Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Bilour for declaring NWFP(PUKHTUNKHWA) as war- hit

PESHAWAR : Chairman Standing Committee of Senate for Commerce and leader Businessmen Forum Senator Ilyas Ahmad Bilour has expressed grave concern over unnecessary delay in declaring NWFP a war hit Province. In a press statement issued here on Wednesday, Senator Ilyas Bilour said that despite repeated assurances by Federal Minister for Finance Shaukat Tareen delay in declaring NWFP a war hit Province was beyond his comprehension. He said that NWFP should be declared as war affected Province forthwith and special developmental package should be announced for it in order to remove the sense of despondency and despair in the business community and the people of the area. Senator Ilyas Bilour said that similar package like that of the Balochistan Package should also be announced for NWFP in view of its economic condition due to the law and order situation. “ NWFP was fighting the war of the country’s stability and solidarity that has crippled its economy and therefore deserve special incentives to counter the growing frustration in the business community and common people”, he suggested. He warned that any further delay in this regard could be harmful and demanded early resolution of the problems being faced by the people of NWFP.

Pakistan a key factor in U.S. Afghan policy
Washington -- When President Obama took to the world stage to detail U.S. policy toward Afghanistan, he hammered home a key foreign policy principle: Success in Afghanistan is "inextricably linked to our partnership with Pakistan."

"We are in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country," he said in his Tuesday night speech at West Point. "But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That is why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border."

The United States says Pakistan looms large because Taliban and al Qaeda militants operating in Afghanistan also have had a presence in Pakistan's northwestern region near the Afghan border and have threatened the governments and troops in both countries.

One U.S. counterterrorism official told CNN the Afghan Taliban has bolstered its ranks, stepped up its attacks and increased its territory. In Pakistan, al Qaeda and other militants persist in planning strikes against U.S. interests in the region, the official said.

"They've suffered some major losses, but no one should think for a second that they're down and out for good," the official said. "They remain intent on harming the United States and our allies, including Pakistan, so keeping up the pressure on them is critical. That's exactly what we're doing."

Islamabad-based political analyst Pervez Hoodbhoy said if the Taliban should prevail in Afghanistan, it will be a disaster.

"That is because the local Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, are the ideological brothers of the Afghan Taliban, and they will gain enormous strength if the Taliban in Afghanistan sweep across the country."

Because of this scenario, Obama has from the start of his presidency linked the fight in Afghanistan with the effort to combat militants in Pakistan.

When Obama announced his policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan in March, he outlined an extensive plan for Pakistan that included bolstering Afghanistan-Pakistan cooperation, helping the security forces fight militants, increasing economic assistance and improving Pakistan's governmental capacity and performance.

He reiterated those points in his Tuesday speech and said Pakistanis understand the gravity of the fight.

"In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who have argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence. But in recent years, as innocents have been killed from Karachi to Islamabad, it has become clear that it is the Pakistani people who are the most endangered by extremism. Public opinion has turned," Obama said.

While there's no agreement between the United States and Pakistan to deploy U.S. troops into that country, there have been drone strikes against militant targets in Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas near the Afghan border. CIA director Leon Panetta said in May that airstrikes aimed at al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan have been "very effective."

The U.S. military in neighboring Afghanistan does not comment on the attacks, which typically target Islamic militants in the border region. But the United States is the only country operating in the region known to have the capability to launch missiles from remote-controlled aircraft.

The New York Times on Wednesday said Obama now "has authorized an expansion of the war in Pakistan," a report denied by the Pakistani government.

The newspaper reported "the CIA delivered a plan for widening the campaign of strikes against militants by drone aircraft in Pakistan, sending additional spies there and securing a White House commitment to bulk up the CIA's budget for operations inside the country."

The dispatch said the "expanded operations could include drone strikes in the southern province of Baluchistan, where senior Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding, officials said. It is from there that they direct many of the attacks on American troops, attacks that are likely to increase as more Americans pour into Afghanistan."

Without getting into specifics and not commenting directly on the New York Times story, a U.S. official told CNN that it "stands to reason" that an expanded military presence in Afghanistan "will lead to an intensification of intelligence efforts in the region to support U.S. strategic goals."

