Tuesday, August 19, 2008

US War Bulletin: 10 French Troops Killed in Afghanistan; Resistance Forces Storm US Base; Iraq Governor Attacked, etc.

Taliban kill 10 French troops in Afghanistan

Tue Aug 19, 2008 9:28am EDT
By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents killed 10 French soldiers and wounded 21 in a major battle east of the Afghan capital, the French president's office said on Tuesday, the biggest single loss of foreign troops in combat since 2001.

The Taliban have gradually closed in on Kabul in the past year, making travel south, west or east of the capital extremely hazardous for troops, aid workers and civilians and spreading fear among the populace.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is to travel to Afghanistan on Tuesday in response to the attack, his office said.

"My determination is intact. France is determined to continue the struggle against terrorism for democracy and freedom. The cause is just," Sarkozy said in the statement.

The French soldiers were killed in a major battle that erupted when Taliban insurgents ambushed their reconnaissance patrol from three sides in the Sarobi district of Kabul province about 60 km (40 miles) east of Kabul late on Monday.

Significant air support was used to extract the units from an extremely violent ambush, the French presidency said.

A "large number" of insurgents were killed in the fighting, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

France has 2,600 troops in Afghanistan, after Sarkozy sent an extra 700 soldiers this year in response to a U.S. call for its NATO allies to send more forces to check a surge in violence.

Only 12 French troops had previously died in Afghanistan since U.S.-led and Afghan forces ousted the Taliban in 2001 for refusing to give up al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11 attacks.

The 10 dead and 21 wounded soldiers were from the 8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment, the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment and the Regiment de marche du Tchad, a mechanized marine unit.

The Afghan Defence Ministry said 27 insurgents have been killed or wounded in the fighting and at least two Afghan soldiers have been wounded.

The Taliban Web site said 20 U.S. soldiers had been killed in the fighting, which they said erupted after militants ambushed a convoy of Afghan and foreign forces late on Monday. The insurgents commonly refer to all foreign troops as American.


The Taliban have stepped up attacks in provinces bordering the Afghan capital over the past year, closing in from the volatile south and east, where the bulk of the fighting has occurred since the militants relaunched their insurgency in 2005.

Kabul has had fewer suicide bombings so far this year compared to 2007, but the attacks have been far more daring and have hit higher-profile targets, increasing the sense of insecurity in the capital.

While fighting raged east of Kabul, a wave of Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen attempted to attack the main U.S. base in southeastern Afghanistan. They were repelled by ground troops and attack helicopters, NATO-led forces said.

ISAF troops killed seven of the insurgents, six of them suicide bombers, after they spotted them preparing to attack about 1,000 meters (yards) from the base.

Soldiers opened fire with small arms, then "helicopters arrived on station soon after and engaged these insurgents as they attempted to flee from the scene," ISAF said in a statement. "Three of the insurgents killed themselves by detonating their suicide vests. ISAF forces killed three other suicide bombers before they could detonate their vests. There were no ISAF casualties in the attack," it said.

A suicide car bomber rammed the gates of the same base, close to the border with Pakistan, on Monday, killing 10 Afghan civilians and wounding 13 more.

Camp Salerno is a large, sprawling base with a runway and helicopter landing pads close to the town of Khost and is the main hub for mostly U.S. troops in southeastern Afghanistan.

More foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan in the past three months than in Iraq where the United States has twice as many soldiers than all the international forces fighting the Taliban.

(Additional reporting by James Mackenzie in Paris and Elyas Wahdat in Khost; Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Valerie Lee)

Suicide bombers try to storm US base in Afghanistan

Tuesday, August 19 KABUL (AFP) - - Several Taliban suicide attackers tried to storm a US military base in eastern Afghanistan early Tuesday and at least six have been found dead, a provincial governor said.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force confirmed that a US military base in the eastern town of Khost, 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the border with Pakistan, was under attack but could give few details.

"We have heard about suicide bombers on foot. They are receiving indirect fire," an officer in the ISAF media office in Kabul told AFP.

He could not give details because fighting at Camp Salerno was ongoing, he said.

The Khost governor, Arsala Jamal, said several men had tried to attack the base.

"According to our reports about 30 Taliban tried to attack the Salerno base. They were fired at. We have found six bodies which were all wearing suicide vests," he told AFP.

"Some of them have blown themselves up. Others are hiding in nearby houses and corn fields. The troops are searching for them," he said.

Four Afghan army troops had been wounded in the fighting, the governor said.

The attackers had also launched rockets at the base, an Afghan army officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The new attack comes a day after a suicide bombing outside Camp Salerno killed 10 Afghan labourers and wounded 13 more.

Security forces were able to prevent a second suicide attack moments later, the US-led coalition and Afghan officials said. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

Military: U.S. soldier killed in Iraq rocket attack

BAGHDAD (AP) — The U.S. military says an American soldier has been killed in a rocket attack on a military base in southern Iraq.

The military says in a statement that the soldier was killed Tuesday in an attack on a U.S. position near the city of Amarah.

Amarah is a mainly Shiite area, where the Iraqi government recently led a crackdown on militants.

At least 4,144 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003. That's according to an Associated Press count.

Suicide blast hits Iraqi police

Iraq police checkpoints have often been the target of attacks

A suicide attack on a police checkpoint in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi has left at least five officers dead, police say.

Police Major-General Tariq Youssef said six policemen and four civilians were also wounded in the car bombing on Monday.

The attack, which took place in the Tamim area about 5km west of downtown Ramadi, came a day after another suicide bomber struck a neighbourhood patrol checkpoint in a Sunni Arab area of north Baghdad on Sunday, killing 15 people.

