Taliban may return to power: Britain

UK Defence Secy has warned that any easing in the fight against rebels in Afghanistan could see the toppled Taliban regime regain power.

india Updated: Apr 24, 2006 15:50 IST

Britain's Defence Secretary warned that any easing in the fight against militants in Afghanistan could see the toppled Taliban regime and Al-Qaeda regain power.

John Reid issued his warning during a visit to the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday while gunbattles elsewhere killed five people and rockets slammed into a US-run base in the south.

The Taliban militants have threatened to increase attacks during the warmer spring and summer months. Afghanistan has since witnessed a spike in bombings and shootings targeting coalition troops, Afghan forces and often civilians.

The stepped-up militant campaign is a concern for thousands of coalition troops deployed to hostile former Taliban strongholds in the south like Helmand, Kandahar and Ghazni more than four years after the US-led invasion toppled the hard-line regime for hosting Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

"The greatest danger of all for the people of Afghanistan and the people of the United Kingdom would be if Afghanistan ever again came under the rule of a Taliban regime prepared to protect Al-Qaeda or terrorist groups," Reid told reporters in the capital, Kabul.

Reid said coalition forces were based throughout southern Afghanistan primarily to aid the war-ravaged country's reconstruction, but were also prepared to defend Afghan partners and themselves.

Spiraling violence is a growing concern for nations contributing troops to a force operating here under a NATO mandate.

The force is to rise from its current 10,000 soldiers to about 21,000 by November as it gradually assumes command of all international troops in Afghanistan.

Afghan soldiers and police surrounded Taliban fighters hiding in a village in the volatile Gelan district of southern Ghazni province, some 125 kilometers southwest of Kabul, said provincial Gov Haji Sher Alam.

First Published: Apr 24, 2006 15:21 IST