The Pakistani government haled Obama's strategy in Afghanistan on Wednesday, saying that the president "correctly mentioned that the struggle against violent extremism extends well beyond the region" and that Pakistan is committed to "uprooting terrorism" and working with the United States. Also, the government is confident that a troop surge in Afghanistan won't prompt a militant spillover into Pakistan.

This year Pakistan has responded to the Taliban presence, launching military offensives this year against militants in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan.

David S. Sedney, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for Central Asia, said the Pakistani military will be facing challenges in South Waziristan, such as "counter attacks and additional pressure," but said the military and government have been engaged in an "impressive" campaign against the militants.

"It is going to be hard for them. but they are a sovereign country with a proud military, and we really expect they will be able to control their entire territory with a continuation of that effort they have already shown," Sedney said.

Hamid Karzai offers to 'spare no effort' in implementing the revamped strategy, but says little about fighting corruption in his government.

President Hamid Karzai today pledged to "spare no effort" to help implement the revamped American war strategy but did not directly respond to U.S. demands that he root out corruption in his government.

The Taliban, meanwhile, scoffed at the goals laid out by President Obama in a major speech on Tuesday night, insisting that the insurgency would grow only stronger in the face of an American troop buildup that is to begin within weeks.

Some senior officials in Karzai's government expressed misgivings as to whether the Afghan army and police could be adequately strengthened in time to accommodate a drawdown of foreign troops beginning in July 2011, the goal set by Obama.

"In 18 months we will not be able to grow [the security forces] as much as required given the security needs of the country," said Interior Minister Mohamad Hanif Atmar, who met with the top American commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, shortly after Obama delivered his speech.

However, Atmar and other Afghan officials expressed hopes that the timetable laid out by the U.S. administration would help provide momentum for building up Afghanistan's police and army, and noted Obama's assurances that the American drawdown would be a phased one, tied to conditions on the ground.

McChrystal also met today with Karzai and described him as "very upbeat, very resolute" about implementing the Obama plan.

But the Afghan leader was largely silent in response to Obama's crisp demand for reforms in his government -- a refrain that has been sounded repeatedly by senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who traveled to Afghanistan last month for Karzai's inauguration to a second term.

In a statement issued a full 12 hours after Obama's speech, the presidential palace said the Karzai administration would work toward "strengthening of the Afghan government in law enforcement" but said nothing else about promised efforts to crack down on graft and bribery.

Corruption has been a highly charged issue between Karzai's administration and the West. The Afghan president is expected to name his Cabinet in the next 10 days.

Western officials have said the lineup of ministers will give an indication as to whether the Karzai is ready to withhold key posts from those implicated in past wrongdoing.

Many Afghans expressed relief over Obama's commitment to send 30,000 more American soldiers, saying the country is under serious threat from the insurgency.

"Sending more troops is a good idea, because they have to help curb Al Qaeda and the Taliban," Kabul businessman Abdul Kafil said. "Otherwise they will recapture the country."

Obama's Afghanistan Plan Won't Work Without Afghan Help

American military commanders in Afghanistan have warned that President Obama's new strategy, announced Tuesday night during his speech at West Point -- even though it will mean a commitment of another 30,000 troops -- will fail unless backed by dramatic action by President Karzai's government.

As Taliban are driven from their strongholds by U.S. and allied troops in the country's most war-torn provinces in the south, U.S. troops insist these gains will be pointless without trained Afghan soldiers, policemen and bureaucrats ready to fight beside them and to take charge of the areas when they are secured.

As I saw on a recent four-week trip to southwest Afghanistan's Helmand Province, one of the more dangerous areas of the country, an influx of more than 10,000 Marines this summer has already dramatically altered this war -- taking thousands of people out of rebel hands and bringing the return of schools, health clinics, refurbishment of canals, and a program to provide an alternative crop to illegal opium poppy.

But from junior soldiers to senior generals, the military were clear to me that these short-term gains had no purpose and would ultimately result in failure unless the Afghan government led by President Karzai took decisive action to take charge of these "liberated" districts.

