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Posts Tagged ‘International Security Assistance Force’

US military deaths in Afghanistan hit 2,000

Posted by Admin on October 1, 2012

http://news.yahoo.com/us-military-deaths-afghanistan-hit-2-000-063934010.html

By PATRICK QUINN | Associated Press – 3 hrs ago

FILE– In this file photograph made on July 29, 2010, upon landing after a helicopter rescue mission, Tech. Sgt. Jeff Hedglin, right, an Air Force Pararescueman, or PJ, drapes an American flag over the remains of the first of two U.S. soldiers killed minutes earlier in an IED attack, assisted by fellow PJs, Senior Airman Robert Dieguez, center, and 1st Lt. Matthew Carlisle, in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan. U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan have surpassed 2,000, a grim reminder that a war which began nearly 11 years ago shows no signs of slowing down despite an American decision to begin the withdrawal of most of its combat forces. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The killing of an American serviceman in an exchange of fire with allied Afghan soldiers pushed U.S. military deaths in the war to 2,000, a cold reminder of the perils that remain after an 11-year conflict that now garners little public interest at home.

The toll has climbed steadily in recent months with a spate of attacks by Afghan army and police — supposed allies — against American and NATO troops. That has raised troubling questions about whether countries in the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan will achieve their aim of helping the government in Kabul and its forces stand on their own after most foreign troops depart in little more than two years.

“The tally is modest by the standards of war historically, but every fatality is a tragedy and 11 years is too long,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “All that is internalized, however, in an American public that has been watching this campaign for a long time. More newsworthy right now are the insider attacks and the sense of hopelessness they convey to many. “

Attacks by Afghan soldiers or police — or insurgents disguised in their uniforms — have killed 52 American and other NATO troops so far this year.

“We have to get on top of this. It is a very serious threat to the campaign,” the U.S. military’s top officer, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, said about the insider threat.

The top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, was blunter.

“I’m mad as hell about them, to be honest with you,” Allen told CBS’ “60 Minutes” in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday. “It reverberates everywhere across the United States. You know, we’re willing to sacrifice a lot for this campaign, but we’re not willing to be murdered for it.”

The insider attacks are considered one of the most serious threats to the U.S. exit strategy from the country. In its latest incarnation, that strategy has focused on training Afghan forces to take over security nationwide — allowing most foreign troops to go home by the end of 2014.

As part of that drawdown, the first 33,000 U.S. troops withdrew by the end of September, leaving 68,000 still in Afghanistan. A decision on how many U.S. troops will remain next year will be taken after the American presidential elections. NATO currently has 108,000 troops in Afghanistan — including U.S. forces — down from nearly 150,000 at its peak last year.

The program to train and equip 350,000 Afghan policemen and soldiers has cost the American taxpayer more than $22 billion in the past three years.

The most recent attack came just days after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said most U.S. and coalition combat units in Afghanistan returned to their practice of partnering with Afghan forces, nearly two weeks after the top U.S. commander put restrictions on such cooperation.

Like so many other deaths in Afghanistan, the latest were shrouded in confusion and conflicting accounts.

On Sunday, U.S. officials confirmed the deaths of two Americans, a service member and a civilian contractor killed late Saturday.

The fighting started when insurgents attacked a checkpoint set up by U.S. forces in eastern Wardak province, said Shahidullah Shahid, a provincial government spokesman. He said the insurgents apparently used mortars in the attack. The Americans thought they were under attack from their allies at a nearby Afghan army checkpoint and fired on it. The Afghan soldiers returned fire, Shahid said.

The Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman said the shooting broke out as a result of a “misunderstanding” while ISAF forces were on patrol near an Afghan army checkpoint.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, commonly referred to as ISAF, gave a different account of the fighting in Sayd Abad district.

“After a short conversation took place between (Afghan army) and ISAF personnel, firing occurred which resulted in the fatal wounding of an ISAF soldier and the death of his civilian colleague,” the coalition said in a statement. It said the three Afghan soldiers died “in an ensuing exchange of fire.”

NATO did not say whether it considered this an “insider” attack on foreign forces by Afghan allies.

In Washington, Pentagon press secretary George Little said 2,000 deaths is one of the “arbitrary milestones defined by others ” that the U.S. administration does not mark.

“We honor all courageous Americans who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan to make the American people more secure,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that America is safer because of all of those who have served in this war, including our fallen heroes.”

In addition to the 2,000 Americans killed since the Afghan war began on Oct. 7, 2001, at least 1,190 more coalition troops from other countries have also died, according to iCasualties.org, an independent organization that tracks the deaths.

