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Aug 20th, 2008


FOCUS ON NATIONAL SECURITY

In Afghanistan, A Deadly Taliban Trend Emerges

By M. Karim Faiez and Laura King
Los Angeles Times - logo
Aug. 20, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan — In the worst loss of life for Western troops in ground combat with Taliban forces in Afghanistan, insurgents ambushed and killed 10 French soldiers and wounded 21 in a sustained assault outside the capital, military officials said Tuesday.

Separately, militants made an hours-long attempt to overrun a major U.S. base in southeastern Afghanistan, employing an unnerving new tactic: multiple suicide bombers, three of whom blew themselves up in succession and three others who were shot by the base’s defenders, according to a military official.

Taken together, the attacks against the French and American forces were a graphic demonstration of the growing reach and power of the Taliban and other Islamic militants in Afghanistan, where this year is fast becoming the most lethal for combatants and civilians alike since the fall of the Taliban to U.S.-led forces in 2001. …

Full story

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UPDATES

3 NATO soldiers killed in central Afghanistan (AP, Aug. 21, 2008) — NATO says three of its soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in central Afghanistan. … The attack comes days after 10 French paratroopers died in Afghanistan. … Full story

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U.S. Drawdown Raises Security Fears in Iraqi City

Image: Maj. John Blankenhorn
Maj. John Blankenhorn of the U.S. Army, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, indicates the route of a recent Shiite procession in Tal Afar, Iraq, on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2008. A string of bombings in this small but strategic city in northwest Iraq is stoking fears of a return to sectarian conflict and raising doubts about a strategy of handing security in urban areas to Iraqi police. (Photo credit: Phillip Robertson / AP)


Aug. 17, 2008

TAL AFAR, Iraq – A series of bombings in this small but strategic northwestern Iraqi city is stoking fears of a return to sectarian conflict here and raising questions about a strategy of handing urban security to Iraqi police.

Since April, at least four major bombings have killed about 40 people and wounded nearly 150 on this city on the main route from Mosul to the east and the Syrian border 60 miles to the west. …

The city’s mayor, Najim Abdullah, fears that the removal of American troops from his city and the deployment of Iraqi army soldiers to nearby Mosul have left his overwhelmingly Turkoman community vulnerable. …

“There used to be a whole brigade here and now it’s less. Soon, these policies will backfire in Tal Afar and allow terrorists to come in.” …

Full story

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Iraq Moves Against Some U.S.-Backed Sunni Fighters


Aug. 18, 2008

BAGHDAD – The Shiite-led government is cracking down on U.S.-backed Sunni Arab fighters in one of Iraq’s most turbulent regions, arresting some leaders, disarming dozens of men and banning them from manning checkpoints except alongside official security forces.

The moves in Diyala province reflect mixed views on a movement that began in 2007 among Sunni tribes in western Iraq who revolted against al-Qaida in Iraq and joined the Americans in the fight against the terrorist network.

U.S. officials credit the rise of such groups, known variously as Awakening Councils, Sons of Iraq and Popular Committees, with helping rout al-Qaida.

But Iraq’s government is suspicious of such groups, fearing their decision to break with the insurgency was a short-term tactic to gain U.S. money and support. The government fears they will eventually turn their guns against Iraq’s majority Shiites. …

Government officials would not comment on specific claims about the push in Diyala. But aides close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, said the government was not willing to tolerate the existence of armed groups with “blood on their hands.”

“The continuation of the Awakening Councils as they are now is unacceptable,” said Ali al-Adeeb, a close al-Maliki aide and a senior member of his Dawa Party.

A top Iraqi security official with access to classified information said authorities were especially suspicious of the Diyala groups because many of their estimated 14,000 fighters had been members of al-Qaida in Iraq.

“We fought the Americans for four years and we fought al-Qaida, too,” said al-Safi, a former Iraqi army commando during Saddam Hussein’s regime who fought in the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war. “We are an experienced armed group. We are fully capable of bringing the house down.” …

Full story

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On a Stubborn Battlefield …


Aug. 18, 2008

WAJIHIYAH, Iraq – The U.S. commander dons his headset as a convoy of armored vehicles rumbles along the dusty roads of the fertile Diyala river valley in Iraq, and he starts his macabre tour.

It’s a gruesome tale: beheadings inside a mosque by Islamist militants, police running extortion rackets, bombs buried just off the road and five women killed by a female suicide bomber. …

The Iraqi government wants all U.S. combat troops out in 2010 or 2011 under a “time horizon” negotiated with Washington. …

But as Diyala province shows, the war isn’t over. Although violence overall in Iraq has declined dramatically over the past year, this ethnically and religiously mixed province north of the capital has remained stubbornly violent. …

The enemies are still out there.

Sunni Arab al Qaeda militants have regrouped here after being driven out of other parts of Iraq. Some are holed up in deep bunkers surrounded by booby-traps in dense palm groves. …

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Russia Warns Ukraine to Back Off at Navy Base


Aug. 19, 2008

KIEV, Ukraine – Russia’s foreign minister warned Ukrainian leaders Tuesday against trying to restrict the Kremlin’s use of a Crimean naval base it leases from Ukraine, adding to tensions that have heated up since Russian troops invaded Georgia.

Ukraine’s pro-Western president, Victor Yushchenko, has sided with Georgia and moved last week to restrict Russian warships at the leased military base at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, saying the vessels’ movements were subject to Ukrainian approval.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed that argument in a sharply worded barb Tuesday, saying Russia’s ships don’t need any permission to use the port. …

Many Ukrainians worry that after dealing with Georgia, the Russians might set their sights on Ukraine, which like Georgia is a former Soviet republic government that has angered by Moscow by seeking closer ties with the West and membership in the NATO military alliance.

Russia’s critics say the conflict in Georgia heralds a new, worrying era in which an increasingly assertive Kremlin has shown itself ready to resort to military force outside its borders in pursuing its goals.

Many Ukrainians fear the Kremlin’s fierce opposition to Ukraine’s drive to join NATO and Moscow’s desire to regain control of the palm-lined Crimea peninsula and the Sevastopol naval base might put Ukraine at a risk of a military conflict with its giant neighbor. …

Full story

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Poland Signs Missile Shield Deal with U.S.

Deal has angered Russia which warns it opens up Poland to attack


Aug. 20, 2008

WARSAW, Poland – The United States and Poland on Wednesday signed a formal agreement to base U.S. ballistic missiles on Polish soil, a move that has angered Russia and stoked regional tensions over the territorial conflict in Georgia. …

Moscow says the missile-defense system is aimed at blunting Russia’s nuclear deterrent. It has warned the deal could open Poland up to attack. …

Full story

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