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03-28-2012, 04:44 PM
Support in U.S. for Afghan War Drops Sharply, Poll Finds
New York Times By ELISABETH BUMILLER and ALLISON KOPICKI March 26, 2012
WASHINGTON - After a series of violent episodes and setbacks, support for the war in Afghanistan has dropped sharply among both Republicans and Democrats, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The survey found that more than two-thirds of those polled — 69 percent — thought that the United States should not be at war in Afghanistan. Just four months ago, 53 percent said that Americans should no longer be fighting in the conflict, more than a decade old.
The increased disillusionment was even more pronounced when respondents were asked their impressions of how the war was going. The poll found that 68 percent thought the fighting was going “somewhat badly” or “very badly,” compared with 42 percent who had those impressions in November.
The latest poll was conducted by telephone from March 21 to 25 with 986 adults nationwide. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.
The Times/CBS News poll was consistent with other surveys this month that showed a drop in support for the war. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 60 percent of respondents said the war in Afghanistan had not been worth the fighting, while 57 percent in a Pew Research Center poll said that the United States should bring home American troops as soon as possible. In a Gallup/USA Today poll, 50 percent of respondents said the United States should speed up the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Negative impressions of the war have grown among Republicans as well as Democrats, according to the Times/CBS News poll. Among Republicans, 60 percent said the war was going somewhat or very badly, compared with 40 percent in November. Among Democrats, 68 percent said the war was going somewhat or very badly, compared with 38 percent in November. But the poll found that Republicans were more likely to want to stay in Afghanistan for as long as it would take to stabilize the situation: 3 in 10 said the United States should stay, compared with 2 in 10 independents and 1 in 10 Democrats.
Republicans themselves are divided, however, over when to leave, with a plurality, 40 percent, saying the United States should withdraw earlier than the end of 2014, when under an agreement with the Afghan government all American troops are to be out of the country.
The poll comes as the White House is weighing options for speeding up troop withdrawals and in the wake of bad news from the battlefield, including accusations that a United States Army staff sergeant killed 17 Afghan civilians and violence set off by the burning last month of Korans by American troops.
The poll also follows a number of high-profile killings of American troops by their Afghan partners — a trend that the top American commander in Afghanistan suggested on Monday was likely to continue.
“It is a characteristic of this kind of warfare,” Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. He said that in a counterinsurgency conflict like the one in Afghanistan, where American forces are fighting insurgents while training Afghan security forces, “the enemy’s going to do all that they can to disrupt both the counterinsurgency operation, but also disrupt the integrity of the indigenous forces.” American commanders say that the Taliban have in some cases infiltrated Afghan security forces to attack Americans, but that most cases are a result of personal disputes between Afghans and their American trainers.
In follow-up interviews, a number of poll respondents said they were weary after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan, and impatient with the slow progress of Afghan security forces. “I think we should speed up when we’re bringing our troops home,” said Melisa Clemmons, 52, a Republican and a coordinator for a wireless carrier system from Summerville, S.C. “If we’ve been there as many years as we’ve been there, what’s another two years going to get us?” she asked, adding, “These Afghanistan people are turning around and shooting our people. Why is it taking this long for the Afghan troops to be policing themselves?”
Paul Fisher, 53, a Republican from Grapevine, Tex., who works in the pharmaceutical business, said the United States should no longer be involved in the war, although he opposed setting a specific timetable. “After a while enough is enough, and we need to get out and move on and let Afghanistan stand on its own merits,” he said.
Peter Feaver of Duke University, who has long studied public opinion about war and worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, said that in his view there would be more support for the war if President Obama talked more about it. “He has not expended much political capital in defense of his policy,” Mr. Feaver said. “He doesn’t talk about winning in 2014; he talks about leaving in 2014. In a sense that protects him from an attack from the left, but I would think it has the pernicious effect of softening political support for the existing policy.”
