WASHINGTON, Feb 3: The United States takes command of more than 33,000 Nato troops in Afghanistan on Sunday amid talks of a new Taliban offensive this summer, the Pentagon said.
US general Dan McNeill will take over command of Nato troops at a ceremony in Kabul. The United States also commands more than 10,000 other soldiers under a separate operation.British general David Richards, who hands over command to the United States, spoke of the Taliban offensive in a farewell statement, although he also said that the Taliban were militarily trounced last year.
Last year was the deadliest since US-led troops toppled the Taliban in 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
More than 4,000 people were killed, mostly rebels. About 170 foreign soldiers, many of them Americans, were also killed.
The United States last week doubled its ground combat forces, adding 2,500 soldiers for the next few months.
The extra troops will mostly go to creating a rapid reaction force for combating the Taliban.
Britain and Poland also have promised to send additional troops to Afghanistan.
Last week, the Bush administration asked Congress for an extra $10.6 billion for Afghanistan.
As much as $8.6 billion of this money will be spent on training a 70,000-strong Afghan national army and the national police force.
A recent US intelligence report blamed drug money and the presence of safe havens and training camps inside Pakistan for the Taliban’s come back who were written off as a force in 2002.
Recently, several US officials, including National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, urged Islamabad to do more to stop rebels and drug gangs crossing over to Afghanistan.
They acknowledged that Pakistan no longer backs the Taliban, but was unable to control their movement.
“The international community is putting a lot of pressure on Pakistan, but let's just remember that Pakistan has also done a huge amount for the international community on the back of 9/11," said Gen Richards.
"But this is not a 'them and us'. This is a common problem, with common solutions."
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced in Washington on Saturday that the US 82nd Airborne Division has accepted responsibility for Combined Joint Task Force 76 from the 10th Mountain Division.
The task force supports Nato operations in eastern Afghanistan. The 10th Mountain Division has been in Afghanistan for about a year.
Thousands of 82nd Airborne paratroopers will be deployed throughout Afghanistan for more than year, continuing the combat, combat service and combat service support operations of their predecessors, the Pentagon said.