BBC NEWS | 2010/01/04 | 08:00:28 GMT
Four US soldiers have been killed in a roadside explosion in southern Afghanistan, Nato-led forces said. The soldiers died after an improvised explosive device went off on Sunday, a statement by NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said. Also, on Sunday, a British soldier was killed in a separate blast in Helmand province, officials said. Violence in Afghanistan has reached its highest level since the Taliban regime was toppled in 2001. News agency AFP quoted an unnamed Afghan police official as saying that the attack took place in Panjwayi district in Kandahar province. “We claim responsibility for this attack,” the agency quoted Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi as saying. He called from an unknown location and gave the same location of the strike as the police official, the agency reported.
The deaths are the first US fatalities attributed to hostile action in Afghanistan this year. US President Barack Obama announced last month he would send 30,000 new US troops to Afghanistan, with a view to defeating the Taliban. NATO countries have followed by pledging another 7,000 troops so far. In response, the Taliban said they would step up their fight in Afghanistan. A Taliban commander told the BBC that if more US troops came, more would die. More than 900 US soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001.
The Guardian | Saturday 12 December, 2009
Tony Blair has said he would have invaded Iraq even without evidence of weapons of mass destruction and would have found a way to justify the war to parliament and the public. The former prime minister made the confession during an interview with Fern Britton, to be broadcast on Sunday on BBC1, in which he said he would still have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein from power. “If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?” Blair was asked. He replied: “I would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam Hussein]”. Significantly, Blair added: “I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat.” He continued: “I can’t really think we’d be better with him and his two sons in charge, but it’s incredibly difficult. That’s why I sympathise with the people who were against it [the war] for perfectly good reasons and are against it now, but for me, in the end I had to take the decision.”
He explained it was “the notion of him as a threat to the region” because Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against his own people. “This was obviously the thing that was uppermost in my mind. The threat to the region. Also the fact of how that region was going to change and how in the end it was going to evolve as a region and whilst he was there, I thought and actually still think, it would have Continue reading
BBC NEWS | 2009/12/15 | 08:28:39 GMT
The defence secretary is due to outline how he plans to pay for extra equipment for British operations in Afghanistan by making cuts elsewhere. An RAF base could be shut and thousands of defence jobs lost in Whitehall and also within the armed forces. Bob Ainsworth is expected to tell MPs more than 20 Chinook helicopters are being ordered over the next 10 years. It comes as a report accuses the MoD of driving up projects’ overall budgets through short-term cost-cutting. The BBC understands parts of RAF Kinloss, in Moray, could be mothballed as part of the spending cuts.
The government is expected to announce it is buying the Chinooks from Boeing after months of criticism over the number of helicopters in operation in Helmand, in Afghanistan. An extra C17 transport plane could also be on the cards. But the money will have to come out of the Ministry of Defence’s existing budget, which is already overspent. Mr. Ainsworth is likely to announce cuts to the existing Harrier and Tornado fighter jet fleet, and a cutback of Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft. The final decision will end months of tough negotiations over the 2010 spending round. But there is more pain ahead in defence, with a public spending squeeze still to come. Continue reading
Associated Press | Kirkuk (Iraq) | December 11, 2009
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that plans are on track to reduce American forces in Iraq next year and warned that neighboring Iran risks sanctions soon if it fails to cooperate on its controversial nuclear program. At a town hall meeting with about 300 soldiers and airmen at the Kirkuk airbase, Gates was asked whether political turmoil might threaten plans to send more American Troops home after Iraq’s March elections. He said all indications are that Iraqi leaders were tired of war and wanted a unified country. The secretary also said significant international sanctions would be levied if Iran continues with its current nuclear program, and added that all options, including military action, must stay on the table. “I think that you are going to see some significant additional sanctions imposed by the international community,” Gates said. He cautioned that “any military action would only buy some time, maybe two or three years.”