The drop in support for the war among Republican poll respondents mirrors reassessments of the war among the party’s presidential candidates, traditionally more hawkish than Democrats. Newt Gingrich declared this month that it was time to leave Afghanistan, while Rick Santorum said that one option would be to withdraw even earlier than the Obama administration’s timeline. Mitt Romney has been more equivocal, although he said last summer that it was “time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can, as soon as our generals think it’s O.K.”
Michael E. O’Hanlon, a military expert at the Brookings Institution who is close to American commanders in Afghanistan, said that the opinion polls reflected a lack of awareness of the current policy, which calls for slowly turning over portions of the country to Afghan security forces, like the southern provinces, where American troops have tamped down the violence.
“I honestly believe if more people understood that there is a strategy and intended sequence of events with an end in sight, they would be tolerant,” Mr. O’Hanlon said. “The overall image of this war is of U.S. troops mired in quicksand and getting blown up and arbitrarily waiting until 2014 to come home. Of course you’d be against it.”
Among poll respondents, 44 percent said that the United States should withdraw sooner than 2014, while 33 percent said the administration should stick to the current timetable, 17 percent said the United States should stay as long as it would take to stabilize the current situation and 3 percent said the United States should withdraw now.
Elisabeth Bumiller reported from Washington, and Allison Kopicki from New York. Marjorie Connelly and Marina Stefan contributed reporting from New York.

NATO soldier killed in Afghan blast
KABUL, March 27 (Xinhua) -- A NATO soldier was killed Tuesday in a bomb blast in restive southern Afghanistan, the military alliance said.
"An International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service member died following an improvised explosive device attack in southern Afghanistan today," the NATO-led ISAF said in a press release.
The brief statement did not disclose the nationality of the victim under ISAF policy.
Troops mainly from the U.S., Britain and Australia have been stationed in the southern region to curb Taliban-linked insurgency there.
Tuesday's attack brings to 92 the number of NATO soldiers killed in Afghanistan so far this year.

Afghanistan Rejects Reports Of Foiling Massive Suicide Attack
March 27, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Afghanistan's Defense Ministry has rejected as erroneous media reports about the alleged foiling of a planned mass suicide bombing attack that would have targeted the ministry's headquarters in Kabul.
The ministry issued a written statement on March 27 after two international news channels, the BBC and Al-Jazeera, reported that Afghan authorities had arrested 16 people after discovering 11 explosives-laden suicide vests inside the Defense Ministry headquarters.
The complex is considered one of the most secure sites in the Afghan capital and is close to the presidential palace.
In its statement, the Defense Ministry called on domestic and international media to report on Afghan defense questions only "after checking with responsible sections and people of this ministry."

Interview: Amb. Ryan Crocker warns against war fatigue in Afghanistan
Ryan Crocker, US ambassador to Afghanistan, sees progress amid an extended 'rough' patch in relations. He also cautions against quitting Afghanistan too soon, citing Al Qaeda. 'If we decide we're tired, ... they'll be back.'
Christian Science Monitor By Howard LaFranchi, Staff writer March 26, 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan - It’s not news to anyone that the United States and the international community have recently experienced some rough weeks in Afghanistan.
But if there’s a silver lining to the clouds hanging over the American-led war effort here, it’s that the terrible recent events – the unintentional burning of Qurans by American forces and ensuing civil unrest, the revenge killings of US and other international forces by “friendly” Afghan soldiers, and the horrific murders of 17 Afghan villagers allegedly committed by a US Army sergeant – have provided a measure of Afghanistan’s progress, and of the importance of a continuing international commitment.
That’s the message of the US ambassador to Kabul, Ryan Crocker, who counters reports of doom for the US mission in Afghanistan with evidence of progress – even as he warns of the consequences for America’s national security of giving in to war fatigue and pulling out.
“We’ve had a rough fall, a rough winter – and we are having a rough spring,” acknowledges Ambassador Crocker, who then shifts focus to two signs of a stronger, more mature Afghanistan as revealed by the recent trial by fire.
First, the Afghan security forces that NATO and other international partners are training to take over command of the country’s security kept control of an explosive domestic climate after the Quran burnings, protecting both Afghans and foreign forces with minimal loss of life.
