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KABUL – Dozens of young women braved crowds of bearded men screaming “dogs!” on Wednesday to protest an Afghan law that lets husbands demand sex from their wives. Some of the men picked up small stones and pelted the women. “Slaves of the Christians!” chanted the 800 or so counter-demonstrators, a mix of men and women. A line of female police officers locked hands to keep the groups apart.
WASHINGTON – Invoking what he described as a lesson of Vietnam, President Barack Obama said Sunday that his commitment to step up military operations in Afghanistan was not open-ended and that success would require vigorous diplomatic and development efforts there and in neighboring Pakistan. Obama framed the escalation of military activity he announced Friday as an effort to regain focus on defeating or neutralizing al-Qaida, which was dislodged from enclaves in Afghanistan after the U.S. invasion in late 2001.
The world may be collapsing, but some individuals won’t let that stop them from working for change in its most troubled corners. This is a good time to spotlight two such individuals: an Afghan activist for women’s rights named Suraya Pakzad and a local businessman, Aldo Magazzeni, who builds water systems in Afghanistan for impoverished villages. His efforts, undertaken in tandem with Pakzad’s, help make village elders more sympathetic to her work.
WASHINGTON – The Taliban’s new top operations officer in southern Afghanistan had been a prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, the latest example of a freed detainee who took a militant leadership role and a potential complication for the Obama administration’s efforts to close the prison. U.S. authorities handed over the detainee to the Afghan government, which in turn released him, according to Pentagon and CIA officials.
WASHINGTON – Al-Qaida has expanded its presence in Afghanistan, taking advantage of the sinking security situation to resurface in the country it was forced to flee seven years ago, the nation’s top military intelligence official testified Tuesday. Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, described al-Qaida’s efforts as part of a series of stability-threatening developments behind the Obama administration’s decision to order additional troops to the region.
The Afghan election commission rejected President Hamid Karzai’s request to move the presidential elections to the spring, saying the country won’t be safe enough or have enough money by then to hold a vote. The commission’s decision came Wednesday as a car bomb exploded outside the main U.S. base at Bagram, underscoring the shaky security situation the country faces as a resurgent Taliban militia increases its attacks.
When President Barack Obama announced last week that he was sending an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, I thought of David Kilcullen. Kilcullen is a former Australian military officer who wrote his doctoral thesis on insurgencies in traditional societies. I first met him in June 2007 in Baghdad, where he was senior counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus and helped design the strategy that tamped down Iraq’s violence.
JALREZ VALLEY, Afghanistan – Hundreds of U.S. troops pushed into a key Taliban stronghold Wednesday in a major operation to stop the insurgents from infiltrating the Afghan capital from the south and clear the way for the first sustained international aid effort in this remote valley. Supported by about 200 Afghan soldiers and their French army trainers, 200 soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, N.Y., encountered no resistance.
Kyrgyzstan ordered U.S. forces on Friday to depart within six months from an air base key to military operations in Afghanistan, complicating plans to send more troops to battle rising Taliban and al-Qaida violence.
WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has ordered the first combat deployments of his presidency, saying Tuesday that he had authorized an additional 17,000 U.S. troops “to stabilize a deteriorating situation” in Afghanistan. The new deployments, to begin in May, will increase the size of the U.S. force in Afghanistan by nearly 50 percent, bringing it to 55,000 by mid-summer, along with 32,000 non-U.S. NATO troops. In a statement issued by the White House, Obama said that “urgent attention and swift action” were required because “the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan and al-Qaida … threatens America from its safe haven along the Pakistani border.”
KABUL – Forces with the U.S.-backed coalition killed a regional Taliban commander and eight others in an airstrike in western Afghanistan, the U.S. said today. The Sunday night attack destroyed the building housing Ghulam Dastagir and eight other militants in the village of Darya-ye-Morghab, near the Turkmenistan border, the U.S. military said in a statement.
WASHINGTON – Tens of thousands of assault rifles and other firearms in Afghanistan are at risk of being stolen because U.S. officials have lost track of them, according to a congressionally ordered audit that warns that some weapons may already be in Taliban hands. The audit by the Government Accountability Office found that inventory controls were lacking for more than a third of the 242,000 light weapons donated to Afghan forces by the United States – a stockpile that includes thousands of AK-47 assault rifles as well as mortars, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
KABUL, Afghanistan – In a series of audacious strikes on the eve of the new U.S. special envoy’s scheduled arrival in Afghanistan, Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers on Wednesday staged synchronized raids on three government buildings in the heart of Kabul, killing 20 people and injuring scores of others. Prolonged bursts of gunfire rattled through city streets. Some terrified government workers jumped out second-story windows to escape. At the Justice Ministry, the minister was trapped for a time in his office as fighting raged in the corridors.
MUNICH, Germany – President Barack Obama’s national security team gave a dire assessment Sunday of the war in Afghanistan, with one official calling it a challenge “much tougher than Iraq” and others hinting that it could take years to turn around. U.S. officials said more troops were urgently needed, both from America and its NATO allies, to counter the increasing strength of the Taliban and warlords opposed to the central government in Kabul. They also said new approaches were needed to untangle an inefficient and conflicting array of civilian aid programs that have wasted billions of dollars.
WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday “we are lost” unless the United States can find a way not to kill so many civilians in the pursuit of militants in Afghanistan and that flooding the chaotic country with U.S. troops would be a disaster. Gates, the only Republican Cabinet member whom President Barack Obama asked to stay on, told a Senate panel that the Pentagon could send two more brigades to Afghanistan by late spring and a third brigade by late summer to try to salvage a war that has ground to a grim standoff with entrenched and resourceful militants.
President Hamid Karzai condemned a U.S. operation he said killed 16 Afghan civilians, while hundreds of villagers denounced the American military during an angry demonstration Sunday. Karzai said the killing of innocent Afghans during U.S. military operations “is strengthening the terrorists.”