And American forces are facing an enemy that is using more sophisticated tactics of attrition to its own minimize losses and maximize pain for the occupiers. The insurgents have learned to fight from a distance, compensating for the Americans' massive advantage in firepower. The insurgents have mastered the IED (improvised explosive device), using explosives made from fertilizer. Their next best choice is a stand-off weapon like a mortar or a rocket.

At the end of October, I joined a group of Marines from the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance on a raid on a Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province, the most dangerous province in Afghanistan. The Marines were hitting a town known as Safar Bazaar, once the largest drug markets in the area. A year ago, a strike like this into the Taliban's heartland would have led to a firefight. This time, it led to a deadly waiting game, of a type that has become increasingly common in Afghanistan.

The Marines were operating out of Camp Payne, a forward operating base, east of newly captured Khan Neshin. Camp Payne is the most southerly combat post in Afghanistan.

When I joined them, it was clear the area had been transformed since the summer. The Marines and civilian agencies have in four months opened a school, funded the rebuilding of long-derelict canals, held shuras (town meetings) with elders, opened a radio station, funded a job creation scheme and are doling out cheap loans to tradesmen. All this has helped to prove the value of evicting the Taliban.

U.S. Leader Says More Afghan Forces Needed

But Lt Col Tim Grattan, the battalion commander, said it would take further forces to really secure Helmand. "There is no doubt we can interdict and deny the Taliban a route in from Pakistan," said Grattan, "but we need the forces to do it."

Grattan had deployed to Helmand with just two companies of infantry, under 40 percent of his battalion's strength. He blamed what he called an "artificial cap" on troop numbers set back in Washington.

But Grattan said the most critical shortage was the lack of Afghan forces. While the centerpiece of NATO commander General Stan McChrystal's strategy to win this war has been to partner with the Afghans, Grattan's battalion in Khan Neshin had to work with no Afghan soldiers at all, and could work only with a few dozen border guards and barely a dozen policemen, although others are in training.

Since parts of Helmand remain in Taliban hands, the Marines combine their work in holding the ground they have secured with raids into enemy territory.

On the way to raid Safaar Bazaar, 20 miles northeast of Khan Neshin, Grattan rode in an armored vehicle flying the Jolly Roger. His goal was to disrupt a Taliban haven. "They can't be left thinking any place is safe."

The raid began with a convoy of 40-plus vehicles fording the Helmand river. In a ruse, the Marines pushed west into the desert until darkness fell. Then they turned and looped north, stopping only to dig out bogged-down vehicles. Staying hidden, they reached an attack position just after 2 a.m. They swooped in at dawn on Thursday.

For all the deception, the Taliban had still known the Marines were coming. Rather than fight in the open, they chose to fight from a distance and tie down the Marines. They slipped away from Safar Bazaar -- and left behind a deadly ghost town pocked with IEDs.

Bomb disposal technicians moved through the silent marketplace, lined by squat brick buildings. The metal shutters had all been pulled down.

Then one Marine lay down in the dirt in the middle of a street and began to brush the dust from a pressure plate linked to a massive bomb. Other Marines took shelter where they could at the edges of the street. Everyone but a wandering donkey and a handful of Kuchi, Afghan nomads, had disappeared.

The Taliban Strikes

For all the technical expertise involved, the work still comes down to one brave man, alone and exposed, face to face with a bomb. The man I was watching asked not to be named.

"I am just glad to be helping save lives," he told me. Since July, two of the battalion's disposal technicians have died while defusing bombs.

As I sheltered with some Marines beneath an awning of thatched twigs, some used black humor to break the tension.

"I wish they'd get back to shooting at us, rather than this s***," said a Marine. As two Cobra attack helicopters flew over, one man joked: "Shoot the road! Shoot up the bazaar!"

After an eternity, we watched as the lonely man in the street disarmed the pressure plate and placed a charge to blow the bomb apart. "Get back into cover. Watch out for secondaries!" he yelled. "Controlled det! Two mikes!" he warned, meaning that a controlled explosion was due in two minutes. Then came the blast. When the debris settled there was a six-foot crater in the tan dirt of the street.