“It was Afghan security forces who stepped up. They protected Afghan lives, and they protected American lives [and] the lives of others from the international community,” he says, noting that 30 Afghans were reported to have died in the days of unrest. “That’s not too darn bad given the volatility of the situation.”
Second, Crocker underscores the fact that, despite some turbulence, the US-Afghanistan negotiations toward reaching a Strategic Partnership Agreement – the framework that will determine the US military role in Afghanistan after 2014 – weathered the trying events and are moving forward.
“We’re making very significant headway” in negotiations, he says, “and we’re doing it under particularly difficult conditions.”
Crocker says such signposts of progress should encourage both the US and the international community to muster the “strategic patience” that will be necessary for sticking with a country that may seem to be progressing slowly – but which to abandon would be to open the way to potential recurrences of the 9/11 tragedy.
The two countries have already settled the thorny issue of the conditions for handing over some 3,000 detainees in US custody to Afghan authority, while the question of night raids by foreign forces is still under discussion.
The night raids – troops entering sleeping villages to ferret out insurgents and suspected terrorists – are particularly unpopular among Afghans, and they raise the ire of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who considers them a stab at Afghan sovereignty. But US military commanders consider the tactic an essential tool in the anti-Taliban effort, and the US insists on the ability to rely on the raids in the counterterrorism efforts it wants to continue after the international combat role ends in December 2014.
Some US and international military officials hint that an accord on night raids is likely, perhaps by assuaging Mr. Karzai’s sovereignty concerns with a provision requiring a warrant from an Afghan judge.
Crocker calls the Strategic Partnership Agreement, or SPA, “a powerful signal to the Taliban” that the international community will remain committed to Afghanistan into the future.
What the Taliban need to understand, he says, is that “this isn’t going to be about holding out until 2014. It’s you getting killed,” he says, “or dying of old age and your sons facing the prospect of having to fight a war.”
Others say the US SPA will be a reassuring sign to the international community and will help head off the “rush to the exits” that President Obama has warned against.
The strategic partnership negotiations are just one example of what Crocker calls the “really really hard” process of helping a country like Afghanistan remake itself. He might add expensive, too, although he notes that whatever financial commitment the US makes to Afghanistan in the years after the formal end of the combat mission will pale in comparison to the $12 billion a year the US now spends.
But if Americans are tempted by the siren of a complete pullout from Afghanistan, Crocker says they need to remember the 9/11 attacks and Al Qaeda’s command center that brought the US here in the first place.
“If we decide we’re tired they’ll be back,” he says, referring to Al Qaeda. “We know what they did once. They haven’t gotten any kinder or gentler in the decade.”
Crocker – who has the “unique” perspective of having returned to Afghanistan after a first stint as ambassador in 2002 following the fall of the Taliban regime – says the country’s progress is impressive but not irreversible, and requires an international commitment to sustain it.
Continuing improvements in the Afghan National Army and national police are one element. The Afghan security forces, which are now the primary providers of security to about half the country, should be able to expand to providing “immediate security” to about 75 percent of Afghans by midsummer, Crocker says.
Other encouraging factors, he adds, are rising education rates, falling infant and maternal mortality rates in one of the world’s poorest countries, development of a professional class of young leaders, and prospects for impressive economic gains from unexploited natural resources.
He also points to expanded women’s rights, which he cites as a key priority for the US. Noting that some Afghan women have expressed fears of a rollback of women’s advances in the event of a weakened international commitment, Crocker says neither young Afghans nor the US are about to let that happen.
“I know what my boss thinks about this,” says Crocker, referring to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s outspoken commitment to advancing Afghan women’s rights. But he also says the female university students he meets with here would never accept a reversion to the past. “They’re not going to be put back in a burkha, believe me,” he says.
Crocker offers a modest definition of the Afghanistan he believes should be the realistic goal of Afghans and the international community: “a basically secure, basically stable, basically democratic country that can look after its own interests.”
And he says Afghanistan has the advantage of a “post-9/11, post-Taliban generation” that is better-educated, and that knows the promise of freedom and democratic governance. “There’s never been a generation like that in Afghanistan,” he says.
