12/05/2007, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN
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Another suicide attack in Kabul, US calls for greater military commitment

This morning’s suicide attack killing 13 people “greets” US Defence Secretary Gates’ as he leaves the country. United States calls on its NATO partners to increase their military commitment. Local experts warn that a solution requires greater commitment to a political solution and better reconstruction. Dissatisfaction is growing in the population which is turning more and more pro-Taliban.

Kabul (AsiaNews) – The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide attack that killed 13 people this morning in Kabul. The number of dead is expected to rise as several of the wounded have been severely injured.

An escalation in violence has been underway for the past two months. Today’s attack was the second in two days, and took place on the last morning of Defence Secretary Robert Gates' two-day visit to Afghanistan.

Afghan military officials say they need more training and equipment to fight the growing Taliban offensive. But among analysts many believe that the Afghan situation cannot be solved by the military alone. A greater political and diplomatic effort is needed in co-ordination with local authorities to conduct targeted reconstruction interventions.

Today’s suicide bomber struck a minibus full of soldiers in the Chihulsutoon area south of Kabul. According to a defence ministry spokesman, six soldiers and seven civilians were killed in the attack.

A similar attack against a NATO convoy near Kabul airport yesterday left 22 civilians wounded.

The situation is not improving and violence is up. The presence of international troops is necessary until Afghanistan does not have a well-trained national army and a reliable police force. Otherwise the country will further plunge in chaos.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ call on United States’ European NATO partners to make a greater military effort, otherwise the progress achieved on the ground might be lost, has elicited a response among humanitarian groups working in Afghanistan. From their point of view, a military strategy alone cannot do the job. Political action and reconstruction efforts must be intensified.

For instance, schools, hospitals and other infrastructures are being built but Afghans cannot manage them because they lack teachers and medical staff. This requires greater co-ordination between donors and the authorities.

Dissatisfaction is also growing in the population. Unemployment remains high; the cost of living is rising, whilst salaries stagnate. The gap between those working for international agencies and government institutions is huge and a source of social tensions.

A recent survey conducted for Western TV networks shows that only 42 per cent of Afghans now believe US efforts are positive; that is down from 68 per cent in 2005 and 57 in 2006.

Support for the Taliban is also up. In the south-western part of the country, where violence is highest, 23 per cent of the population claims it is in favour of the Islamist militants, three times more than last year.

In the last 11 months at least 6,200 people died from violence in Afghanistan.

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