Front lines (MSNBC)
By Rahim Faiez
January 23, 2010
KABUL – A roadside bomb killed two U.S. service members in southern Afghanistan on Saturday as the country’s top NATO commander acknowledged an increased risk to foreign troops will accompany an influx of reinforcements aimed at routing the Taliban.
The deaths brought to at least 22 the number of American service members killed so far this month – compared with only 14 for the whole of January last year. A mild winter has brought no respite to the fighting, which traditionally drops off during the cold months.
NATO Commander frames mission objective in Afghanistan
“The end state of the mission is to protect the population and isolate the insurgency in a way where it doesn’t constitute a threat to the Afghan government,” Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said Friday during a visit to the western command. “This will not happen in a short period or in an easy way. It’s realistic to expect an increase of risk to coalition forces.”
Gen. Stanley McChrystal outlines the U.S. mission in Afghanistan to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Dec. 9, 2009. (04:50; video added to AP reporrt)
Afghanistan violence: Daily incident report
Also Saturday, militants kidnapped a district police chief, Jamtullah Khan, and two other officers on a nighttime foot patrol near the eastern border with Pakistan — the latest in a series of attacks against Afghan officials. …
It occurred a day after the governor of Wardak province escaped an assassination attempt when his convoy struck a roadside bomb, killing four Afghan soldiers and wounding another. Gov. Halim Fidai, who was unharmed, was on his way to inspect a school after meeting with elders in Jagatu district. …
In other violence, militants hiding among demonstrators fired on police Saturday, sparking a gunbattle in the middle of a protest over the deaths of four men in a NATO-Afghan raid, officials said. At least two people were wounded. …
Protesters have taken to the streets for three straight days and have blocked traffic on a highway that links the major cities of Kabul and Kandahar, forcing trucks and vehicles to wait for hours.
The protest Saturday turned violent when armed militants hiding in the crowd began shooting at police, according to the district’s chief administrator, Yasouf Saraji Andar. “Policemen also opened fire to defend themselves and two people were wounded,” he said.
Similar violence broke out earlier this month in the southern province of Helmand when six people were reportedly killed in scuffles between Afghan security forces and protesters angry over a rumor that NATO forces had desecrated a Quran. NATO has denied its troops disrespected the Muslim holy book.
Police in Helmand’s Garmsir district blamed Taliban militants for staging the protests to foment unrest.
A recent U.N. report showed the number of civilian deaths attributed to allied troops dropped sharply, while Taliban suicide bombings and other attacks killed more people. But reports of Afghan deaths at the hands of NATO and government forces continue to prompt anger. …
Three women were killed and two men wounded Saturday when their taxi was hit by militant gunfire in Paktika province, which is near the Pakistani border, according to a statement issued by NATO. …
Also, a policeman was killed and another wounded in a gunbattle after suspected Taliban militants ambushed a checkpoint in Baghlan province, according to the provincial government. …
Gates: Taliban part of Afghan ‘political fabric’ (AP, Jan. 22, 2010) — “The Taliban, we recognize, are part of the political fabric of Afghanistan at this point,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates told AFP during a visit to Pakistan. “The question is whether they are prepared to play a legitimate role in the political fabric of Afghanistan going forward, meaning participating in elections, meaning not assassinating local officials and killing families.” … Full report
Related reports on this site
“Death to America” (Jan. 7, 2010)
“Death to Obama” (Dec. 31, 2009)
Afghan Support for U.S. Plummets (Feb. 10, 2009)
Afghan Villagers Protest Raids (Feb. 1, 2009)
Pakistanis Protest U.S. Airstrikes (Jan. 27, 2009)
Karzai: Stop Air-Raiding Civilians (Nov. 5, 2008)
Karzai Warns of Afghan Backlash (Sept. 25, 2008)
By Hussain Afzal
January 23, 2010
PARACHINAR, Pakistan – Militants ambushed Pakistani security forces at checkpoints in two regions close to the Afghan border, sparking gunbattles that left 22 insurgents and two troops dead, officials said.
Elsewhere in the northwest on Saturday, a suicide bomber killed a police officer and three passers-by, part of a relentless wave of violence by al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents also blamed for attacks on U.S. and NATO troops across the frontier in Afghanistan. …
The [Pakistani] army deployed some 30,000 troops against the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan in mid-October and has retaken many towns in the region. But many fear the militants have just set up in other parts of the vast, lawless border and will continue to threaten the Pakistani government and U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Illustrating that threat, a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle laden with explosives into a police station near South Waziristan on Saturday. One officer and three passers-by died in the assault, police chief Farid Khan said.
Eight people were also wounded in Tank, one of the main towns leading to South Waziristan from Punjab province. …
Men attend to a relative who was injured in a suicide bombing in Bajur tribal region, at a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010. (Photo credit: Mohammad Iqbal / AP)
January 30, 2010
KHAR, Pakistan – A suicide bomber killed 16 people Saturday at a police checkpoint in a northwest Pakistani tribal area where the military declared victory over the Taliban and al-Qaida last year, highlighting the difficulty Islamabad has in holding regions once the battle phase of its army offensives end.
Elsewhere in the lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, suspected U.S. missiles killed nine alleged militants, officials said.
Fourteen civilians and two police officers died in the suicide attack in the Bajur tribal region, while 20 people were wounded, local government official Bakhat Pacha said. The attacker, on foot, struck a market area in the region’s main town, Khar, he said. …
The attack came a day after officials said security forces had killed 44 militants in three days of battles on the outskirts of Khar.
Pakistan waged a major military offensive against Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents in Bajur in 2008, declaring victory over the militants by February 2009. But in recent weeks, clashes and now this latest suicide attack have signaled a deteriorating security situation in the area. …
Washington has waged its own fight in Pakistan’s tribal territories through its covert CIA-led missile program.
Overnight Saturday, three suspected U.S. missiles hit a compound and a bunker in the Mohammad Khel area of North Waziristan, part of a surge of the drone-fired strikes, intelligence officials said. The mountainous area is where a suspected U.S. drone is reported to have crashed on Jan. 24, they added.
Two missiles in Saturday’s attack hit the compound being used by the militants, killing seven of them, the intelligence officials said. The third killed two more insurgents in the bunker, they said.
Another such missile strike early this month targeted a meeting of militant commanders in an apparently unsuccessful attempt to kill Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.
Blast a CIA base
The Pakistani Taliban are believed to have played a role in the Dec. 30 suicide bombing of a remote CIA base in Afghanistan’s eastern Khost province that killed seven of the agency’s employees. Analysts suspect the Haqqani network, an al-Qaida-linked Afghan Taliban faction based in North Waziristan, also helped carry out the CIA attack.
Since the CIA was hit, the U.S. has carried out 13 suspected drone strikes in North and South Waziristan, an unprecedented volley of attacks since the missile program began in earnest in Pakistan two years ago. …
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — January 23, 2009
Amanda Henderson holds a portrait of her late husband, Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Henderson, at her home in Henderson, Texas. (Photo credit: Herb Nygren, Jr. / AP)
One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that a U.S. Army probe into suicides among Houston-based recruiters, all veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, said medical problems factored in the deaths but none had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
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