But he also warns that this new Afghanistan, which lives with the pull of old ways, has to know the world is not turning its back. “If the Afghans think we’re done, that we’re pulling pitch,” he says, “they’ll revert to old tendencies.”

Speeding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan a mistake, analysts say
Washington Examiner By Sara A. Carter 26/03/2012
The American mission in Afghanistan, beset by a series of setbacks and tragedies, has reached perhaps the lowest level of support in the U.S., and in Afghanistan and Pakistan, since the war started after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The latest New York Times/CBS News poll, released Monday, found that a staggering 69 percent of Americans thought the country should not be at war in Afghanistan. Backing for the war plummeted among both Democrats and Republicans in recent months.
And leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan appear equally sick of the war. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, America's erstwhile ally, has been using increasingly incendiary language to describe American troops, calling them "demons" recently as he demanded an accelerated withdrawal after the killing of 17 Afghan civilians which has been charged to a U.S. Army sergeant. Those deaths were just the latest in a cycle of violence that grew worse when Americans at the base in Bagram accidently disposed of several Qurans. Killings of U.S. and NATO troops that had been occurring for years increased after the Quran burnings, with three more NATO troops slain Monday.
American relations have also reached a nadir with Pakistan, with the legislature of that country meeting this week to create a harsh list of demands to be met by the U.S. in order to maintain a military presence there.
But if "the bottom is out of the tub," as Abraham Lincoln said during the darkest days of the American Civil War as defeat and disaster accumulated around his government, there are important reasons to stick to an orderly timetable of withdrawal from Afghanistan, and to pursue the goals of making the country secure and the government stable, according to experts.
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official who headed the Obama administration's Afghanistan-Pakistan review in 2010, concedes that the growing divide between U.S. and Afghan officials is jeopardizing chances to leave a functioning state and viable economy behind there when America completes its withdrawal.
"The nascent political process with the Taliban has been suspended and the gap between Obama and [President Hamid] Karzai is wider than ever," said Riedel, who is now a senior analyst with the Brookings Institution.
"But the stakes have not changed," he said. "If we give up in Afghanistan, the jihadists will win and gain a huge victory that will resonate around the Islamic world and especially next door in Pakistan."
There are roughly 90,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The commander of the U.S.-led coalition, Gen. John Allen, told Congress late last week that he does not expect troops to be withdrawn more rapidly than announced targets to get the number down to 68,000 by 2014.
Allen said many of the problems festering between the U.S. and Afghanistan had their root in Pakistan, where insurgents are allowed to operate with impunity.
James Carafano, a senior analyst with the Heritage Foundation said a quick withdrawal from the region would compound the mistake of announcing a withdrawal date in the first place.
"Right now the two greatest impediments to progress are the Taliban and the strategy being followed by the U.S. president. Karzai is a distant third in the our list of problems," Carafano said.
Despite war fatigue, many military and intelligence officials, stress that Afghan security forces are improving -- but are not yet prepared to take complete control from NATO.
"It's a problem for the administration because the situation is so precarious," said a U.S. official who works closely with Afghan officials. "Pakistan U.S. relations are deteriorating. Pakistan seems to have the upper hand and President Obama wants this war over, particularly in an election year."
George Little, spokesman for Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, told The Washington Examiner that Panetta's most recent meeting with Karzai was "productive."
Little said the pair discussed how Afghanistan could eventually be secured entirely by Afghan forces.
"About 50 percent of the country's security is now under Afghan leadership, and we share the goal of increasing that percentage," Little added.
Staying the course and allowing Afghan security forces to grow in strength appears to be the best of the options still available, anaylsts said.
Arturo Munoz, a senior analyst at RAND Corp., said "I don't see a value in a speedy withdrawal. There is a lot of anxiety about the future of the country." Munoz, formerly with the CIA, said the Taliban would call a swift withdrawal "a victory against NATO, and it would give credence to Afghan allies who warned that we would desert them."
Sara A. Carter is The Washington Examiner's national security correspondent. She can be reached at scarter@washingtonexaminer.com.

