Afghan, Nato operation kills 23 militants: Afghan general

KABUL: Afghan soldiers backed by troops from the Nato-led international force stormed a militant stronghold in southern Afghanistan, killing 23 insurgents, an Afghan army general said Wednesday.

The dead in the attack in the southern province of Uruzgan on Tuesday included a local Taliban commander, General Sher Mohammad Zazai told AFP.

‘We had an operation in Chinarto area last night during which we located a Taliban hideout. We killed 23 enemy fighters,’ Zazai said.

He said that fighter jets from the Nato force took part in the battle in Chinarto, which is close to the provincial capital of Tirin Kot.

‘A Taliban commander named Mullah Isamaeel was also killed,’ he added.

The operation was part of an anti-insurgent drive recently launched to dislodge Taliban militants from their strongholds ahead of the August 20 presidential elections, the general said.

The Taliban were in power between 1996 and 2001 and are waging a fierce insurgency to topple the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai and oust foreign troops from the war-torn nation.

The insurgency has gained pace in recent weeks, raising fears for the security of Afghanistan’s second ever presidential poll.

Afghan security forces, with support from Nato and US-led coalition troops, have launched a series of operations to secure volatile areas, mainly in southern parts of the country worst-hit by militant attacks.

There are about 90,000 foreign troops — mostly from the United States — stationed in Afghanistan to battle the Taliban and help train Afghan forces. — AFP


Pak, Afghan, US talks on anti-terror strategy

WASHINGTON: The US-Pakistan-Afghanistan talks entered a crucial phase on Thursday when intelligence chiefs and military leaders from the three countries started shaping up a strategy for defeating terrorists in the Pak-Afghan region.

The talks followed a series of meetings on Wednesday among the leaders of the three countries – Presidents Barack Obama, Asif Ali Zardari and Hamid Karzai.

The two days of meetings were designed to better coordinate the Obama administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Although the media focused on the summit meetings, US officials stressed that they were more interested in the outcome of the talks among Afghan and Pakistani officials responsible for intelligence, defence, agriculture, law enforcement and diplomacy.

On Wednesday, President Obama held two sets of meetings with the Afghan and Pakistani leaders: the bilateral and then a trilateral summit aimed at improving coordination between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Later in the evening, Vice President Joe Biden hosted a dinner for the two leaders, attended by a large number of US civil and military officials, lawmakers and ambassadors of other nations based in Washington.

But what diplomatic observers in Washington are describing as the ‘real talks’ began on Thursday when CIA chief Leon Panetta met DG ISI Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha and his Afghan counterpart. Senior military commanders accompanying the Afghan and Pakistani delegates also met each other and their American counterparts.

Besides Mr Panetta, the Americans also included FBI Director Robert S. Mueller and, Central Command chief Gen. David H. Petraeus in the meetings, indicating that these ‘technical talks,’ although low-profiled, were as substantial as the summit.

US Agriculture and Treasury officials also held a series of meetings with their counterparts from Afghanistan and Pakistan to determine what specific assistance they could offer to the two countries.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later told the media that the head of these civil, intelligence and military agencies were finalising work plans with ‘specific’ goals in their areas of concern.

The military commanders and intelligence chiefs obviously focused on the military strategy to defeat the militants. Others focused on judicial reform, agricultural development, security and economic development, Secretary Clinton said.

Wednesday’s summit coincided with the release of a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross concluding that recent US airstrikes have killed dozens of Afghan civilians.

The report overshadowed the summit, forcing President Obama to offer condolences over the deaths to the Afghan president. Mr Obama also promised to investigate the airstrikes.

Although such strikes are carried out at targets inside Pakistan as well, President Obama and Secretary Clinton focused on the deaths in Afghanistan, making only passing references to the Pakistanis killed in the airstrikes.

Such strikes over the years have severely undermined Afghan and Pakistani governments and also have damaged the US effort to win over hearts and minds in the fight against extremism.

US National Security Adviser James L. Jones later told a briefing that in his meeting with President Zardari, Mr Obama outlined how he intended to help Pakistan’s development efforts.

The Obama administration is pushing a five-year, $7.5 billion economic assistance package for Pakistan, and last month the administration arranged an international donors’ conference in Tokyo that generated $5.5 billion in pledges.

Gen. Jones said President Obama asked Afghan and Pakistani leader to confront corruption and work on projects that directly improve the lives of people, such as schools and health clinics.

‘We must do more than stand against those who would destroy Pakistan,’ President Obama later told reporters. ‘We must stand with those who want to build Pakistan.’

The US media claimed that in the talks the Obama administration expressed serious concerns about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Some reports also claimed that Pakistan had shared with US authorities information about its nukes.

Both US and Pakistani officials, however, rejected the claims as incorrect, saying that no such information was shared.

Gen. Jones said that President Obama availed the opportunity to affirm his support for ‘the democratically elected governments’ of the two countries, although he avoided personally endorsing either man.

‘Mr Karzai faces re-election in August, and Mr Zardari is seen as deeply unpopular at home,’ said the Washington Post while explaining why Mr Obama avoided endorsing them.

President Obama, however, emphasised that ‘the security of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States were linked,’ saying his strategy to combat rising extremism through increased development aid and military support reflected that ‘fundamental truth.’

‘Now there’s much to be done,’ Mr Obama said at the White House, flanked by Mr Karzai, Mr Zardari of Pakistan and Vice President Biden.

