Coalition forces in Afghanistan are fighting a deadlier Taliban than ever, as jihadis returning from Iraq use techniques like suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to challenge NATO forces, experts tell ABC News. "The cross-pollination from Iraq is making it much more difficult for NATO soldiers in Afghanistan," said Richard Clarke, former White House counter-terrorism czar. Six NATO soldiers, all Canadian, were killed on Easter Sunday by an IED in the southern Afghanistan city of Kandahar. It was deadliest attack on NATO troops this year. Clarke said sophisticated IEDs and suicide bombings similar to those used against Western forces in Iraq are new in Afghanistan since last year. Though US officials cannot quantify exactly how many Taliban members are back from Iraq, they say there are enough to have significantly increased the number of attacks on NATO forces in recent months. Experts say the Karzai government’s failure to keep its promises to extend development and the rule of law to southern Afghanistan have nurtured the Taliban’s strength. "In the absence of government in the most rural areas there, the Taliban have had an easier time establishing themselves and recruiting, i.e. paying, followers," said Alexis Debat, an ABC News consultant and a terrorism expert at the Washington, D.C.-based Nixon Center who recently visited the region. In an interview with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer broadcast this morning, Afghan president Hamid Karzai said the Taliban had been defeated, and that talk of Taliban suicide bombers was a "sign of desperation."
"You kill yourself if you’re very disappointed. You have no hope of life," he said.
The Taliban’s resilience is also due to the sanctuary they have enjoyed across the Afghan border inside Pakistan, and Clarke says many Pakistanis have joined the militants in Afghanistan after training in Pakistan. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf pulled his Army troops out of Waziristan last fall as part of a "peace deal" with tribal leaders. In an appearance with President Bush at the White House on Sept. 22, Musharraf vowed he would not tolerate "al Qaeda activity in our tribal agency or across the border in Afghanistan." In February, ABC News reported that Vice President Dick Cheney visited Pakistan to urge Musharraf to crack down on Taliban and al Qaeda sanctuaries in his country. Cheney brought with him CIA evidence that reportedly included photos and electronic intercepts of al Qaeda leaders operating in Pakistan.