General John Allen says he is investigating command structure in Afghanistan
Gen. John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, said Monday that he is investigating the military command structure following Sgt. Bales' massacre of 17 Afghan civilians.
Global Post By Talia Ralph March 26, 2012
General John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, said Monday that he is investigating the US military command structure there following Sgt. Bales' massacre of 17 Afghan civilians, CBS News reported.
In one of his last public appearances in Washington before returning to Afghanistan, Gen. Allen said that the US is now monitoring for possible revenge attacks following the murders of 17 civilians and investigations into troops burning Korans and urinating on Afghan corpses, according to the National Journal.
“Each one of those was a result of a leadership failure in some form or another,” Allen told reporters on Monday.
No army leaders have lost their command or been punished in relation to any of the incidents, the National Journal reported.
Gen. Allen confirmed that US officials had paid compensation to the Afghan victims’ families, and reiterated that the US Military was investigating Bales' rampage "very thoroughly," according to a US Department of Defense press release.
There has been some speculation that Sgt. Bales' repeated tours in Afghanistan and Iraq had caused the soldier to spiral into severe post-traumatic stress disorder. However, Allen said he does not believe that multiple tours are to blame for the recent series of tragic incidents involving American troops.
“Repeated tours in Afghanistan, and prior to that, in Iraq, don’t inherently reduce the effectiveness of the force or reduce the effectiveness of small-unit leadership,” Allen said. “I’m confident the institution is solid.”
Allen would not go into any details about Bales' unit or the incident.
"I will be satisfied when I get the report that we have looked closely at the potential contributing factors that might have permitted this event to have unfolded tragically," the General said, according to CBS News.
It is still unclear whether Sgt. Bales will face an Article 32 hearing, at which military authorities will determine whether to proceed with charges against him, or whether he will appear in front of a experts to determine if his mental health may be a factor in his defense, CNN reported.
"They have no murder scene, no forensics," Bales' lawyer, John Henry Browne, said, according to CNN. "I'm going to make them prove every claim."
Military law experts acknowledge that proving the case against the soldier may be difficult, especially because there are no autopsies to prove the victims' cause of death. There is also an ongoing dispute about the actual number of victims, and difficulties in getting witnesses to testify, CNN reported.
Gen. Allen also discussed the recent increase in “green-on-blue” violence against US and coalition troops, including the murder of two NATO soldiers by a gunman in an Afghan army uniform in the southern Helmand province on Monday, Stars and Stripes reported.
“Revenge is an important dimension in this culture,” he said, the National Journal reported. “I think that we can all probably assume that with some of the incidents that have occurred within the last several months that has been a potential causal factor.”

Afghan Civilian Deaths Raise ‘Revenge’ Risks for Troops
Bloomberg By Eltaf Najafizada and James Rupert Mar 27, 2012
Public anger over the killing of 17 Afghan civilians, allegedly by a U.S. soldier, may yet spark a backlash against American forces, the governor of the south’s most populous province and tribal elders say.
Anger remains intense in southern Afghanistan after the March 11 incident, presenting what the top U.S. and NATO commander for Afghanistan said yesterday is the “potential” for revenge killings. “It is prudent for us to recognize that, as you know, revenge is an important dimension in this culture,” U.S. Marine General John Allen said at a Pentagon briefing.
U.S. officers in Kandahar province sought to forestall such attacks by offering apologies and financial compensation to the affected families. The payments were $50,000 for each person killed and $11,000 for each of the injured, according to Agha Lalai Dastgiri, a village elder.
Still, ethnic Pashtuns of Afghanistan’s south may be motivated to attack U.S. forces and their international allies “if they feel justice is not being restored,” Kandahar Governor Tooryalai Wesa said in an interview at his office yesterday.
An Afghan soldier west of Kandahar, in the adjacent Helmand province, yesterday shot dead two British troops of the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, Afghan army General Sayed Malook said in a phone interview. The attack was the first by a member of the Afghan security forces on their international partners since the March 11 shootings. ‘Green on Blue’
Another NATO service member, whose nationality was not disclosed, was reported killed at a checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan by a man who was part of an allied village force, according to the Associated Press.
