Four Taliban commanders killed

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The Independent Online

Four Taliban commanders have been killed and an insurgent shadow governor captured in the British area of operations in Afghanistan, the military said today.

The developments took place in recent weeks in the Nad-e-Ali and Nahr-e-Saraj districts of central Helmand Province, where most of the 10,000 UK troops in the country are based.

Across Afghanistan 19 Taliban leaders and 252 lower-level fighters were killed or captured between November 15 and 21 alone, according to Nato figures.

A total of 387 insurgent commanders were killed or captured nationwide in the three months before November 18.

Major General John Lorimer, the new senior British military spokesman, said Nato and Afghan forces were "taking the fight to the enemy" and causing significant damage to militant networks.

"There are isolated insurgent groups that are leaderless," he said.

"There are people who are seriously worried and they don't have the equipment, they don't have their supplies, and they're beginning to wonder."

Recent operations in Helmand have seen the Taliban shadow district governor of Nad-e-Ali detained.

Maj Gen Lorimer told reporters at the Ministry of Defence in central London: "That will further inhibit the ability of insurgents to both influence the local population and conduct operations against Isaf and the Afghan national security forces."

In addition two militant commanders in each of Nad-e-Ali and Nahr-e-Saraj have been killed in the past few weeks.

Taliban activity has reduced in recent weeks, probably because of celebrations for the Islamic festival of Eid and the onset of the Afghan winter, when fewer attacks are launched.

But Maj Gen Lorimer said the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) was determined to continue operations against the militants.

"From Isaf's point of view the aim is to keep the tempo up, and it has been this week and undoubtedly it will in the winter, he said.

"We want to keep this unrelenting pressure on the insurgent forces."

A Pentagon report on the war in Afghanistan released yesterday noted that violence was increasing and more Afghans feared for their safety.

Maj Gen Lorimer welcomed the official US government assessment, saying: "The point it makes about the level of violence being increased, we always expected that.

"There are more troops that have gone in and therefore undoubtedly the level of violence is going to increase...

"But I think the report was very clear that there is steady progress throughout the country.

"Yes, it's a bit patchy, but where we have conducted operations, where we have committed capabilities and effort, there has been very much palpable progress."

Maj Gen Lorimer said there was a "cautious optimism" among commanders in Afghanistan, who believe things are moving in the "right direction".

He said: "Everyone is really pleased with the development of the Afghan national security forces.

"They are very much increasingly taking a lead role in security operations and in consolidating the gains afterwards in linking in with various governance."