Archive for the ‘Kabul’ Category

For Obama, Three Afghanistan Tests

March 28, 2009

Three time bombs are buried within the new and ambitious strategy for Afghanistan that President Obama unveiled Friday. Their detonation — which would cripple the international mission to stabilize the country and perhaps cripple Obama’s presidency — is not inevitable. But defusing them will take an exceptional performance by U.S. military commanders and diplomats, some skillful politicking by the president — and maybe a little of the unexpected good fortune that blessed the U.S. surge in Iraq.

By Jackson Diehl
The Washington Post

The first fuse is burning down toward Aug. 20, less than five months from now. On that day, Afghanistan is due to hold a presidential election whose outcome and perceived fairness may determine whether most Afghans continue to view U.S. and NATO forces as friendly. By then, too, the 17,000 additional Marines and Army troops authorized by Obama last month should be deployed in the two southern Afghan provinces, Helmand and Kandahar, where the Taliban is strongest, along with scores of new American civilian advisers.

This first test is twofold: Can the new U.S. forces clear the enemy from the large areas near the border with Pakistan where they now rule with near impunity — something that inevitably will mean a spike in violence — without appearing to use disproportionate force? And will Afghans be secure enough to cast ballots in an election in which they will be offered alternatives to incumbent President Hamid Karzai, with the assurance that their votes will be fairly counted?

U.S. commanders are pretty confident they can pass the military test, in part because for the first time in the seven-year war they can mass enough forces to overwhelm the Taliban without heavy reliance on air power, which causes 60 percent of civilian casualties. The election will be trickier. Karzai’s government is perceived as feckless and corrupt by much of the Afghan population, and his relations with the United States have deteriorated sharply in the past year. Yet, in part because of a lack of strong challengers, he appears likely to win reelection. If the vote seems rigged, or if Karzai wins a new mandate without offering a credible promise of improvement, Afghans may irrevocably sour both on the central government and its foreign sponsors.

“This election has to be viewed as free and fair,” said one U.S. military officer in Kabul. “And there has to be some discussion of corruption by Karzai so that in the first 100 days after the election there can be some visible action taken.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
dyn/content/article/2009/03/27/
AR2009032702293.html?hpid=o
pinionsbox1

Read also Peter Bergen of the New York Times on why the historic record for Afghanistan does not have to predict the future…
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/
03/28/opinion/28bergen.html?_r=1

Advertisements

Taliban chief backs Afghan peace talks

March 15, 2009

THE TALIBAN leader, Mullah Omar, has given his approval for talks aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan and has allowed his representatives to attend Saudi-sponsored peace negotiations.

Christina Lamb
Times (UK)

“Mullah Omar has given the green light to talks,” said one of the mediators, Abdullah Anas, a former friend of Osama Bin Laden who used to fight in Afghanistan but now lives in London.

One of those negotiating for the Afghan government confirmed: “It’s extremely sensitive but we have been in contact both with Mullah Omar’s direct representatives and commanders from the front line.”

The breakthrough emerged after President Barack Obama admitted that US-led forces are not winning the war in Afghanistan and called for negotiations with “moderate Taliban”.

Read the rest:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t
ol/news/world/asia/article5908498.ece

Time to Start Asking, “Who Lost Afghanistan”?

Obama: Stop Thinking About What Might Be Gained; Think What May Certainly Be Lost

Gen. Petraeus: No Iraq-style surge in Afghanistan

March 14, 2009

The commander of the U.S. Central Command said Friday that an Iraq-style surge cannot be a solution to the problems in Afghanistan.

Gen. David Petraeus, speaking before about 800 people at an event sponsored by the World Affairs Council, acknowledged that the situation in Afghanistan has been spiraling downward and is likely to get worse before it gets better.

In a speech that also touched on issues ranging from the nuclear threat in Iraq to pirates off Somalia, Petraeus said more resources are needed in Afghanistan, both military and especially civil to help build a stable government there.

By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press Writer

“The secretary of defense and I are among the biggest champions with members of Congress for increasing the resourcing for the State Department and the Agency for International Development,” he said.

The U.S.-led invasion of Aghanistan ousted the Islamist Taliban regime in 2001, but the militant movement has regained control of large swaths of the country. U.S. and NATO forces have been unable to reverse the gains.

Petraeus blamed the problems on a resilient “syndicate of extremists,” financing from the drug trade, safe havens in Pakistan and frustration with the slow development of the country’s fledgling government.