Such “green-on-blue” attacks are “a characteristic of counter-insurgency” operations as also experienced in the past in Iraq and Vietnam, Allen said. NATO and Afghan officials have put in place security measures to “reduce this tragedy to the maximum extent possible,” he said.
The attack on village homes in Panjwai, for which Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales was charged last week, has escalated tension between the U.S. and Afghan governments, and added to election-year pressure on President Barack Obama for a quick U.S. exit from the 10-year-old war with Taliban militants.
The U.S. military charged Bales with 17 counts of murder in farming villages around Camp Belambay, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) southwest of Kandahar city. While village residents and Afghan officials have counted 16 dead, the U.S. charges reflect that one of the women killed was pregnant, the New York Times reported yesterday, citing Kandahar’s police chief. War’s Core
Wesa, about 61, is a portly Afghan-Canadian agriculture specialist, native to Kandahar. After studies in the U.S. and Canada, he worked as a university teacher in British Columbia until returning to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. President Hamid Karzai named him governor in 2008.
For two weeks, Wesa’s days have been dominated by meetings with survivors of the Panjwai attack, angry tribal leaders, U.S. military officers and officials of Karzai’s government. “This violence has affected every human being,” especially in Afghanistan’s Pashtun south, which is the core of the war zone, Wesa said. “We have had other violence against innocent people -- even the aerial bombing of wedding parties -- but this attack on these villagers was something really different and inhumane,” he said.
The renewed tension with U.S. forces will not affect plans for ISAF to hand over control of Kandahar city, Afghanistan’s second-largest, to Afghan forces within three months, Wesa said. Compensation Payments
Most of the victims at Panjwai belonged to the Alokozai tribe, one of the region’s main Pashtun clans. “These killings may lead some local people to begin resisting the Americans in the same way the Taliban resist them,” and such resistance may spread to other Alokozai areas, said Dad Muhammad, 46, a local Alokozai elder in Panjwai.
The Alokozais dominate the populations of what in recent years have been some of the most heavily contested regions of Afghanistan’s south, such as Panjwai and the district of Sangin, in Helmand province.
U.S. military officers from ISAF’s southern regional headquarters met on March 24 in Wesa’s office with relatives of those attacked to seek reconciliation, Wesa said.
“The compensation was on behalf of America’s government and was meant to ease the anger of these victims and encourage them not to take any violent actions” in revenge, said the other official, Dastgiri, an elder from one of the two villages hit in the attack. Pashtun traditions call on male relatives to avenge the killing of family members. Single Soldier
While restitution payments and formal apologies by the Americans may ease the pressure for revenge attacks, they may not be enough to prevent them entirely, said Dastgiri, a member of the province’s elected governing council.
Afghans, including relatives of those killed and Karzai, have expressed doubts at the U.S. military’s assertion that the attacks on three homes in two villages were committed by a single soldier without help from others. Dastgiri said the compensation payments had not eased the families’ insistence on a full investigation that includes the possibility of others being prosecuted.
“The victims thanked the U.S. officials, but they told the Americans that money is not enough, and that they want the perpetrators to be prosecuted as soon as possible and to receive the death penalty,” he said.
The U.S.-led coalition force in Afghanistan declined to comment on the reported payments. When such compensation efforts are made, “it is usually a matter of agreement that the terms of the settlement remain confidential,” ISAF said in an e- mailed statement March 25.
To contact the reporters on this story: Eltaf Najafizada in Kandahar at enajafizada1@bloomberg.net; James Rupert in New Delhi at jrupert3@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

15 insurgents killed in Afghanistan
FAIZABAD, Afghanistan, March 27 (Xinhua) -- A total of 15 Taliban militants were killed and 10 others wounded in a joint operation by Afghan police and NATO-led coalition troops in northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan, provincial government spokesman Abdul Marouf Rasikh said Tuesday.
"Based on intelligence, Afghan police and NATO-led troops launched a joint operation in the Bakhshi Dah and Gaw Dara villages in Wardoj district killing 15 armed insurgents and injuring 10 other insurgents Monday night," Rasikh told Xinhua.
