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Roadside bombings double in Afghanistan

  • Story Highlights
  • Roadside bombings doubled, kidnappings rose in Afghanistan in past year
  • U.S. ambassador says cultivation of opium poppies used for heroin declined
  • U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama has vowed to tackle resurgent Taliban
  • Up to 30,000 additional U.S. troops could be sent to Afghanistan in 2009
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KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan said roadside bombs have doubled and kidnapping have increased over the last year in the war-torn country, but said the cultivation of opium poppies that is used to produce heroin has declined.

Roadside bombings in Afghanistan doubled to 2,000 in 2008,  according to the U.S. ambassador in Kabul.

Roadside bombings in Afghanistan doubled to 2,000 in 2008, according to the U.S. ambassador in Kabul.

William Wood, speaking to journalists at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, gave an assessment of trends over the last year in the country and expectations for the upcoming year.

"2008 was a good year but it was also a hard year," he said. He said there were 1,000 improvised explosive device blasts in 2007 and 2,000 this year.

"IEDs don't advance the terrorist cause at all. They don't win them any territory, they don't win them any friends," he said, "all they do is prove the presence and brutality of the terrorists."

Also, he said there were 130 reported kidnappings in 2007 and 250 in 2008, but it is thought that there have been many unreported abductions.

The increase in IEDs have occurred mostly in eastern and southern Afghanistan, where there been an uptick in attacks.

President-elect Barack Obama has said that he will shift his focus to Afghanistan, where the Taliban militant movement has been resurgent and where international troop deaths have increased in recent months.

Concerned over the increase in fighting, military officials have said up to 30,000 additional U.S. troops could be sent to Afghanistan next year, nearly doubling the level of American troops there.

Wood pointed to progress in combating the narcotics trade, which helps fund militant activity. He said there has been a nearly 20 percent decline in processing and cultivation of opium, pointing out that the local and international entities helped bring about the drop.

He said that the nascent democracy has been energized by upcoming elections, the improved performance of provincial governors, and the resilient backing of Afghanistan by the international community.

He said there will be a focus on combating government corruption in 2009, underscoring President Hamid Karzai's determination to confront the problem.

Wood said he anticipates "free and fair" upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, with three million voters already registered.

The International Foundation for Election Systems, which helps countries run democratic elections, says there will be presidential elections in next year and parliamentary elections are expected in 2010.

The ambassador notes that the Afghan National Army is growing by 2,500 soldiers a month and he expects it to double in size by 2012. He said the Afghan National Police is looking to add specialized elements, such as anti-kidnapping and counter-narcotics units.

Wood said the United States is backing an initiative by Karzai to help villages without international or local armies to protect them, a move that would help Afghans protect themselves and develop the confidence to do so. But he emphasized that the United States has no intention to provide these communities with weaponry.

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