The Washington Post & Anti-war.com & Deutsche Presse-Agentur – 2010-12-04 00:39:25
Obama Praises Troops in Surprise Afghanistan Trip
Perry Bacon Jr / The Washington Post
BAGRAM AFB, Afghanistan (December 3, 2010) — On an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, President Barack Obama praised US troops Friday and said his administration’s surge over the past year has weakened the Taliban.
The visit came days before Obama is to receive a comprehensive assessment of the US war effort there, specifically the effects of the surge of 30,000 troops the president authorized a year ago.
“I wanted to make sure I could spend a little time this holiday with the men and women of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known,” he told a crowd about 2,000 troops in a hangar at Bagram Air Base. Obama added, “We said we were going to break the Taliban’s momentum, and that’s what you’re doing.”
Aides said the visit was primarily to thank the troops, but Obama did speak with Afghan President Hamid Karzai by phone. Obama had planned a trip to Kabul to visit the presidential compound, but he canceled because of stormy weather.
Obama also met with Gen. David Petraeus, the top commander in Afghanistan, and Karl Eikenberry, the US ambassador to Afghanistan. On a visit to the base hospital, Obama awarded five Purple Hearts to wounded soldiers.
Obama was on the ground in Afghanistan for three hours before flying back to Washington, DC. It was his second trip as president to the nation where US troops now have fought for more than nine years.
The visit occurred amid ongoing tension between Kabul and Washington, DC, over civilian deaths in the conflict and allegations of widespread corruption in the Afghan government. A number of US State Department documents made public this week by the website WikiLeaks show US officials depicting the Karzai regime as corrupt.
Obama aides played down any tensions from the WikiLeaks documents, which include Eikenberry referring to Karzai as a “paranoid and weak individual unfamiliar with the basics of nation-building.” They noted Obama and Karzai had a 40-minute discussion last month at a NATO summit in Lisbon.
“The president wanted to find a time in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when he could go out to spend some time with the troops, in particular, and our civilians in Afghanistan,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy national-security adviser for strategic communications. “Basically to wish them happy holidays. It’s a particularly tough time of year.”
The administration is in the midst of a detailed review of US policy in Afghanistan to see whether changes need to be made to the policy Obama outlined last year, which included the troop surge that brought the size of the US force in Afghanistan to about 100,000. In addition, the number of US civilians in the country tripled to more than 1,000.
Obama has pledged to start withdrawing troops in July, but he has said the size and pace of the US drawdown would be based on “conditions on the ground.”
Reporters Ernesto Londono contributed from Kabul and Scott Wilson from Washington, DC.
Copyright (c) The Seattle Times Company
Karzai Orders Inquiry into NATO Killing of District Governor
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
KABUL (December 2, 2010) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai has promised to launch a probe into Monday’s overnight killing of a Helmand Province district governor, Haji Ebrahim, by NATO troops who raided his home.
Ebrahim had been the governor of the Gireshk District since 2001, and NATO conceded raiding his home that night, and killing one “militant.” They declined to identify that “militant” but it is increasingly apparently that it was Governor Ebrahim.
NATOâ€™s use of night raids against civilian homes has been a source of growing friction with the Afghan government, and doubly so in this case as the governor appears to have been on comparatively good terms with both the Karzai government and the provincial government.
A spokesman for the Helmand Provincial government also condemned the killing, and reported that NATO troops had apparently also â€œarrestedâ€ six members of the governor’s family. What charges they were arrested on and if they are still being held is unclear.
Karzai Orders Inquiry into Governor’s Killing; NATO Blamed
KABUL (December 2, 2010) — President Hamid Karzai on Thursday ordered an investigation into the killing of a district governor in southern Afghanistan whose death was blamed on NATO-led forces. The presidential palace said Haji Ebrahim, the governor of the Gireshk district in Helmand province, was killed after International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops targeted him Monday night at his home.
“According to initial information, the district governor was innocent,” the statement said, citing information provided to Karzai by Helmand’s governor. An ISAF spokesman said, however, that a militant was killed in the operation.
Karzai ordered provincial authorities to investigate the incident and report back to him before he takes “necessary action.”
The ISAF forces also arrested six members of Ebrahim’s family, said Daoud Ahmadi, spokesman for the provincial governor. Ebrahim became the district governor after the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001, he said.
Karzai has repeatedly criticized the night raids conducted by the ISAF against suspected Taliban militants. The nightly operations have caused friction between him and NATO. The Afghan leader urged the foreign troops in his country to end the Special Forces night raids, saying they were intrusive into the daily lives of the Afghan people and lead to the death of innocents.
The ISAF said the raids are a key part of its counterinsurgency strategy to root out militants from their strongholds and improve security for good governance.
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