NATO commander: Afghanistan drug raids imminent

In an effort to strike at a key income source for Taliban militants, the top NATO commander said Sunday that operations to attack drug lords and labs in Afghanistan will begin within the “next several days.”

Gen. John Craddock, who also heads the U.S. European Command, also said that the U.S. and its allies are making progress in their efforts to fill the need for more troops, equipment and intelligence gathering in Afghanistan. He, however, would not disclose any specific commitments he got this weekend as world leaders met at a security conference here.

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer

NATO defense ministers, during a meeting last fall in Hungary, authorized troops in Afghanistan to launch the drug attacks, but there had been questions about whether allies would be willing to follow through. Money from Afghanistan’s booming illicit drug trade has been blamed for pumping up to $100 million a year into the coffers of resurgent Taliban fighters.

“Activities and actions will occur soon that will be helpful,” Craddock told reporters. “We’ve got to get started.”

The U.S. delegation to the security conference, led by Vice President Joe Biden, was expected to talk to allies this weekend about the ongoing need for support in Afghanistan. Craddock said he still needs about 5,000 NATO troops to bolster Afghan forces during the coming elections, and he is confident he will get them from other NATO nations.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090208/ap_on_re_eu/nato_afghanistan

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