According to the Afghanistan index kept by Brookings, about 40 percent of the American deaths were caused by improvised explosive devices. The majority of those were after 2009, when President Barack Obama ordered a surge that sent in 33,000 additional troops to combat heightened Taliban activity. The surge brought the total number of American troops to 101,000, the peak for the entire war.

According to Brookings, hostile fire was the second most common cause of death, accounting for nearly 31 percent of Americans killed.

Tracking deaths of Afghan civilians is much more difficult. According to the U.N., 13,431 civilians were killed in the Afghan conflict between 2007, when the U.N. began keeping statistics, and the end of August. Going back to the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, most estimates put the number of Afghan civilian deaths in the war at more than 20,000.

In recent years, some of those casualties have generated a great deal of criticism from President Hamid Karzai and changed the way NATO forces carry out airstrikes. The overwhelming majority of civilian casualties are caused by insurgents — with the United Nations blaming them for more than 80 percent of the deaths and NATO putting that figure at more than 90 percent.

The number of American dead reflects an Associated Press count of those members of the armed services killed inside Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion began. Some other news organizations use a count that also includes those killed outside Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the global anti-terror campaign led by then-President George W. Bush.

The 2001 invasion targeted al-Qaida and its Taliban allies shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, which claimed nearly 3,000 lives.

Victory in Afghanistan seemed to come quickly. Kabul fell within weeks, and the hardline Taliban regime was toppled with few U.S. casualties.

But the Bush administration’s shift toward war with Iraq left the Western powers without enough resources on the ground, so by 2006 the Taliban had regrouped into a serious military threat.

Obama deployed more troops to Afghanistan, and casualties increased sharply in the last several years. But the American public grew weary of having its military in a perpetual state of conflict, especially after the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq at the end of last year. That war, which began with a U.S.-led invasion in 2003 to oust Saddam Hussein, cost the lives of nearly 4,500 U.S. troops, more than twice as many as have died in Afghanistan so far.

Although Obama has pledged that most U.S. combat troops will leave by the end of 2014, American, NATO and allied troops are still dying in Afghanistan at a rate of one a day.

Even with 33,000 American troops back home, the U.S.-led coalition will still have 108,000 troops — including 68,000 from the U.S. — fighting in Afghanistan at the end of this year. Many of those will be training the Afghan National Security Forces that are to replace them.

“There is a challenge for the administration,” O’Hanlon said, “to remind people in the face of such bad news why this campaign requires more perseverance.”

___

Associated Press writers Heidi Vogt and Rahim Faiez in Kabul and researcher Monika Mathour in Washington contributed to this report.

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US bombs erase Afghan village from map

Posted by Admin on January 25, 2011

Gen. McChrystal disembarks a Black Hawk with D...

How to level an entire city and destroy a nation.

http://in.news.yahoo.com/us-bombs-erase-afghan-village-map-20110121-211000-122.html

By Indo Asian News Service | IANS India Private Limited – Sat, Jan 22 10:40 AM IST

 

London, Jan 22 (IANS) A village in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province has been completely wiped out of the map after an offensive by the US Army to get rid of the Taliban militants in the area, a media report said here.

Tarok Kolache, a small settlement in Kandahar near the Arghandad River Valley, has been completely erased from the map, according to the Daily Mail.

Taliban militants had taken control of the village and battered the coalition task force with home-made bombs and improvised explosive devices. After two attempts at clearing the village led to casualties on both sides, Lieutenant Colonel David Flynn, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force 1-320th gave the order to pulverise the village.

His men were ‘terrified to go back into the pomegranate orchards to continue clearing (the area); it seemed like certain death’, Paula Broadwell, a West Point graduate, writes on the Foreign Policy blog.

Instead of continuing to clear the tiny village, the commander approved a mine-clearing line charge, which hammered a route into the centre of Tarok Kolache using rocket-propelled explosives.

The results of the offensive were adjudged to have left ‘NO CIVCAS’ – no civilians killed, the daily said. But with Tarok Kolache bombarded with close to 25 tonnes of explosives, assuming some collateral damage does not seem unjustified.

Analysts have not been able to assess the impact of the bombing on civilians due to security concerns. However, it has been agreed that ‘extreme’ operations such as the destruction of an entire village are likely to have a negative impact on attempts to improve coalition-Afghan relations.

The erasure of Tarok Kolache was exactly the type of behaviour that would deal a body blow to Afghan acceptance of the presence of the International Security Assistance Force, Erica Gaston, an Open Society Institute researcher based in Afghanistan, was quoted as saying.

‘But for this, I think (NATO) would have started to get some credit for improved conduct,’ Gaston wrote in an email.