As the Marines resumed clearing the town, cutting open locked metal shutters, searching buildings, the Taliban struck. At 12.40 p.m. two mortars slammed into homes beside the market. They seemed to be coming from beyond some fields to the left.

The Marines began to fire back, and soon I heard the deep sound of cannons from the light armored vehicles (LAV) nearby on my left.

The Marines saw men piling their mortar tube into a truck and escaping. After six hours the soldiers had cleared about 100 yards of the town's main street.

An order came not to bother trying to recover any more IEDS -- to destroy them instead. There were six more in the town, and the technicians destroyed them.

By now help had arrived to search for the Taliban firing team. Choppers were circling, jets were overhead, and above them a Predator drone scanned the terrain.

Finally, the crew of an armored vehicle on a hill saw men hiding in a clump of trees, unloading a rocket from a truck. The Americans unleashed hell  mortars, explosive rounds and artillery. When the thuds and explosions had subsided, orange flame and smoke covered the fields.

Obama Will Rapidly Expand Forces in Afghanistan

It was hard to imagine anyone could have survived, but from a distance no one could tell. The Taliban disappeared, the smoke cleared and the silence returned. Before sundown the Marines finished clearing the marketplace, jumped back into their trucks and drove back to Camp Payne.

Via such raids, and their work around Khan Neshin, Grattan's battalion has established a 20-mile security zone along the Helmand River. But the American drive south is still 70 miles short of Pakistan and a chain of smuggling towns that dot the border. It has also left pockets of Taliban strength, including the 30 mile stretch of riverside that separates Grattan's bases in the district of Khan Neshin from other Marine units based farther north. And when the Americans are not in Safar Bazaar, the Taliban return.

To sustain gains on the ground in a country of more than 250,000 square miles, even an augmented American force will clearly need the help of Afghan troops. In Helmand, the offensive launched in July by just over 5,000 Marines was backed by only 700 Afghan troops. But brigadier general Larry Nicholson told aides that, for an effective counter-insurgency campaign, he would rather have 700 Marines and 5,000 Afghan troops.

"It is not enough just to send in the troops," one senior commander told me. "We will be wasting the lives of our fallen servicemen unless Karzai and his government match our commitment."

This week, the British prime minister, Gordon Brown, said he had won a promise from Karzai to dispatch a brigade of 5,000 Afghan soldiers down to Helmand. And Obama's plan includes a commitment to a rapid expansion of Afghan forces.

"We must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's security forces and government," said the president Tuesday night, "so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan's future."

On the ground, many troops are skeptical that such promises will be delivered; many believe much more radical measures are needed -- like the training of a reliable police force, recruited from local tribes, that could garner support from the mainly Pushtun people from which the Taliban draw their fighters.

"This part of the world is fiercely suspicious of outsiders," said one U.S. military intelligence officer, who was personally skeptical the military campaign could ever succeed. "Simply sending more troops from the north of the country is not going to subdue the revolt."

Obama Afghan plan must not hurt Pakistan: Islamabad

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama's plans to boost troop numbers in Afghanistan need to ensure there is "no adverse fallout" on Pakistan, the country's foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
"Pakistan looks forward to engaging closely with (the) U.S. in understanding the full import of the new strategy and to ensure that there would be no adverse fallout on Pakistan," the ministry said in a statement.

Afghans Mixed on Obama's Troop Surge Plan The

Between the Lines, an Expansion in Pakistan


WASHINGTON — President Obama focused his speech on Afghanistan. He left much unsaid about Pakistan, where the main terrorists he is targeting are located, but where he can send no troops.

Mr. Obama could not be very specific about his Pakistan strategy, his advisers conceded on Monday evening. American operations there are classified, most run by the Central Intelligence Agency. Any overt American presence would only fuel anti-Americanism in a country that reacts sharply to every missile strike against extremists that kills civilians as well, and that fears the United States is plotting to run its government and seize its nuclear weapons.

Yet quietly, Mr. Obama has authorized an expansion of the war in Pakistan as well — if only he can get a weak, divided, suspicious Pakistani government to agree to the terms.

