Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Afghanistan War Update: Taliban Denies Kandahar Bombing; Pentagon Wants to Send More Troops As Situation Deteriorates for US Imperialism

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
18:47 Mecca time, 15:47 GMT

Taliban denies Kandahar bombing

The blast destroyed a number of buildings in a residential area of central Kandahar

The Taliban has denied carrying out a bombing in the Afghan city of Kandahar that left at least 43 people dead.

At least 65 people were also injured in the attack outside a wedding hall in the southern city shortly after people were breaking their Ramadan fast.

"We are denying responsibility, and condemn this attack in which innocent civilians were killed," Qari Yusef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said in a message sent to The Associated Press news agency on Wednesday.

The blast on Tuesday was caused by a remote-controlled explosive device planted in a lorry, the Afghan interior ministry said.

Rescue workers have continued to pull injured people out of the rubble of the building levelled in the blast.

"There are some people still trapped in the buildings and we are trying to get them out," said Mohammad Darwish, one of the rescue workers.

James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul, said: "The security arrangements have been changed, temporarily at least, in the key city in troubled south of Afghanistan.

"The Afghan army is taking control ... they are going to be the lead security agency in Kandahar city ... it shows how worried they are."

'Shock and anger'

Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from the scene of the blast, said: "It was on a main road and all you can see is destruction - homes and shops destroyed.

"The people gathered outside where the police set up their cordon ... said they do not think the Taliban was behind this attack. They are pointing their fingers at the Americans and the Pakistanis.

"The people here are angry and shocked, they are used to bombings, but not on this scale."

The bomb went off near a guest house, the Kandahar provincial intelligence headquarters and just 800m from the local UN offices.

"The staff is good, everybody is safe," said Samad Khaydarov, the head of the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan.

"Our office, our guesthouses, are safe... Unfortunately, security is not so good in Kandahar."

Investigation ordered

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has ordered a thorough investigation of the incident and called on security officials to "arrest those responsible as soon as possible," his office said.

Kandahar is the biggest city in southern Afghanistan, an area where Taliban fighters battling the Western-backed government continue to have strongholds.

The city was the powerbase of the former Taliban government, which was ousted from power in Afghanistan by US-led troops in 2001 and replaced with Karzai's Western-backed administration.

The Taliban has struck repeatedly in recent weeks in a bloody countdown to nationwide elections last week, only the second time that war-weary Afghans have voted for a president in their history.

Also in Afghanistan on Wednesday, Qari Jihangir, the head of the Kunduz provincial justice department, was killed by an explosion, said Abdul Razaq Yaqoubi, a regional police chief said.

"The bomb was placed in his car. We're investigating the incident right now."

Other roadside bomb attacks in Khost and Logar provinces left five people dead, including two Afghan soldiers.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Monday, August 24, 2009
06:58 Mecca time, 03:58 GMT

US: Afghan situation deteriorating

US combat deaths in Afghanistan have increased since a troop increase was ordered

The situation in Afghanistan is "deteriorating", the top US military officer has said, amid waning US public support for the war.

Furthermore, the Taliban's tactics are becoming more sophisticated, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said on Sunday.

"I think it is serious and it is deteriorating, and I've said that over the past couple of years - that the Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated," he said on NBC's Meet the Press programme.

US combat deaths in Afghanistan have risen since Barack Obama, the US president, ordered a troop build-up to confront a resurgent Taliban, with a record 44 US soldiers killed in July.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll indicate a majority of Americans believe the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting, and most want fewer American soldiers to be sent there.

Fifty-one per cent of respondents said the war was not worth fighting, a six per cent increase in the negative column since last month.

And 45 per cent wanted to see troop levels reduced, a 16 per cent rise since January in those favouring troop reduction.

John McCain, the Republican senator who lost to Obama in last year's presidential election, said on Sunday that the "clock is ticking" on American public opinion of the Afghan war.

"I think you need to see a reversal of these very alarming and disturbing trends on attacks, casualties and areas of the country that the Taliban has increased control of," he told ABC's This Week programme, adding that there were not enough troops on the ground.

Possible troop increase

Mullen declined to comment on US media reports that the new commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, might recommend additional increases of up to 45,000 troops.

But he left open the possibility, saying he would evaluate the need for more troops after reviewing a report by McChrystal.

"We'll see where that goes once the assessment is in here," Mullen said.

"And I've had this conversation with the president, who understands that whatever the mission is, it needs to be resourced correctly."

McChrystal's assessment report, originally due in mid-August, is now expected after the Afghan election process is completed.

Counting is under way following Thursday's presidential election, but there are concerns about the credibility of the vote after Abdullah Abdullah, the main challenger to incumbent Hamid Karzai, alleged vote rigging on Sunday.

A credible election result is important for the country and for Obama, who has made stabilising Afghanistan a top foreign policy priority.

Obama's plan

Obama already plans to increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan to about 68,000 by year's end, more than double the 32,000 the US had there before he took office at the beginning of the year.

Mullen said the US faced a multi-year effort to establish security and enable Afghan forces to maintain it.

"I don't see this as a mission of endless drift. I think we know what to do, we've learnt a lot of lessons from Iraq, focusing on the Afghan people," he said.

"I've said from a military perspective I believe we've got to start to turn this thing around from a security standpoint in the next 12 to 18 months.

"And I think after that we'd have a better view of how long it's going to take and what we need to do."

Source: Agencies

Monday, August 24, 2009
20:08 Mecca time, 17:08 GMT

Afghanistan 'needs more US troops'

US forces in Afghanistan need to be boosted, military leaders are reported to have said

US military commanders in Afgahnistan have told the US special envoy to the region that they need more troops to bring security to the country, a report in The New York Times has said.

The military chiefs gave their assessment to Richard Holbrooke during his visit to regional command centres in Afghanistan over the past two days, the newspaper reported on Sunday.

The commanders said that although additional US troops have brought some measure of security to southern Afghanistan, even more are needed, the report said.

About 57,000 US troops are serving in Afghanistan, following a move by Barack Obama, the US president, to send more soldiers to the country.

While that number is expected to hit 68,000 by the end of the year, in line with Obama's order, it was not clear how many troops the commanders seek overall, the Times said.

Security challenge

The report comes as General Stanley McChrystal, the senior US commander, continues his review of the US military's strategy in Afghanistan.

US forces in eastern Afghanistan are under particular pressure, the US commanders are reported by the Times to have said.

Major-General Curtis Scaparrotti, who leads United States and Nato forces in that region of the country, is reported by the Times to have told Holbrooke that the Haggani network is gaining ground.

Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son, Sirajuddin, have been linked to al-Qaeda, and are thought to have set up bases in neighbouring Pakistan in order to plan their attacks against US, Nato and Afghan troops.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Sunday that the situation in Afghanistan is "serious and deteriorating".

"Afghanistan is very vulnerable in terms of [the] Taliban and extremists taking over again, and I don't think that threat's going to go away," he said.

He did not say whether US troop levels should go beyond the number committed to by Obama, but he said that Afghanistan's security should be safeguarded within 12 to 18 months.

"I think it [the security situation] is serious and it is deteriorating, and I've said that over the last couple of years, that the Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated," he said.

"We're just getting the pieces in place from the president's new strategy on the ground now … I don't see this as a mission of endless drift. I think we know what to do."

Source: Agencies

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