KABUL, Feb 20: Military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq are exchanging intelligence over a change of tactics by the Taliban-led fighters here, including a spate of deadly suicide blasts, Nato said on Monday. The exchange could help determine the best way to deal with the turn in the ‘insurgency’, Lt Col Riccardo Cristoni, spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told reporters.

The anti-US fighters have shifted tactics in recent months, with an increase in previously rare suicide blasts and car bombings.

“We are sharing and we are getting information from Iraq because these types of attacks are similar to those attacks in Iraq,” Col Cristoni said. This was to ‘see what are the similarities, how to counter them in the best way’, he said.

There have been about 25 suicide bombings since September, the most deadly in January killing more than 22 people in the border town of Spin Boldak.

Afghan officials blame the influence of foreign fighters, including Al Qaeda and those based in Iraq. Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah said earlier this month that the guerillas were copying some tactics from their Iraqi counterparts.

Col Cristoni said the changes indicated a ‘desperate attempt’ by the guerillas to attract world attention and show they were still a presence despite significant losses.

Security forces in Afghanistan, including ISAF and the separate US-led force, were working to meet the change, he said.

“That is not something that can be done in a week, it takes time to gather intelligence, get all the information, adopt the right procedures,” he said.

Col Jim Yonts, a spokesman for the Western forces, said there had not been a significant escalation in violence though the nature of the attacks had changed.

“You cannot assume that these few acts, while they are horrific, represent that the security situation and the progress of Afghanistan is eroding,” he said. “That is far from true.”

The attacks have been focused on volatile southern Afghanistan, the heartland of the Taliban, where the bulk of the 20,000-strong US-led force is based.

The ISAF contingent, which has taken on a largely peacekeeping role in less troubled northern and western Afghanistan, will move south in the coming months, expanding numbers to 16,000 from 10,000, as the United States cuts back its force by about 3,000 troops from around 17,000.

This would not see a let-up in the counter-terrorism campaign, Col Yonts said.

“The forces that are coming into that region, the Canadians, the British, the Australians, the Dutch, they are very aggressive professional militaries. We do not see any erosion of capability at all,” he said. —AFP

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