farmers without first establishing their links to insurgents, were first reported in the German magazine, Der Spiegel, at the weekend.

It quoted US Gen Craddock as saying: [It is] no longer necessary to produce intelligence or other evidence that each particular drug trafficker or narcotics facility in Afghanistan meets the criteria of being a military objective."

The report provoked anger in Afghanistan.

Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta said that such an approach would be unacceptable.

Speaking to the BBC World Service, he said it would breach Afghanistan's sovereignty and constitution.

"[This] is the job of policemen, this is not the job of Nato generals or others, we have to fight the cause, not the symptoms."

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