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Friday, February 24, 2017

Joint US Afghan raid kills 22 civilians in Afghanistan

Both Afghan officials and local residents claim that 22 civilians mostly women and children were killed in a joint U.S., Afghan operation carried out in the southern province of Helmand.
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Jabar Qahraman , the presidential envoy for security in Helmand Province, said the raid against the Taliban killed 13 people from one family and nine from another. Qaraman said: “We are saddened to hear the news of civilians being killed. When the Taliban use civilians as their shield against security forces, such incidents occur.” The United States has yet to admit that there were civilian casualties:
U.S. Navy Cpt. Bill Salvin, a military spokesman, said “we are working diligently to determine whether civilians were killed or injured as a result of U.S. airstrikes” carried out to support Afghan forces in and around Sangin. The investigation is “continuing and has not reached any conclusions,” he added in a written statement.The U.S. does not usually admit at first that there were civilian casualties and does so only when evidence make the casualties difficult to deny. The UN mission in Afghanistan was less cautious as it expressed grave concern after initial inquiries showed the international forces killed at least 18 civilians nearly all women and children. Kareem Atal, the head of the provincial council in Helmand, said a man, two women and two children who were wounded in the raid have been brought to Lashkar Gah the capital for treatment.
Hameed Gul a local resident who lost nine members of his family claimed it was all lies that they were attacking the Taliban he told the Associated Press. Helmand province has seen several months of heavy fighting with the Taliban. The Taliban have targeted the capital Lashkar Gah several times with suicide attacks. On Saturday, a suicide bomber targeting soldiers killed at least seven people.
General Nicholson the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan claims that the US needs to commit several thousand more troops to Afghanistan to break what he calls the stalemate there. It is questionable that there is a stalemate as the Taliban appear to be gaining ground. Nicholson told the Senate armed services committee that there was a "shortfall of a few thousand".
About 8,600 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan since the combat mission ended. The situation is now complicated by the rise of the Islamic State(IS) in Afghanistan. A recent attack claimed by the IS near the supreme court in Kabul killed at least 20 people.
So far, U.S. president Trump has had little to say about Afghanistan but on Thursday he spoke by telephone with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani. Trump was said to have stressed the importance of the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership. A White House statement also said:  “The leaders discussed opportunities to strengthen the bilateral relationship in areas such as security, counter-terrorism co-operation and economic development.” When Nicholson was asked if Trump would be more willing than Obama to take into account the security situation in Afghanistan in deciding on troop commitment General Nicholson replied: “Yes, sir.” The general also suggested that US defense secretary James Mattis might visit Afghanistan in coming weeks.
General Nicholson in written testimony also criticized Russia whom he claimed was strengthening the Taliban and undermining NATO. In contrast, recent remarks by former president Karzai criticize the U.S. and claim that relations of Afghanistan with big powers and neighbors were better while he was president.According to Karzai, there was a thaw in the relations between world powers in Afghanistan when he was serving as president. But now, the ties between these countries are deteriorating.“I told President (Vladimir) Putin that I have worries about Afghanistan, the way the United States and the western allies are conducting the war on terror is not leading us to decrease extremism in our region or in Afghanistan, in fact we see rising extremism in Afghanistan in spite of the massive sacrifices and loss of resources,” said Karzai.There appears no sign so far that Trump is doing anything to repay Russia for its support. If Trump commits more U.S. troops to Afghanistan he will not be keeping his campaign promises not to get the U.S. involved in costly wars but will be following Republican and Democratic hawks in dragging the U.S. even deeper into the conflict once again.


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