Taliban vows to disrupt Karzai's swearing in
The Taliban warned on Monday its fighters will launch attacks to disrupt the swearing in ceremony of President Hamid Karzai to be attended by US Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Karzai, leader of a transitional government established after the fall of the Taliban, easily won an Oct. 9 presidential election which went ahead smoothly despite Taliban threats to spoil the poll.
Mullah Dadullah, senior military commander and member of the 10-member Taliban council, told Reuters by satellite phone on Monday that Afghans should avoid potential government and military targets during Karzai's swearing in.
"We do not want to harm innocent people," Dadullah said, adding that Taliban guerrillas had been given orders: "If you get a chance, disrupt the ceremony."
There is an 18,000-strong U.S. military force hunting Taliban and al Qaeda remnants in the south and southeast of Afghanistan, while over 8,000 NATO-led peacekeepers are stationed in Kabul and the north of the country.
Dadullah refused to say how the Taliban planned to attack, but said the aim was to remind foreigners that Islamist fighters were against the occupation of Afghanistan.
U.S. military spokesman Major Mark McCann said quick reaction ground and air units from U.S.-led forces and NATO-led peacekeepers were part of a comprehensive plan to counter potential militant action.
"Every possible contingency has been planned for," he said.
McCann told a news briefing all major routes and venues in Kabul would be well-protected and foreign troop units were standing by to carry out explosives disposal and to provide medical and command and control assistance.
VIPs attending have been asked to supply their blood groups as a precaution.
TALIBAN FAILED TO STOP ELECTION
The United States leads an 18,000-strong force in Afghanistan that has been hunting Taliban and al Qaeda remnants mainly in the south and southeast of the country, while about 8,400 NATO-led peacekeepers are mainly based in Kabul.
Karzai, leader of a transitional government established after the fall of Taliban, easily won an Oct. 9 presidential election that went ahead smoothly despite Taliban threats to spoil what was Afghanistan's first free vote.
But militant-related violence across Afghanistan since August last year has killed over 1,000 people and has included several bomb and rocket attacks in Kabul.
McCann said the U.S.-led force, together with the Afghan army and police, planned winter operations throughout Afghanistan, collectively code-named "Lightning Freedom," to create conditions for successful parliamentary polls next spring by squeezing militant groups harder.
McCann expressed hope that an offer of amnesty by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to rank and file Taliban who laid down their arms would bear fruit.
"There have been from time to time reports from the field that there are members of the Taliban who we believe are receptive to the offer of reconciliation," he said.
Security for Tuesday's inauguration will be extremely tight, with several key road arteries in Kabul completely shut to traffic. NATO-led peacekeepers say they have stepped up ground and air patrols to guard against rocket strikes, which may pose the greatest danger to the ceremony itself.