October 16, 2009
[efoods]A recent U.S. intelligence assessment has raised the estimated number of full-time Taliban-led insurgents fighting in Afghanistan to at least 25,000, underscoring how the crisis has worsened even as the U.S. and its allies have beefed up their military forces, a U.S. official said Thursday.
The U.S. official, who requested anonymity because the assessment is classified, said the estimate represented an increase of at least 5,000 fighters, or 25 percent, over what an estimate found last year.
On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry assured Afghans that America would continue to fight until “extremists and insurgents” were defeated in the war-torn nation.
The new intelligence estimate suggests such a fight would be difficult. Not included in the 25,000 tally are the part-time fighters – those Afghans who plant bombs or support the insurgents in other ways in return for money – and also the criminal gangs who sometimes make common cause with the Taliban or other Pakistan-based groups.
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