In recent months, in addition to providing White House officials with classified assessments about Afghanistan, the C.I.A. delivered a plan for widening the campaign of strikes against militants by drone aircraft in Pakistan, sending additional spies there and securing a White House commitment to bulk up the C.I.A.’s budget for operations inside the country.

The expanded operations could include drone strikes in the southern province of Baluchistan, where senior Afghan Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding, officials said. It is from there that they direct many of the attacks on American troops, attacks that are likely to increase as more Americans pour into Afghanistan.

“The president endorsed an intensification of the campaign against Al Qaeda and its violent allies, including even more operations targeting terrorism safe havens,” said one American official. “More people, more places, more operations.”

That was the message delivered in recent weeks to Pakistani officials by Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser. But the Pakistanis, suspicious of Mr. Obama’s intentions and his staying power, have not yet agreed.

General Jones was one of a series of American officials who arrived in Pakistan in recent weeks with the same message: no matter how many troops the president commits to Afghanistan, the strategy will founder unless the safe haven inside Pakistan is dealt with.

However, the United States does not have much leverage and is counting on a new attitude and a huge acceleration of efforts from a weak government. Making matters worse, the president, Asif Ali Zardari, is often at odds with the nation’s powerful military and intelligence establishment.

The question about Mr. Obama’s Pakistan strategy is whether the new commitment of troops and resources can ultimately make America safer at a time of an evolving terrorist threat. Mr. Obama insisted that was his central focus.

“This is the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by Al Qaeda,” he said to the cadets at West Point, speaking of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the murky border area between the two that offers refuge to extremists of many stripes. The region was the birthplace of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he said, and “it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.” Many times in the speech he returned to that threat, saying it was what made this war different from Vietnam.

And he referenced another threat, one that focuses the attention of Mr. Obama’s national security team daily, but which it speaks about rarely.

“The stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that Al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them,” he said.

Mr. Obama’s decision to raise the nuclear specter was notable because a succession of American officials have publicly stated recently that the Pakistani arsenal is secure. In private, however, they have commissioned new intelligence studies on how vulnerable Pakistani warheads and laboratories would be if insurgents made greater inroads, with one official saying recently, “It is the scenario we spend the most time thinking about.”

Even if Mr. Obama is successful in lessening the terrorist threat in the region, many analysts say that Al Qaeda has changed into a transnational movement beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“There is no direct impact on stopping terrorists around the world because we are or are not in Afghanistan,” said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, the former C.I.A. officer who was sent into Pakistan after 9/11 to determine if Osama bin Laden had access to the country’s nuclear technology. The nature of modern terrorism, Mr. Mowatt-Larssen, now at Harvard, argued, is that a safe haven can be moved to many different states, and the bigger threat exists in cells, including in Europe and the United States.

Even Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, acknowledged in an interview this evening that the steps announced by the president would not address Al Qaeda cells in Africa or the Middle East, or even homegrown extremists. But she argued that he had to begin somewhere.

“Can you totally eliminate the threat from Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda types in Yemen or Somalia? No,” she said. “But what you have done is taken a major action to limit their ability out of this major theater, from which their leaders and major actions emanate.”

Making the Pakistan plan even more complex was Mr. Obama’s effort to reconcile two seemingly contradictory messages on Tuesday evening. He had to convince the Pakistanis that he was not planning to leave the region — as the United States did 20 years ago, after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan — while reassuring American citizens that after an 18-month buildup, he would begin to head for the exits.

The United States, he said, simply could not afford an open-ended war. Unlike President Bush, he suggested, he would not set “goals that are beyond what we can achieve at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests.”

Pakistan to closely engage with U.S. on new Afghan strategy

ISLAMABAD, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan on Wednesday said it would closely engage with the United States in understanding the full import of its new strategy on Afghanistan and to ensure that there would be no adverse fallout on Pakistan.

"There is certainly a need for clarity and coordination on all aspects of the implementation of this strategy," the Foreign Office of Pakistan said in a statement issued here.

The statement said Pakistan and the United States need to closely coordinate their efforts to achieve shared objectives. The Foreign Office said that Pakistan has taken careful note of the important announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama of the U.S.-Afghanistan strategy.

