Reuters & Daily Mail – 2011-01-13 22:07:24
Afghan Campaign Caused $100 Million Damage: Inquiry
KABUL (January 11, 2011) — Afghan and foreign forces have caused more than $100 million damage to fruit crops and homes during security operations in southern Kandahar province, a government delegation said on Tuesday.
Tens of thousands of foreign and Afghan troops are deployed in Kandahar, a traditional stronghold of the Afghan Taliban, where they have been conducting military offensives over the past year.
Violence is at its worst since US-backed Afghan forces overthrew the Islamist government in 2001 after it refused to hand over al Qaeda militants, including Osama bin Laden, after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
The government delegation, led by President Hamid Karzai’s adviser, Mohammad Sadiq Aziz, said Afghan and foreign forces caused unreasonable damage to homes and orchards, just as the harvest was about to begin, and displaced a number of people.
ISAF was not immediately available for comment on the report by the government delegation, which presented its findings to Karzai on Tuesday.
“The Omid (Hope) military operation, which has been going on for some time in Arghandab, Zhari, and Panjwai districts, has inflicted severe damage to the people,” Aziz said in a statement released by Karzai’s office. Aziz said several Afghans detained by foreign troops during the operation had been released after requests were made by the government delegation.
But Zalmai Ayoubi, spokesman for the governor of Kandahar, said the Taliban booby-trapped the orchards and empty houses of people who had fled ahead of security operations and that troops had no choice but to blow up those sites. He said the claims by the villagers about the cost of the damages were highly exaggerated.
In November, the Afghan Rights Monitor (ARM), a human rights group, reported widespread damage to hundreds of houses in the same three districts, home to about 300,000 of the province’s more than one million inhabitants. It said foreign forces had used aerial bombing to strike Taliban strongholds and to set off mines and homemade bombs sometimes hidden as booby traps in private homes.
Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Ron Popeski
Four NATO Troops and Six
Afghan Intelligence Officers
Killed in Bloody Taliban Attacks
Daily Mail Foreign Service
KABUL (January 12, 2011) — Four NATO troops were killed in two roadside bombings in Afghanistan today, bringing to 15 the number of international troops killed this year already. Three of them died in an attack in eastern Afghanistan and the other was killed in the south of the country. Elsewhere in the country, six members of the Afghan intelligence services were also assassinated in two separate attacks that left 30 wounded.
The violence follows a surprise visit to Kabul a day earlier by US Vice President Joe Biden, who had praised coalition advances made against the insurgency while noting that the gains were ‘fragile and reversible.’
He sough to dispel what he called common ‘anti-American misperceptions’ at a news conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani while urging the government to fight growing religious extremism.
The US is trying to put further pressure on Pakistan to take on Islamist militants who have taken refuge in Pakistani border sanctuaries from where they attack Western forces in Afghanistan.
Biden also paid tribute to the assassinated Punjab governor Salman Taseer, saying the United States was ‘saddened by cold-blooded murder of a decent, brave man.’ ‘The governor was killed simply because he was a voice of tolerance and understanding,’ he said. ‘As you know all too well… societies that tolerate such actions end up being consumed by those actions.’
Biden also telephoned his widow, Amna, to express his condolences on behalf of the president and the American people.
‘We know that there are those — I am not talking about leadership, I am talking about the public discourse — that in America’s fight against al Qaeda, we’ve imposed a war upon Pakistan,’ Biden said. ‘They (al Qaeda) continue to plot attacks against the United States and our interests to this very day,’ he said. ‘They have found refuge in the most remote portions of your country.’
But Biden also expressed American support for Pakistan in the form of the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Law, which provides $7.5 billion in civilian aid over five years. ‘A close partnership with Pakistan and its people is in the vital self-interest of the United States of America,’ he said. ‘And… in the vital self-interest of Pakistan as well.’
But almost as he was speaking, a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself in Kabul next to a minibus carrying intelligence service employees to work. Four people were killed in that attack and 32 wounded, President Hamid Karzai’s office said.
About an hour later in the troubled eastern province of Kunar, a remote-controlled roadside bomb killed an intelligence service colonel and his driver, and wounded two bodyguards, said Abdul Saboor Allahyar, deputy chief of Kunar’s provincial police.
It has not emerged yet which country the dead NATO troops are from but it undermined the previous day’s suggestions that the 30,000 extra troops drafted into the country last year were putting pressure on the insurgents.
An extra contingent of 1,400 US Marines are to be deployed in the coming months in the southern province of Helmand, which along with neighboring Kandahar have seen some of the fiercest fighting.
NATO says its campaign so far has had a significant impact. The alliance’s spokeswoman, Oana Lungescu, said that ‘thousands of insurgent leaders have been killed or captured and several thousand fighters have been taken off the battlefield’ in the past year.
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