‘Along the border where insurgents often move freely, we must work together with a renewed sense of partnership to share intelligence, and to coordinate our efforts to isolate, target and take out our common enemy. But we must also meet the threat of extremism with a positive program of growth and opportunity.’

Source: Dawn News

Senator Kerry hails Obama strategy for Pak, Afghan

WASHINGTON: US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry Friday hailed President Barack Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan as realistic and bold and vowed to enact a legislative measure on authorizing massive economic aid for Pakistan.

“President Obama’s new strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan is realistic and bold in a critical region where our policy needs rescuing” he said in a statement.

“I am particularly encouraged that the President has centered his Pakistan strategy around the legislation which Sen. Lugar and I will introduce in the coming days”.

“It will be the keystone of a new ‘smart power’ approach to this vital nation. On the non-military side, it will authorize a tripling of U.S. aid to $1.5 billion annually for five years including funds that will build schools, roads, and clinics.”

On the military side, Kerry said the measure would institute “strict new accountability for security aid.”

“This combined strategy will enable the U.S. and Pakistan to work together to root out Al Qaeda, quell the threat of violent radicalism, and give us a shot at building a secure future for the entire region.”

U.S. air strike kills Afghan boy among a dozen dead

HEART: U.S. forces killed at least one child, video footage obtained on Wednesday showed, in an air strike in western Afghanistan that Afghan police say killed 12 civilians and U.S. forces said killed 16 militants.

Videos taken in the Gozara district of Herat province in the aftermath of the attack on Monday showed mangled, unrecognizable clumps of flesh – all that remained of several people and dozens of animals killed in a tented nomad encampment. One body that was recognizable was that of a young boy. “The information we have is 12 civilians, including six women, four men and two children have been killed in the bombardment,” General Ikramuddin Yawar, chief of police in western Afghanistan told.

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Afghan civilian deaths rose 40 percent in 2008: UN

KABUL: The U.N. says civilian deaths in Afghanistan rose 40percent in 2008 to a record 2,118.

An annual U.N. report says militants were responsible for 55percent of civilian deaths last year, or 1,160. But the world body says U.S., NATO or Afghan troops killed 829 _ 39 percent of the total.

The remaining 130 deaths couldn’t be accounted for because of issues like crossfire.

The U.N. report released Tuesday says the number of civilians killed by U.S., NATO or Afghan forces rose 31 percent from 2007 to2008. In 2007 those forces killed 629 civilians.

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Bombs kill 3 Afghan troops, 2 civilians

KABUL: Two bomb attacks in Afghanistan killed three Afghan security forces and two civilians, officials said Monday.

A roadside bomb ripped through a police vehicle in Khogyani district, near the border with Pakistan, killing two police and wounding three civilians, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, spokesman for the provincial governor.

In southwestern Nimroz province, meanwhile, a suicide bomber attacked a group of Afghan soldiers on Sunday, killing one soldier and two civilians, Gov. Ghulam Dastagir Azad said.

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Biden rules out Afghan success sans Pakistan

MUNICH: The United States is seeking to set “clear and achievable” goals for Afghanistan in a comprehensive strategy for which both Washington and its allies must take responsibility, Vice President Joe Biden said on Saturday.

This strategy should bring together U.S. civilian and military resources in order to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for Islamist militants and help Afghans develop the capacity to secure their own future.

Speaking to a security conference, he also said that, “no strategy for Afghanistan can succeed without Pakistan.

“We must all strengthen our cooperation with the people and government of Pakistan, help them stabilise the Tribal Areas and promote economic development and opportunity throughout the country.”

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5 Taliban killed in gun battle

KANDAHAR: Afghan and international forces killed five Taliban fighters in an overnight gun battle in southern Afghanistan, an official said Tuesday.

Three civilians were killed in violence elsewhere. Taliban militants were also wounded in the clash in Nawa district of Helmand province, but it was unclear how many, said Provincial Police Chief Assadullah Sherzad. He said neither Afghan nor international forces reported any casualties. He did not say what sparked the fighting, which ended in the Taliban’s retreat.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry said three civilians were killed late Monday in eastern Nangarhar province when their minivan was hit by a remote-controlled bomb blast. No explanation was given for the attack, which occurred while the vehicle was headed toward the city of Jalalabad, the ministry said.

In southern Kandahar province on Tuesday, a roadside bomb struck a police patrol and wounded two officers. The bomb went off in the center of Kandahar city, the provincial capital, said provincial Police Chief Matiullah Khan Qateh.

The officers were riding in a police vehicle when the attack occurred, Qateh said. The vehicle was lightly damaged, and two other policemen in it were not hurt, Qateh said. No civilians were hurt.

Karzai urges west to review Afghan war strategy

KABUL: Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Tuesday the killing of civilians by foreign troops was a main source of instability in Afghanistan, and urged the West to review its strategy in fighting the Taliban and delivering aid.

Western politicians have recently stepped up their criticism about endemic corruption and poor governance by Karzai’s administration, which has ruled Afghanistan since U.S.-led and Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001.

Karzai, facing elections due in September, has hit back denouncing the repeated accidental killing of Afghan civilians in air strikes by U.S. and NATO forces.

“This persecutes us,” Karzai said of the killings. “Our international friends should know that it is a physical and mental obsession,” he told the annual opening of parliament.

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