"Pakistan is committed to uprooting terrorism from our region and in advancing the cause of peace and stability in Afghanistan," it said.

Foreign Office said President Obama correctly mentioned that the struggle against violent extremism extends well beyond the region.

"We welcome President Obama's reaffirmation of partnership between the two countries built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect and mutual trust and also the United States' strong support for Pakistan's security and prosperity," it said.

After months of review, the Obama administration on Tuesday renewed its strategy for Afghanistan by sending 30,000 additional troops to the country in a decisive war against the al-Qaeda network and extremists.

US commander: Offer Taliban chance to end fight

Associated Press
KABUL – 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."
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 your enemies have killed Afghans. It seems you are weak and the enemy is strong. Will you defeat the enemy this time?" said Haji Anwar Khan, a white-bearded resident of Kandahar in Afghanistan's violent south.
Shortly after Obama's speech, McChrystal told reporters the 18-month timetable was enough time to build up Afghan forces and convince the people of this war-ravaged country that they can eventually take care of their own security.
He said the Afghan government and the coalition should also use that period "to convince the Taliban and the people from whom they recruit that they cannot win — that there is not a way for the insurgency to win militarily."
At the same time, he said the U.S. should support the Afghan government in a reintegration program to allow insurgents a way to return to society.
"I think they should be faced with the option to come back if they are willing to come back under the constitution of Afghanistan — that they can come back with dignity," he said. "If you look at the end of most civil wars and insurgencies, I think that everybody needs a chance to come back with dignity and respect and rejoin society. I think that will be important for us to look forward to."
McChrystal said he met Wednesday with President Hamid Karzai for nearly an hour and described the Afghan leader's reaction as "really positive."
"The president was very upbeat, very resolute this morning," he said. "I really believe that everybody's got a focus now that's sharper than it was 24 hours ago."
But Interior Minister Hanif Atmar said 18 month timeframe was too short for a complete handoff from international forces.
"That kind of time frame will give us momentum," Atmar said. "We are hoping that there will be clarity in terms of long-term growth needs of the Afghan national security forces and what can be achieved in 18 months."
In neighboring Pakistan, Obama's speech drew a lukewarm reaction. Key al-Qaida leaders including Osama bin Laden are believed to have taken refuge in Pakistan, and Obama's announcement of a tentative date to begin withdrawing U.S. troops could deter Pakistan from cracking down on Taliban fighters using Pakistani territory as a safe haven.
"The Americans would like to keep the pressure on the Pakistan army to chase the militants all over the tribal regions, but Pakistan of course has to see whether it's feasible," said Dr. Riffat Hussain, a professor of Defense Studies at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. "It seems Pakistan prefers the incremental approach."
In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he expects the allies to boost the NATO-led force by more than 5,000 soldiers. He said the best way to overcome widespread public opposition to the war in Europe is by demonstrating progress on the battlefield.
Capt. Mark Reel from Norfolk, Virginia, U.S. military civil affairs officer deployed in Wardak province, west of Kabul, said more troops mean nothing unless they can give local Afghans a sense of perceived security.
"They have to believe they are more secure. You get thousands of troops on some of these bases here, but what are they really doing? The troops just have to get out there (in the field)." The reason the surge worked in Iraq, he said, is because troops were able to get into the field and make Iraqis feel safer.
More than 850 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department. Of those, the military reports nearly 660 were killed by hostile action. NATO reported that the latest member of the U.S. forces to die was killed in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday when his patrol was attacked by insurgents.
Davood Moradian, senior adviser to the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, welcomed Obama's statement but cautioned against comparing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"We are very pleased and support President Obama's analysis that Afghanistan is not Vietnam. But I think Afghanistan is not Iraq. Therefore, we have to be very careful about that," he said.
Ghulam Haider Hamidi, the mayor of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan where a large chunk of the new U.S. forces will be deployed, cited corruption — which Karzai has pledged to fight — as the worst problem facing his nation.
"The biggest problem is corruption in the Afghan government, police and military but also in some of the companies coming from the United States, Canada and England and Germany," Hamidi said. "There is corruption and drug dealing by the people who are in power, within the police and the military."
Hamidi said just last month he was told that Taliban were sleeping in the police barracks.
"The police are taking money from both sides — the government and the Taliban," he said. "When we have this kind of police and military, the Afghan problem won't be solved in 20 years."
He also said that safe havens next door in Pakistan have to be shut down if Afghanistan's insurgency is to be curbed. On Wednesday, a suicide attacker struck Pakistan's naval headquarters in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, which has been hit with a series of bombings in recent months by Islamist militants.
"More American troops will mean more violence," said Pakistani engineering student Ammar Ahmed, 20. "It will worsen the situation both in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Suicide bomber targets Naval Complex, one dead