‘Some Kandahar elders (and I stress ‘some’, not ‘all’ or even ‘most’) who had initially opposed the Kandahar operations were in the last few months expressing more appreciation for ISAF conduct during these operations, saying they had driven out the Taliban and shown restraint in not harming civilians.

‘I think this property destruction has likely reset the clock on any nascent positive impressions.’

According to Broadwell’s post on Foreign Policy, US military commander Gen. Petraeus has approved $1 million worth of reconstruction projects but also told his commanders in the south of Afghanistan to ‘take a similar approach to what 1-320th was doing on a grander scale as it applies to the districts north of Arghandab’.

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West faces a losing battle for Afghan “human terrain”

Posted by Admin on August 31, 2010

This image geographically depicts the four ISA...

Image via Wikipedia

Mon, Aug 30 2010

(For more on Afghanistan, click [ID:nAFPAK])

By Sayed Salahuddin and Paul Tait

KABUL, Aug 30 (Reuters) – As the conflict in Afghanistan deepens, with more foreign troops fighting and casualty tolls rising against a bolder Taliban-led enemy, a parallel battle is being fought to win the hearts and minds of Afghans.

Despite vast, sophisticated resources at their disposal, it is a battle some analysts fear NATO and U.S. forces can’t win.

“In my opinion NATO is making a monumental mistake,” said Kabul-based political analyst Haroun Mir.

“No matter what policy NATO might adopt, they are losing the trust and respect of the Afghan population because Afghans consider the Taliban the winners of this war,” he told Reuters.

That view was supported by a July poll by the Kabul-based International Council on Security and Development that showed the NATO force was failing to win hearts and minds and that most Afghans in Taliban heartlands viewed foreign troops negatively.

Since taking command of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan in June, General David Petraeus, the master of counter-insurgency tactics honed in Iraq, has stressed that the key battleground in Afghanistan will be what he calls “the human terrain”.

Many U.S. military officials feel the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) must do better at heading off Taliban propaganda by speaking directly to Afghans, seeing such “strategic communications” as part of the larger war effort.

It is no coincidence that, since Petraeus took over, media outlets have been flooded with media releases every day, many more than ever before, detailing the successes of Afghan and foreign forces and the perfidy of the Taliban-led insurgents.

KILLING CIVILIANS “NOT GOOD POLICY”

ISAF sent more than 20 media releases on Sunday from their 24-hour-a-day media unit.

One release, about two Afghans wounded by a roadside bomb in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar, quoted U.S. Army Colonel Rafel Torres as saying: “The insurgents are as indiscriminate as their choice of weapons. Killing innocent civilians isn’t good policy in Afghanistan, or anywhere else for that matter.”

No doubt these are fairly straightforward counter-insurgency tactics but, analysts say, what is interesting is that the Taliban have been doing the same for much longer.

On Sunday, the Taliban went so far as to suggest holding a news conference to counter Petraeus’ assertion last week that his forces were making progress, an unprecedented move since the Islamists were ousted by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in late 2001.

It was their second media release in four days, somewhat unusual for a group which banned television and computers during their rule from 1996-2001.

The Taliban’s tactics have not gone unnoticed by ISAF.

“One way of tackling this issue is to undermine the Taliban’s influence in society,” said Kamran Bokhari, regional director for global intelligence firm STRATFOR.

“The key to this is to try and drive a wedge between the Afghan jihadist movement and their social support network.”

Earlier this month, ISAF issued an extraordinary media release in which an unidentified “senior ISAF intelligence official” denounced the Taliban’s “attempt to manipulate the media in order to misrepresent the truth”.

The official said the Taliban used a “formalised network”, overseen by Taliban leader Mullah Omar himself, and which included spokesmen who usually give names like Yousuf Ahmadi and Zabihullah Mujahid.

Those spokesmen, he said, worked directly with “external malign media support, which is largely comprised of sympathetic media outlets”.

The Taliban usually communicate by telephone, their spokesmen calling reporters from undisclosed locations.

They are quick to claim credit for attacks on foreign forces, whether they were involved or not, and usually inflate casualty figures. They are equally quick in their attempts to discredit foreign troops when civilian casualties are involved.

Regardless of how untrue that information might be, analysts say there is little Western forces can do to counter it.

“There is only so much that they can do to improve their standing among the public because of certain structural problems, the key to which is the perception that Western forces won’t be in the country for long,” Bokhari said.

(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani) (For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: here) (paul.tait@reuters.com; Kabul Newsroom, +93 706 011 526) (If you have a query or comment on this story, send an email to news.feedback.asia@thomsonreuters.com)

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