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Sep 25th, 2008

At U.N., Karzai Notes Afghan Tension with U.S.

‘Credibility’ of partnership is threatened by deaths of civilians, he warns

Image: Karzai
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008, said too many Afghan civilians are being killed by foreign bombing raids. (Photo credit: Mario Tama / Getty Images)

September 24, 2008

UNITED NATIONS — Afghanistan’s president on Wednesday decried civilian casualties in his country from foreign bombing raids, telling world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly that innocent deaths can seriously hurt legitimate efforts to fight terrorism.

U.S.-Afghan relations have suffered over the issue, and President Hamid Karzai said continuing casualties hurt “the credibility of the Afghan people’s partnership with the international community.”

The issue was propelled to the forefront of U.S.-Afghan relations when an Afghan commission found that an Aug. 22 U.S.-led operation in the western village of Azizabad killed 90 civilians, including 60 children. That finding was backed by a preliminary U.N. report, though the U.S. says it is still investigating. …

A violent year

Karzai’s comments come as Taliban attacks grow larger and more deadly. This has been the most violent year in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban’s hard-line Islamist government.

“Terrorist forces have significantly increased their attacks and brutality and enjoyed freedom in their sanctuaries,” Karzai said. …

At least 120 U.S. soldiers and 104 troops from other NATO nations have died already in 2008, both record numbers. Overall, more than 4,500 people — mostly militants — have died in attacks this year.

Karzai said Tuesday that he agreed with the senior U.S. general in Afghanistan, David McKiernan, who recently said there are not enough U.S. ground forces in the country. “The force is undermanned and understaffed,” Karzai said. …

Full story


Pakistan Militants Threaten More Bombs

Pakistani schoolchildren are admitted to a hospital after they were injured in a suicide attack in Quetta, Pakistan on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2008. The suicide bomber killed an 11-year-old girl and wounded 11 troops, police said. (Photo credit: Arshad Butt / AP)

September 24, 2008

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A militant group that claimed to be behind the deadly Marriott Hotel bombing in Pakistan’s capital threatened more attacks Wednesday, warning again that Pakistanis should stop cooperating with the United States.

In a cell phone message to reporters, the little known group calling itself “Fedayeen al-Islam” — “Islam commandos” — referred to the owner of the Marriott by name.

“All those who will facilitate Americans and NATO crusaders like (owner Sadruddin) Haswani, they will keep on receiving the blows,” said the message, which was in English. …

The group demanded that Pakistan break with Washington in an earlier message that claimed responsibility for Saturday’s truck bombing at the Marriott in Islamabad, a blast that killed 53 people and wounded more than 270. …

The U.S. has stepped up attacks on suspected militants in the frontier area, mostly by missiles fired from unmanned drones operating from Afghanistan. The incursions — especially a ground raid into South Waziristan by American commandos Sept. 3 — have angered many Pakistanis. …

Pakistani civilian leaders have condemned the cross-border operations by U.S. forces, while the army has vowed to defend Pakistan’s territory “at all cost.”

“We will not tolerate any act against our sovereignty and integrity in the name of the war against terrorism,” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told journalists. “We are fighting extremism and terror not for any another country, but our own country. This is our own war.”

In the latest violence, a suicide bomber killed an 11-year-old girl and wounded 11 troops and some children in the frontier city of Quetta, officials said.

Security forces supported by helicopter gunships killed 20 militants in a second day of fighting near the town of Khar in another border area, Bajur, officials said. Just north of Khar, a roadside bomb killed two pro-government tribesmen and wounded several others.

Militant warlords have established virtual mini-states in the tribal belt, levying taxes and enforcing strict Taliban-style social codes and justice.

On Wednesday, a so-called “Peace Committee” executed four alleged murderers in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, a witness said. Din Muhammed said members of the committee used mosque loudspeakers to summon a crowd before the four were shot.

Full story



Death Toll from Northern Iraq Ambush Rises to 35

September 24, 2008

BAGHDAD — The death toll from an ambush of Iraqi security personnel northeast of Baghdad on Wednesday rose to 35 from 20, police said.

Gunmen killed policemen and members of U.S.-backed Sunni local patrol groups in the attack close to the city of Baquba in Diyala province, police said. …

Full story


Iraq’s Sunni Anti-Qaeda Patrols Fear for Future

September 24, 2008

SAMARRA, Iraq — At a checkpoint consisting of a wooden shack wrapped in steel sheets, five young Iraqis with AK-47 rifles have the task of stopping al Qaeda bombers striking the ancient city of Samarra. …

Such guards have been vital in helping cut violence across Iraq, but many say they now fear being abandoned as the Shi’ite-led government prepares to take control of them from the U.S. military in the coming months.

Called Awakening Councils or “Sahwas” in Arabic, the units led by local tribal sheikhs began turning against Sunni Islamist al Qaeda two years ago in western Anbar province. …

Baghdad has promised to take 20 percent of what the U.S. military estimates to be 100,000 guards across Iraq into the Iraqi security forces and give others civilian jobs or training.

But the guards, who get paid an average $300 a month by the U.S. military, are troubled about the future even though the government in Baghdad has publicly praised their contribution to improving security and said they would be looked after.

Some government officials eye the unofficial forces, which include many former Sunni Arab insurgents, with suspicion. Some guards fear they may be arrested because of their past. …

Some analysts fear that unless the Sahwas are looked after, they could again take up arms against the government.

The U.S. military will start handing control of the units to the government from October 1, when Baghdad will pay tens of thousands of guards in and around the capital. …

“If they disband us [said Abdul Jaleel Mehdi, 23], al Qaeda will come back, find us and kill us all. We won’t last long because they know our faces.” …

“We received an order from the government that all fighters will get jobs, but we don’t fully trust them 100 percent,” said Sunni tribal leader Suhail Latuf, commander of Samarra’s Awakening Council.

“We’ll have to see by their actions.”

Full story

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