NATO: 10 Taliban killed in Afghan raid
Stars and Stripes March 24, 2009
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — NATO troops killed 10 suspected Taliban fighters, including a senior commander, during a raid in southern Afghanistan, officials said Monday, while the Taliban were reported to have killed eight police officers during an ambush near the border with Pakistan.
Maulawi Hassan and nine other suspected militants were killed last week during a "precision" raid on an isolated compound near the village of Kajaki, in northern Helmand province, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said in a written statement.
The alliance described Hassan as a "senior insurgent figure," whose influence also extended into neighboring Uruzgan province.
"He became known for his insurgent activities in the autumn of 2008 and was heavily involved in several illegal activities, including (makeshift bomb and suicide) attacks," the alliance said, adding that no civilians were harmed in the raid.
Also on Monday, The Associated Press, quoting an Afghan police officer, reported that Taliban fighters in Kandahar province had ambushed an Afghan police patrol in Spin Boldak district, near the Pakistani border, killing eight police officers and wounding another. There was no independent confirmation from NATO.
The attack capped a violent seven-day period in southern Afghanistan in which at least nine NATO soldiers and a civilian contractor were killed. NATO reported that two soldiers were killed by hostile fire on Sunday. One civilian contractor was killed and six others wounded Friday night when a rocket struck Kandahar Airfield, the alliance said. Four Canadian soldiers died Friday in two bomb attacks, and three other troops died earlier in the week. At least 44 NATO soldiers have been killed in southern Afghanistan this year, according to alliance figures.
Violence has spiralled across southern Afghanistan in recent years, where the Taliban have staged a dramatic comeback since the ruling regime was ousted by U.S. and allied forces in 2001. Although the movement’s leaders are believed to be based in Quetta, in neighboring Pakistan, Taliban fighters now control large swaths of the countryside in southern Afghanistan, and NATO officials describe the region as the "main effort" in the war.
Most of the 17,000 additional U.S. troops that President Barack Obama has promised to send to Afghanistan will be posted in the southern provinces to reinforce other NATO forces already fighting here. A U.S. Marine contingent that currently numbers around 2,300 troops will swell past 10,000, according to Marine officers, and more U.S. Army forces are also expected.
There are currently about 38,000 U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan, most of them in the eastern provinces. Overall, NATO has 62,000 troops in the country, about 22,000 of them in southern Afghanistan. Most of the U.S. troops in Afghanistan are under NATO command.
During an interview aired Sunday on the CBS news program "60 Minutes," Obama said that the military buildup in Afghanistan is part of an overall new strategy that will include plans for U.S. troops to leave eventually.
"What we can’t do is think that just a military approach in Afghanistan is going to be able to solve our problems," Obama said. "So, what we’re looking for is a comprehensive strategy. And there’s got to be an exit strategy. There’s got to be a sense that this is not perpetual drift."
The new strategy is expected to be unveiled in the coming days, and it is widely expected that in addition to calling for more military forces, it will also outline plans for increasing the size of the Afghan army and police and for boosting civilian aid to the country.