Monday, June 28, 2010

DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY June 28, 2010 - Four NATO Troops Killed As CIA Warns On Afghan War

Defense News: DTN News: Afghanistan TODAY June 28, 2010 - Four NATO Troops Killed As CIA Warns On Afghan War
Source: DTN News - compiled from reliable sources including Lynne O'Donnell AFP by Roger Smith
(NSI News Source Info) KABUL, Afghanistan- June 28, 2010: The death toll among foreign soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan closed in on the grim toll of 100 for June alone as the CIA chief warned that the war will be tougher and longer than expected.
The deaths of four Norwegian soldiers on Sunday, when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in the northern province of Faryab, brought to 98 the number of NATO soldiers killed this month, according to an AFP tally.
The toll for the year to date is 318 -- compared to 520 for all of 2009.
"Norway has been hit hard. The loss deeply affects us all. It's hard and it reminds us of the risk we're taking," said Defence Minister Grete Faremo.
NATO says the dramatic upswing in casualty numbers in June has been caused by the alliance stepping up military operations and taking the fight to the Taliban in areas where they have previously been unchallenged.
The heavy toll can be largely attributed to the Taliban's use of homemade bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are cheap and easy to make and account for the majority of foreign troops deaths.
Eight civilians including women and children were also killed on Monday when a Taliban-style bomb ripped through a minivan in the central province of Ghazni, police said.
The rising casualties come as questions are mounting in the United States and Europe about military strategy in Afghanistan following last week's sacking of the top NATO commander, US General Stanley McChrystal.
McChrystal was forced to step down after disparaging remarks about US administration officials, including President Barack Obama, in an explosive article in Rolling Stone magazine.
The article raised questions about whether McChrystal's counter-insurgency strategy, under which an extra 30,000 US troops were scheduled for deployment in Afghanistan, was working and fully supported by the US administration.
A British newspaper reported Sunday that days before he was fired, McChrystal issued a highly critical assessment of the war in a briefing note to allies that warned them to expect little progress in the next six months.
The head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, also acknowledged "serious problems" with the Afghan war.
"We're dealing with a country that has problems with governance, problems with corruption, problems with narcotics trafficking, problems with a Taliban insurgency," Panetta told ABC television.
"We are making progress. But it's harder and slower than anyone anticipated."
Noting that Al-Qaeda's leadership was now apparently weaker than ever, he insisted Obama's surge strategy, which will see the number of international troops on the ground peak at 150,000 in August, is the right one.
But he said the success or failure of NATO's mission depended on whether the Afghan government, police and military could step up alongside NATO to help bring security and stability.
Efforts to support President Hamid Karzai's government are also severely undermined by widespread corruption, with many Afghans distrustful of Kabul.
Despite assurances from Karzai that eradicating graft was a priority of his second presidency -- won last year in corruption-riddled polls -- fears that little real effort is being made were stoked anew Monday with a newspaper report that enormous sums in cash are being flown out of Kabul. The Wall Street Journal said more than three billion dollars in cash has left the country in recent years, and quoted unnamed sources saying the money was likely the ill-gotten gains from corruption and narcotics.
"A lot of this looks like our tax dollars being stolen. And opium, of course," a US official who is investigating corruption and Taliban financing told the newspaper.
Much of southern Afghanistan is blighted by the Taliban insurgency, now in its deadliest phase since the US-led invasion ousted the hardline Islamist regime and installed a Western-backed administration.
McChrystal's counter-insurgency strategy, which brought sweeping changes aimed at cutting civilian casualties and winning over the population, had been credited with bringing some order to the spiralling conflict.
McChrystal has been replaced in Afghanistan by General David Petraeus, the architect of the successful surge strategy in Iraq that is credited with bringing the country back from the brink of civil war.
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