“We must help our Afghan partners create the breathing space that’ll allow the people to stand up for themselves as the Iraqi people did during the awakening movements there,” he said. “That also will allow the government to begin working for its people and begin providing essential services, instead of just struggling to survive.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/2009031
4/ap_on_re_us/petraeus_connecticut_1

Major Troop Decisions for Afghan War Await Obama; Suicide Bombing in Kabul Today

January 17, 2009

Iraq has been on the front of the American news media for so long that sometimes Afghanistan is overlooked.  But today, a suicide bombing killed at least seven in Kabul highlighting the nature and the danger of this conflict.

*******************

Lingering decisions on how quickly the Pentagon can get U.S. forces out of Iraq and into Afghanistan are being pushed off until after the Obama administration takes over next week as military commanders continue to wrangle over where the troops are needed most.

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press Writer

By the end of this month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to approve sending more Marines to southern Afghanistan, effectively lowering their numbers in Iraq’s western Anbar province, and he may also endorse deploying an Army brigade equipped with armored Stryker vehicles. Senior military officials say there is general agreement to cut back on the 22,000 Marines in Iraq, but Army officials have concerns about how to free up the Stryker unit.

As the Pentagon looks to double the existing force in Afghanistan, the overall cast of the military’s growing force in Afghanistan is becoming clearer: Commanders want to beef up the expeditionary units and trainers in the south and east with enough new troops to stem the violence without becoming an occupying force that would alienate the Afghan population.

Their challenge, however, is to get troops out into the hundreds of tiny villages in the volatile southern region, where the Taliban insurgency has been centered. To do that, Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has asked for more mobile forces and believes the strykers will allow soldiers to move more easily along the rugged trails to the widely dispersed tribal enclaves.

Stryker brigades come outfitted with several hundred eight-wheeled, 19-ton Stryker vehicles, which offer greater protection than a Humvee and are more maneuverable than the heavily armored mine-resistant vehicles that are being used across Iraq.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/2009011
7/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_afghanistan

*****************

Suicide Bombing In Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) — Seven civilians were killed Saturday morning after a suicide bomb exploded near the German embassy in Kabul, a government official said.
.
Five U.S. forces were wounded in the blast, three of them seriously, said Lieutenant Colonel Chris Kubik, a spokesman for the U.S. military. Several embassy staff were also wounded and the explosion caused damage to the embassy compound, the German Foreign Ministry said.

The blast occurred in the Afghan capital around 9:30 a.m. (midnight ET) in an area near a military base as well as the German embassy, an Interior Ministry official said. Afghan security officials had been in the area stopping and checking every car before the bomb went off, CNN’s Atia Abawi reported.

A fuel tanker was burned in the explosion, the force of which could be felt blocks away. It was unclear who was targeted in the attack.

Read more:

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/01/17/afghanistan.blast/index.html

Afghanistan could get 30,000 new US troops

December 20, 2008

The top U.S. military officer said Saturday that the Pentagon could double the number of American forces in Afghanistan by next summer to 60,000 — the largest estimate of potential reinforcements ever publicly suggested.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that between 20,000 and 30,000 additional U.S. troops could be sent to Afghanistan to bolster the 31,000 already there.

This year has been the deadliest for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion to oust the Taliban for hosting al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Suicide attacks and roadside bombs have become more dangerous, and Taliban fighters have infiltrated wide swaths of countryside and now roam in provinces on Kabul’s doorstep.

By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer

Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm., ... 
Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, seen, during a press conference at a U.S base in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008. The top U.S. military officer says that up to 30,000 extra American troops could be sent to Afghanistan next year.(AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

U.S. commanders have long requested an additional 20,000 troops to aid Canadian and British forces in two provinces just outside Kabul and in the south. But the high end of Mullen’s range is the largest number any top U.S. military official has said could be sent to Afghanistan.

Mullen said that increase would include combat forces but also aviation, medical and civilian affairs support troops.

“So some 20,000 to 30,000 is the window of overall increase from where we are right now,” he told a news conference at a U.S. base in Kabul. “We certainly have enough forces to be successful in combat, but we haven’t had enough forces to hold the territory that we clear.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081220/ap_on_re_as/as_afgha
nistan;_ylt=Am98binsbEpvKEKM7ZnGlQZ34T0D

******************

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has ordered the deployment of an additional combat aviation brigade to Afghanistan early next year, officials have said.

The decision to send about 2,800 soldiers, equipped with both attack and transport helicopters, comes as part of an effort to counter the insurgency.

BBC

Three or four combat brigades are to follow in late spring or early summer.

The top US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, Gen David McKiernan, has requested at least 20,000 extra troops.

There are currently 31,000 US troops in the country, 14,000 of whom are part of the 51,000-strong Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf).

Read the rest:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7792899.stm