Ramadi, the capital of western al-Anbar province, was once one of the most dangerous places in Iraq when al-Qaeda in Iraq and its allies held sway there but has become safer since local Sunni Arab tribes population turned against al-Qaeda fighters in late 2006 and 2007.

Attacks still occur, however, and police and US-backed neighbourhood patrols are frequently targeted.

Iraq governor's office attacked

The governor of the Iraqi province of Diyala says his secretary was killed in an attack by a unit of the security forces on his office in Baquba.

The Governor, Raad Rasheed Mulla Jawad, said the incident occurred early on Tuesday morning.

The identity of the unit, which is also said to have clashed with Iraqi police and troops, is not known.

Last month, American-backed Iraqi forces began a major operation against Sunni Arab militants in Diyala.

They are also combating militiamen said to have infiltrated the police.

The US military said it was not involved in the incident in Baquba, the capital of Diyala.

There has been no comment from Iraqi officials from the interior and defence ministries.

US captures Iraqi 'al-Qaeda men'

US-led forces have made further arrests in a continuing campaign aimed at disrupting Sunni militants linked to al-Qaeda, the US military says.

Eight of the arrests took place in Baghdad, while a further two were captured in the northern city of Mosul and one in Baiji further south.

Soldiers carried out several raids on Sunday and Monday.

The announcement comes a day after a suicide bomber killed 15 people in a predominantly Sunni area of Baghdad.

US forces say one suspect picked up during a raid in the capital is thought to be a go-between for al-Qaeda and other extremist groups operating south of the capital.

In Baiji, the US military said they captured a man wanted for his links to al-Qaeda's foreign terrorist and bombing networks in the Tigris River Valley.

And in Mosul they said they detained two suspects connected with the movement of foreign militiamen into the country.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Iraqis buy billions in U.S. arms

By Charles Levinson, USA TODAY

The Iraqi defense minister's top military adviser, General Mohan al-Furayji, in beige camo, inspects an M1A1 Abrams tank. Iraq is considering buying 140 of them in a deal that could be worth as much as $2.16 billion.

The Iraqi general grabbed the hull of America's No. 1 battle tank and gave it a shake.

"It's very hot," said Gen. Mohan al-Furayji, the Iraqi defense minister's top military adviser. "I'm afraid my soldiers won't be able to operate behind these tanks."

His concerns threatened to derail an arms deal worth as much $2.16 billion. That alarmed Brig. Gen. Charles Luckey, who, on this sweltering day in the desert, was a salesman of sorts.

You could even say he is the U.S. military's senior used-tank salesman. Luckey is the U.S. officer in charge of foreign military sales to Iraq. It's his job to move the merchandise.

"For as little as $300 you can get a blast deflector to deal with the heat," Luckey said.

"I might even throw them in for free for you," he added, sweetening the deal.

Iraq is fast becoming one of the United States' top customers for military sales. Since January 2007, Iraq has spent $3.1 billion on U.S. weapons. That number looks likely to grow exponentially as Iraq uses its vast unspent reserves of petrodollars to develop its army into a force capable of defending its borders against hostile neighbors.

In the past two months alone, the Pentagon has alerted Congress of a possible $8.7 billion worth of additional military sales to Iraq, for everything from lightweight attack helicopters to armored ambulances to binoculars.

Here in the Iraqi desert 35 miles east of Baghdad, the latest deal was going down.

Iraq's Ministry of Defense is aiming to upgrade its tank fleet, which is composed largely of run-down Soviet tanks from the 1970s.

It is considering buying 140 of the United States' most advanced tanks, at approximately $4 million to $5 million per tank, plus hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of support equipment to go along with the tanks.

Feting one of its biggest customers, the U.S. arranged for a tank platoon to put on a demonstration of the vehicles' capabilities last Sunday for senior Iraqi generals.

With the generals watching from a tower, a pair of M-1 Abrams tanks shot forward from their "hide" position a kilometer away and tore toward the watchtower at 45 mph, kicking up plumes of dust in their wake.

They buzzed either side of the tower, then let their mighty guns roar with deafening booms, sending a half-dozen high-explosive 120mm rounds downrange toward an imaginary enemy.

When the tanks pulled to a stop, the generals came down for a closer inspection.

"The American tanks are very modern and capable, but we still don't know if this tank is in the best interests of the Iraqi army," said al-Furayji, like a shopper in a Baghdad bazaar feigning a lack of interest to get a better price.

The delegation of U.S. and Iraqi generals, now playing salesmen and customers, climbed atop the tank.

Al-Furayji and his aides peered down the hatch into the tank's nerve center, where the crew of four operates.

Traveling 45 mph, carrying 17 rounds of 120mm ammunition that can hit a dime in the dead of night at 3,000 meters thanks to a laser range-finder and thermal-imaging night sights, the M1A1 Abrams tank is "the most battle proven tank in the world," Lt. Col. Tim Renshaw said.

The Iraqi officers on hand included some of the Iraqi army's most senior commanders of armored forces.

They've experienced this tank's lethal capabilities firsthand. In the 1991 Gulf War, their older Russian tanks were blinded by the thick black smoke that billowed from Kuwait's oil wells after Saddam Hussein ordered them set ablaze.

The American tank's superior thermal imaging system allowed them to see perfectly and easily crush their enemy.

For Luckey, it makes an effective sales pitch.

"That's why you guys got your (butts) kicked," he told the Iraqi generals, before they flew back to Baghdad to consult with their bosses on the sale's pros and cons.

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