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US envoy prepares for key Afghan talks

US envoy Richard Holbrooke prepared for talks in Afghanistan aimed at stepping up the struggle against a Taliban-led insurgency that the top US intelligence chief said was expanding in scope.

world Updated: Feb 14, 2009 03:06 IST

US envoy Richard Holbrooke prepared for talks on Friday in Afghanistan aimed at stepping up the struggle against a Taliban-led insurgency that the top US intelligence chief said was expanding in scope.

His arrival here late Thursday came a day after triple Taliban attacks on government offices killed 26 people and left eight attackers dead -- three of them in suicide blasts.

Some analysts suggested the coordinated attacks in Kabul may have been an attempt by the Taliban to overshadow Holbrooke's trip and underline their own strength despite military and political pressure on their Pakistan bases.

US embassy spokesman Mark Stroh confirmed Holbrooke's arrival.

Details of his itinerary were not released, although Holbrooke is expected to visit a range of international and Afghan authorities.

His tour -- he flew in from Pakistan and will travel on to India -- is part of a major focus on this region by the new US administration under President Barack Obama.

Obama, who has pledged to make Afghanistan the main front in the struggle against terrorism, is expected to decide shortly whether to send more troops in Kabul.

But the scale of the task was highlighted by retired admiral Dennis Blair, the new US director of national intelligence.

In an annual threat assessment to Congress, he said the Taliban-dominated insurgency had expanded in scope over the past year -- moving into previously peaceful areas around Kabul and elsewhere.