Gates said Iran’s provocations were bringing together the international community, including Russia and China, which have long been reluctant to punish Tehran but are now showing more willingness to confront the regime over its nuclear program. Iran insists its program is for civilian energy purposes. The secretary also told troops that Afghanistan will be a “tough fight” but that the security situation would Continue reading
NYT | December 3, 2009
President Obama’s timetable for American forces in Afghanistan rattled nerves in that country and in Pakistan on Wednesday, as American diplomats worked to convince the two countries at the center of the president’s war strategy that the United States would not cut and run. In Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, the only minister who commented on the speech, said the announcement that American troops could begin leaving in 18 months served as a kind of shock therapy, but caused anxiety. “Can we do it?” he asked. “That is the main question. This is not done in a moment. It is a process.”
In Pakistan, Mr. Obama’s declaration fed longstanding fears that America would abruptly withdraw, leaving Pakistan to fend for itself. Many in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital argued that the short timetable diminished any incentive for Pakistan to cut ties to Taliban militants who were its allies in the past, and whom Pakistan might want to use to shape a friendly government in Afghanistan after the American withdrawal. “The most serious issue, as far as we see it, is the exit date,” said a senior Pakistani security official who spoke anonymously because he was not allowed to speak publicly. “It will have serious implications.” Though American officials went out of their way to brief senior leaders of both countries before Mr. Obama’s speech, many of the people whose support will be crucial to carrying out the strategy — lower-ranking politicians and military or intelligence officials — did not receive briefings. Continue reading
NBC, msnbc.com and news services | 11:14 a.m. ET | Dec. 2, 2009
KABUL, Afghanistan – The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that the Afghan government and its international partners should use the coming 18 months to convince the Taliban they can’t win and offer militants a way to quit the insurgency “with dignity.” Gen. Stanley McChrystal made the call after President Barack Obama announced he was sending 30,000 more U.S. troops to the unpopular war. If conditions are right, Obama said American troops could begin leaving Afghanistan in 18 months. The Afghan government welcomed Obama’s announcement but cautioned against setting a deadline for handing over security to Afghan forces and starting to withdraw. In a statement, the Taliban said Obama’s plan was “no solution for the problems of Afghanistan” and would give the insurgents an opportunity “to increase their attacks and shake the American economy which is already facing crisis.” A Taliban spokesman told NBC News that the move would give the militants “more targets. Obama announced his strategy after months of delay, but he didn’t pay attention to the American people who are suffering a major financial crisis,” he added. “Instead, he only listened to the generals at the Pentagon and big businessmen. It also gives us the opportunity to beat the United States financially because more troops mean spending more money.”
‘You are weak’
Reaction among Afghans and U.S. soldiers was mixed, with many wondering whether the Afghan government can meet the challenges of fighting both corruption and the insurgents and whether the surge means more Afghan civilians will die. “I am asking America ‘What did you do for the last eight years against your enemies? You have killed Afghans and Continue reading
NYT | Washington | December 1, 2009 |
President Obama issued orders to send about 30,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan as he prepared to address the nation Tuesday night to explain what may be one of the most defining decisions of his presidency. Mr. Obama conveyed his decision to military leaders late Sunday afternoon during a meeting in the Oval Office and then spent Monday phoning foreign counterparts, including the leaders of Britain, France and Russia. Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, declined to say how many additional troops would be deployed, but senior administration officials previously have said that about 30,000 will go in coming months, bringing the total American force to about 100,000.
On top of previous reinforcements already sent this year, the troop buildup will nearly triple the American military presence in Afghanistan that Mr. Obama inherited when he took office and represents a high-stakes gamble by a new commander in chief that he can turn around an eight-year-old war that his own generals’ fear is getting away from the United States. The speech he plans to deliver at the United States Military Academy at West Point at 8 p.m. will be the first test of his ability to rally an American public that according to polls has grown sour on the war, as well as his fellow Democrats in Congress who have expressed deep skepticism about a deeper involvement in Afghanistan.
Mr. Gibbs told reporters at the White House that Mr. Obama would discuss in the speech how he intended to pay for the plan — a major concern of his Democratic base — and would make clear that he had a time frame for winding down the American involvement in the war. Continue reading