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Afghan general dies in land mine blast

By CHAD GARLAND AND ZUBAIR BABAKARKHAIL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 19, 2016

KABUL, Afghanistan — A newly promoted Afghan general was killed Thursday when he stepped on an anti-personnel mine in southern Afghanistan, the military said.

Brig. Gen. Abdul Basir, commander of the first brigade of the Afghan National Army’s 205 Corps, detonated the mine while out “to check on the efforts of the army” in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province around noon Thursday, said Gen. Mohammad Radmanish, deputy spokesman for the Defense Ministry.

“He was a very well educated man, was back from recently getting military training in Germany and was given the rank just a few days ago,” Radmanish said.

Basir died from his wounds around 2 p.m. while being medically evacuated from Kandahar to Kabul. No one else was hurt in the blast, Radmanish said.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Zabul and Uruzgan provinces, 10 policemen were killed by their colleagues, The Associated Press reported. In Zabul, eight policemen were killed by a colleague who escaped with weapons and vehicles, the province’s deputy police chief told the AP. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack, the agency reported.

NATO officials believe that southern Afghanistan, and primarily Helmand province, will likely be the focus of the next offensive by the Taliban.

A U.S. military official at NATO headquarters in Kabul said Thursday fighting was expected to shift to the south from northern Kunduz province, with the poppy harvest there drawing to a close. It could spill over into neighboring Kandahar as the Taliban seek to secure a route to Pakistan that they can use to transport opium, weapons and fighters, he said.

Unlike last year, when Afghan forces defended the south mainly through fixed checkpoints, government forces will assume a more offensive posture in the south, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kandahar was the base of the Taliban’s 1996-2001 government, before they were toppled in the U.S. invasion.

Top Afghan officials have recently expressed confidence in the country’s security forces, saying they have grown stronger and learned from last year’s mistakes.

The Afghan army’s ability to hold off, if not defeat, the Taliban this year will be a major test of the country’s military capabilities as President Barack Obama weighs a decision on whether to further draw down the U.S. presence in Afghanistan as planned, from around 9,800 to 5,500 early next year.

garland.chad@stripes.com
Twitter: @chadgarland

 

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