ISLAMABAD: A suicide bomber struck near the naval headquarters Islamabad on Wednesday, police said, killing a navy official.

The attacker walked up to a checkpoint at the entrance to the complex and detonated his explosives when challenged by security forces, scattering bits of flesh across a busy road in central Islamabad, police and witnesses said.

‘The bomber was about 17 to 18 years old. He was wearing a suicide jacket. He came to the gate and tried to enter the complex,’ Fazeel Asghar, Islamabad’s top administration official, told reporters.

‘Security officials checked him and one navy police constable, Mohammad Ashraf, asked him to take off his coat. The bomber then blew himself up and the navy constable died in the blast,’ he said.

Two other navy personnel were critically wounded, he added.

Witnesses described the scene in the aftermath of the blast.

‘I was in a nearby street when I heard a loud explosion,’ said witness Imtiaz Ali.

‘When I reached the main Margalla Road there was smoke near the navy complex. I saw three soldiers lying wounded.’

Navy officials were seen rushing towards the gate. Two ambulances reached the blast site and shifted the injured to the navy hospital inside the complex.

The windows of several cars were shattered in the powerful blast, and police sealed the road and diverted traffic.

Allies support U.S.-led buildup in Afghanistan

U.S. President Barack Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan earned quick support from NATO, which pledged its partners would also make a "substantial increase" in troops.

"As the U.S. increases its commitment, I am confident that the other Allies, as well as our Partners in the mission, will also make a substantial increase in their contribution," said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. "Taken together, the new force contributions from across the Alliance, as well as the new approach agreed by all the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) countries, will help create a new momentum in the mission in 2010."

Rasmussen called Obama's decision to send an additional 30,000 troops in Afghanistan "a broader political strategy for success."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said France called on "all countries that want to help the Afghan people to adhere to it," saying its nearly 4,000 personnel there were focused on stabilizing the Kapisa-Surobi province and training Afghan security forces.

Sarkozy said a meeting of NATO ministers this week and an international conference on Afghanistan in London next month will "underscore the international community's unity."

The January 28 conference in London will tackle the transfer of provinces and districts to Afghan control, civilian coordination, Afghan security and international aid, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said in a statement.

"Britain will continue to play its full part in persuading other countries to offer troops to the Afghanistan campaign," Brown said.

In his speech, Obama said it was in the "vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan" next year and that a drawdown would occur beginning in July 2011.

About 68,000 U.S. troops already are in Afghanistan, bolstered by around 50,000 troops from 42 nations, including all 28 NATO members.

The nine-year war came on the heels of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by al Qaeda, which had been given safe haven in Afghanistan by the Taliban government. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks on New York and Washington. Since being overthrown in 2001, the Taliban have been trying to regain strength in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan.

Human Rights Watch said Obama's plan needed to strengthen civilian protection with a "clear strategy for combating corruption, removing warlords and holding rights violators accountable."

The human rights organization called the U.S. emphasis on rule of law in Afghanistan "long overdue" but said sufficient training of Afghan security was needed to "ensure basic human rights protections."

The U.S. State Department said it was tripling the number of civilian staff deployed to Afghanistan and plans to have 974 staff members there by early next year.

Experts from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are embedded with the U.S. military, said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday in an address to the Business Executives for National Security Gala in New York. In addition, "rule of law" experts are working to extend a system of justice "so that the Taliban would not offer the only form of justice in Afghanistan," she added.

In his speech, Obama emphasized that the U.S. troop commitment in Afghanistan was not open-ended, saying, "the nation that I am most interested in building is our own."