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Sep 25th, 2009

Obama: I Know Public Tiring of Afghan War

Five Americans killed in Afghanistan attacks

September 25, 2009

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Friday that he understands that Americans are tiring of the war in Afghanistan, and that he is examining whether the U.S. is pursuing the right strategy there.

Obama gave no hints about whether he plans to add more troops, as his commanding general in Afghanistan wants him to do. He said he has to make sure the core goal of defeating al-Qaida is served by any move he makes.

The president spoke in Pittsburgh, where the Group of 20 nations met on the world economy.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, submitted his request for additional troops to the Pentagon’s top military officer, two Pentagon sources said Friday.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew to Ramstein Air Base in Germany to meet with McChrystal, according to the two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Mullen received McChrystal’s report on how many troops he thinks he needs to defeat the insurgency, the sources said. They declined to confirm what others have said privately for weeks — that McChrystal wants 40,000 more troops. …

In Afghanistan, military officials said Friday that five U.S. troops died in attacks in the south, adding to this year’s record death toll as American public support is dwindling for operations in the country that once hosted Osama bin Laden.

Four soldiers died Thursday in the same small district of southeastern Zabul province. Three were killed when their Stryker vehicle triggered a bomb in its path, and the fourth was shot to death in an insurgent attack, said U.S. military spokesman Lt. Robert Carr. The Stryker brigade arrived in Zabul as part of the summertime surge to try to secure the region ahead of Afghanistan’s Aug. 20 presidential election.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Marine was fatally shot while on foot patrol in southwestern Nimroz province, said Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, a military spokeswoman.

21,000 U.S. troops there now

The Obama administration is debating whether to add still more troops to the 21,000-strong influx that began pouring into Afghanistan over the summer. Most of those have gone to the south, where they’ve been assailed by roadside bombs and ambushes as they battle to take back Taliban-controlled areas.

McChrystal, told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that the strength of the militant group took him by surprise when he arrived this summer.

“I think that in some areas that the breadth of the violence, the geographic spread of violence, is a little more than I would have gathered,” he said in the interview to be broadcast on Sunday.

This has been the deadliest year for American troops since the 2001 invasion to oust the Islamic extremist Taliban. The five deaths announced Friday bring to 214 the number of troops killed so far this year, well ahead of the 151 who died in all of 2008.

The U.S. appears on track to have 68,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2009. Some question the wisdom of sending more troops to support a government facing allegations of widespread fraud in last month’s disputed vote. …

About half of all Americans oppose increasing troop levels in Afghanistan, according to a poll released Friday. The New York Times/CBS News poll found that only 29 percent of respondents believed the U.S. should add troops in Afghanistan, down from 42 percent in February. The survey, conducted Sept. 19-23, had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

General urges ‘some risk’

In a report to the White House, McChrystal argued that military commanders need to be less preoccupied with protecting their troops and send them out into Afghan communities more. He acknowledged this “could expose military personnel and civilians to greater risk in the near term,” but said the payoff in terms of forging ties with the Afghan people would be worth it.

“Accepting some risk in the short term will ultimately save lives in the long run,” he wrote.

The light-armored Stryker vehicles were sent to Afghanistan as part of a plan to take over a large swathe of the south. The idea behind the vehicles is that they can deploy quickly over large distances, exercising control over a wider area than can be held by foot soldiers. However, they are more vulnerable to roadside bombs than more heavily armored vehicles.

Bombs planted in roads, fields and near bases now account for the majority of U.S. and NATO casualties and have proven especially dangerous in the south. With the five deaths, a total of 34 U.S. forces have died in Afghanistan in September. August, which was the deadliest month of the war for American troops, saw 51 deaths.

Full story


Related reports

U.S. supply route threatened in N. Afghanistan (AP, Sept. 25, 2009) — Growing Taliban influence in northern Afghanistan is threatening a new military supply line painstakingly negotiated by the U.S., as rising violence takes hold on the one-time Silk Road route. The north has deteriorated over just a few months, showing how quickly Taliban influence is spreading in a once peaceful area. … Full story

Taliban guns down tribal elders (AP, Sept. 24, 2009) — Militants ambushed a convoy of prominent anti-Taliban tribal elders in volatile northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, spraying their cars with gunfire and killing nine people, police said. … Full story

Image: Tribal elders attacked in Pakistan
People unload victims of a Taliban attack at a local hospital in Bannu, Pakistan, on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009. (Photo credit: Ijaz Mohammad / AP)


9/26/09 Upate

Suicide Bombs Kill 16, Wound 150 in Pakistan

Image: A man walks on debris at the site of a suicide bomb attack in the town of Bannu
A man walks on debris at the site of a suicide bomb attack in the town of Bannu, Pakistan, on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009. (Photo credit: Adil Khan / Reuters)

September 26, 2009

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Two suicide car bombs killed 16 people and wounded about 150 others in separate attacks in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday, just days after the Taliban warned suicide strikes were coming if the military pressed forward with an offensive. A third bomb injured four in the restive region.

Pakistan’s mountainous, lawless northwest region along the Afghan border – where the government holds little control — is a favored area for insurgents to plan attacks on U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, as well as on Pakistani security forces and government workers. …

Taliban warning

The latest strikes came two days after the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan said it was ready to stage more suicide attacks in the region after it was ousted from the Swat Valley in July by an army offensive. [*]

Qari Hussain Mehsud — known for training Taliban suicide bombers — warned of more attacks in an AP interview at a secret location in North Waziristan on Thursday, just hours before U.S. missiles hit the area and killed 12 people. …

The U.S. has fired dozens of missiles from unmanned drones to take out top Taliban and al-Qaida leaders in the northwest over the past year. Although Pakistan routinely protests the strikes, it is widely believed to secretly cooperate with them.

A CIA drone attack felled former Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud on Aug. 5. …

Taliban attacks surged in the region last week. Militants ambushed a convoy of prominent anti-Taliban tribal elders in Bannu district on Thursday, spraying their cars with gunfire and killing nine people. Pakistani authorities have urged tribal elders to speak out against the Taliban, and in turn the militants have killed scores of local leaders.

* Militants issued a similar threat a year ago, when a suicide attack was mounted in Quetta, Pakistan.


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — September 25, 2008

Pakistani schoolchildren are admitted to a hospital after they were injured in a suicide attack in Quetta, Pakistan on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008. Militants threatened to escalate the violence if Pakistan did not cease cooperating with the United States on the war in Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Arshad Butt / AP)

After the Primary Election: Day 16

One year ago today, on the 16th day after losing my 2008 primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District, in line with my focus on national security, I reported on a speech at the United Nations by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, in which he decried civilian casualties in his country from foreign bombing raids, telling world leaders that innocent deaths can seriously hurt legitimate efforts to fight terrorism. I also reported on continuing violence in Iraq and threats by militants in Pakistan to escalate the violence in that country if Pakistan did not cease cooperating with the United States.

6 Responses to “‘Tiring’ of Afghanistan War”
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