The number of clashes between NATO-led forces and insurgents has dropped following intense combat that rocked the south of the country earlier this year, opening the way for reconstruction projects, a NATO spokesman said Wednesday.

Spokesman Mark Laity also said there has been a rise in the use of suicide and roadside bombs corresponding with the subsiding number of direct confrontations.

There were more than 500 clashes in August and close to 400 in September, the two months that saw the most fighting between Taliban militants and Western troops since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001, said Laity.

Since the end of a major anti-Taliban military offensive in the south of the country known as Operation Medusa, the number of clashes has dropped by half, Laity said.

CountryWatch: Afghanistan

"The significance of this is ... we have defeated the Taliban in direct combat, and as a result there has been a big reduction in these kind of incidents," Laity told reporters. He did not elaborate with figures.

Afghanistan is going through its worst period of violence since 2001, with insurgents battling Afghan and foreign troops, particularly in the south and east of the country. Militants are also increasing their use of roadside and suicide attacks in their campaign to weaken the government.

NATO Gen. David Richards told The Associated Press on Sunday that a majority of Afghans would likely switch their allegiance to the Taliban if their lives show no visible improvements in the next six months.

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