Thursday, January 03, 2008


2007 Deadliest Year for US in Afghanistan

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The Forgotten War - Afghanistan

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Deadliest Year

AP: Deadliest year for U.S. in Afghanistan

Six GIs killed in ambush, raising number of Americans killed in '07 to 101

Raymond Calero, right, consoles his wife Roselle, center, as they pay their last respects during the burial service for their son, Major Jeffrey R. Calero, on Monday in Calverton, N.Y. Major Calero died Oct. 29 in Kajaki, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated while he was on dismounted patrol.

Image: Funeral for Major Jeffrey R. Calero

Mary Altaffer / AP file

KABUL, Afghanistan - Six U.S. troops were killed when insurgents ambushed their foot patrol in the high mountains of eastern Afghanistan, officials said Saturday. The attack, the most lethal against American forces this year, made this year the deadliest for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.

The troops were returning from a meeting with village elders late Friday afternoon in Nuristan province when militants attacked them with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire, Lt. Col. David Accetta told The Associated Press.

"They were attacked from several enemy positions at the same time," said Accetta, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force and the U.S. military. "It was a complex ambush."

The six deaths brings the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan in 2007 to at least 101, according to a count by The Associated Press — the highest annual death toll for the American military here since it invaded to oust Taliban and al-Qaida fighters after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The war has evolved into an increasingly bloody counterinsurgency campaign.

‘Reminder of the sacrifices’
Three Afghan soldiers were also killed in Friday's ambush, while eight Americans and 11 Afghans were wounded. The battle produced the highest number of U.S. casualties — 14 — of any battles in Afghanistan this year, Accetta said.

"With Sunday being Veterans Day, this is a reminder of the sacrifices that our troops and our Afghan partners make for the peace and stability of the Afghan people," Accetta said, referring to the holiday that will be observed in the United States on Sunday.

Violence in Afghanistan this year has been the deadliest since the Taliban's ouster. More than 5,800 people, mostly militants, have died so far this year in insurgency-related violence, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and Western officials.

Airstrikes called in
Fighter aircraft and troops using artillery or mortars at nearby outposts fired on the militants' positions, Accetta said. It wasn't immediately clear how many militants were involved in the ambush, he said.

Mohammad Daoud Nadim, Nuristan deputy police chief, said the ambush happened in the remote province's Waygal district, about 40 miles from the border with Pakistan, which militants are known to use as a sanctuary. Nadim said he had no information on any casualties among the militants.

Arabs and other foreign fighters from Chechnya and Uzbekistan are known to operate in the Nuristan region, but the region's governor, Tamin Nuristani, blamed the attack on Taliban militants.

Nuristani said the combined troops searched two houses after the meeting with village elders and were ambushed while walking back to their base.

Nuristan province has seen heavy fighting in recent months. Two U.S. soldiers were killed and 13 wounded by a militant ambush in July, while militants disguised in Afghan army uniforms wounded 11 U.S. troops and killed two Afghan soldiers in August.

The attack on Friday was the deadliest incident for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since a Chinook crashed in February in Zabul province, killing eight Americans. Officials ruled out enemy fire as the cause of that crash.

© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



US reviews plans for Afghanistan as Taliban attacks rise

by Daphne Benoit Mon Dec 17, 10:29 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Pentagon confirmed that the US military and its NATO partners were reviewing plans for Afghanistan, rocked by its bloodiest year since 2001 amid a fierce Taliban resurgence.

The sharp rise in violence in Afghanistan contrasts strongly with the improvement in security in Iraq, where some 160,000 US forces are concentrated.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates "encouraged NATO to take a longer range view on Afghanistan" during talks with ministers from eight NATO countries in Edinburgh last week, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

"As a result of that Centcom (US Central Command) will tell you they are reviewing their own Afghanistan plan," he said, adding "these are things that complement each other."

2007 was the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since the extremist Taliban were ousted from power in late 2001. The US has just 26,000 troops deployed there.

There were 77 suicide attacks just in the first six months -- about twice the number for the same period last year and 26 times higher than from January to June 2005, according to a United Nations survey. Toward the end of this year that figure had risen to around 140.

The New York Times reported Sunday that the United States had launched a thorough review of its military, economic and diplomatic strategy amid worries about the lack of progress.

Pressed by the US to contribute more to Afghanistan, NATO, which runs the 40,000-strong International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, is also reviewing ways to confront rising Taliban attacks, an Al-Qaeda resurgence and a bumper opium crop.

Asked about the reported US review, State Department spokesman Tom Casey downplayed the idea that a fundamental strategy review was underway.

"Look, my understanding is the administration is continuously reviewing its plans and efforts to implement our strategy for Afghanistan," Casey said.

"But I'm not aware that there is any effort to devise a new strategy as opposed to simply a continuing effort to implement the strategy that exists."

"There's an ongoing effort at implementing our strategy. And that certainly includes looking at our full range of diplomatic tools that are available, including reconstruction support and other kinds of efforts," he continued.

"But, again, that is different than at least the assertion I saw, which was that somehow there was a fundamental rethinking of the strategy or a review of the strategy with an eye toward changing it."

At the end of the Edinburgh talks, Gates told reporters the ministers agreed unanimously to draft a three- to five-year "strategic concept" laying out goals and benchmarks for the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

The United States would lead in formulating the plan with inputs from other countries in hopes that it will be embraced by the alliance as a whole at a summit in Bucharest early next year, he said.

Britain, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Romania, Estonia and the United States all have troops with ISAF's 11,000-strong command in southern Afghanistan, where insurgent violence has increased sharply over the past year.

But NATO has so far failed to provide three infantry battalions, some 3,000 trainers and 20 transport and attack helicopters promised by allies.

"There is no secret that some of the capabilities have been lacking and that we have been wanting to fill in, in order to achieve greater progress at a faster rate," a Pentagon spokesman said privately, before noting: "I don't know that I would call it a review of strategy."

The United States is also reportedly searching for an international coordinator to help synchronize all the efforts on Afghanistan.

Persistent rumors say British diplomat Paddy Ashdown, the former UN representative to Bosnia-Hercegovina in 2002-2005, could be tapped for the job.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said: "I can assure you that there are many people considering the situation in Afghanistan on an ongoing basis. They're constantly reviewing our posture."

But she denied that the same kind of major review was underway as happened over Iraq, which led to the deployment of an extra 30,000 troops to the country at the beginning of the year.

In this picture taken in July 2007, a US soldier from Bravo Company 1-508 Parachute Infantry Regiment 82nd Airborne Division takes a break during a search for Taliban insurgents in the village of Biabanak in Kandahar province, some 400 kms south west of Kabul.  The Pentagon confirmed that the US military and its NATO partners were reviewing plans for Afghanistan, rocked by its bloodiest year since 2001 amid a fierce Taliban resurgence.(AFP/File/Nicolas Asfouri)
AFP/File Photo: In this picture taken in July 2007, a US soldier from Bravo Company 1-508 Parachute...



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