The joint forces also destroyed two weapon caches during the raid, Rasikh said.
In another development, four insurgents were killed when a warplane with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) pounded their position in the eastern Khost province, provincial police chief Sardar Mohammad Zazi said on Tuesday.
"Four armed insurgents were killed in an air strike carried out by ISAF forces last night after they were found placing roadside bombs on a major road in Gorbaz district of Khost province," Zazi told Xinhua.
Afghan and ISAF troops have intensified cleanup operations throughout the country as spring and summer, known as "fighting season", are drawing near. Over 280 insurgents have been killed and more than 800 others detained since the beginning of this year, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry.

Senior IMU Leader Reported Killed In Afghanistan
March 27, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
NATO-led forces say a senior commander of the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) has been killed by allied troops in northwestern Afghanistan.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a March 27 statement that Afghan special forces and NATO soldiers killed Makhdum Nusrat and several other IMU fighters one day earlier.
No independent confirmation was available.
Makhdum is said to have been the highest-ranking IMU insurgent operating in Afghanistan. He was accused of leading attacks against Afghan and coalition troops in Afghanistan's northern provinces, and also of plotting the assassination of an Afghan parliament member.
The IMU is believed to be active in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan.
The group's leaders have declared that their goal is to establish an Islamic caliphate in Central Asia.
With reporting by Reuters

Afghan Peace Talks Will Not Produce Stable Peace: ICG
TOLOnews.com By Shakeela Abrahimkhil Monday, 26 March 2012
The International Crisis Group has said in a new report that negotiations with Taliban will not bring stable peace in Afghanistan.
Issuing a 51-page report titled Toward a Political Settlement in Afghanistan, the group said Kabul and Washington have failed to broker a peace deal with the Taliban, asking the United Nations to mediate in the process.
"There are raising concerns over the political reconciliation process in Afghanistan," said Candace Rondeaux, Crisis Group's senior analyst.
"Taliban have lost their access to Taliban and tensions escalated between US and the Afghan government and most importantly the shaky recon conciliation policy of the government has forced Taliban to suspend peace talks.
"All these matters require a third impartial group to mediate the negotiations," added Rondeaux.
The Crisis Group has said that there is a strong speculation over a civil war as Afghanistan will face major challenges in 2013 and 2014 when the Nato troops withdraw from the country.
"We didn't expect a rapid withdrawal of the foreign troops as the Afghan Army is not capable enough to hold security," the Group said.
The report has said that with President Karzai's term ending in 2014, efforts to extend this term will create serious crisis in the country.

Billions in cash smuggled out of Afghanistan every year
CNN By Sara Sidner and Mitra Mobasherat March 27, 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan - In the busy street markets of Kabul, stacks of cash sit in piles as moneychangers shout the day's exchange rate to shoppers bustling by. Currency is bought and sold in the open air.
But all the money changing hands on the streets is barely a drop in the bucket compared to all the cash being siphoned out of the country in suitcases, and that is not a metaphor.
"It's hard to estimate exactly how much is going out of Afghanistan, but I can tell you in 2011, 4.5 billion was (flown) out of Afghanistan," said Khan Afzal Hadawal, deputy governor of the bank of Afghanistan.
That is just what is moving out of the Kabul airport. It is estimated $8 billion in cash was lugged out of the country last year by car, private jets and border crossings. That is almost double the entire country's budget for 2011.
The government is trying to stop the outflow of money to other countries and encourage investment in Afghanistan. It has capped the amount of cash that can be taken out of the country at $20,000.
"We are very serious on this. It is not an easy job. Definitely there are challenges. People will try to use other channels but we will not let anybody take the physical cash out of Afghanistan," Hadawal said.
At a dusty construction site on the outskirts of Kabul, workers use everything from a hand-powered rebar cutter to a huge tractor and loader. They are building a multimillion-dollar community. It is the dream of Afghan developer Haji Hafizullah Caravan, who hopes the government's plan works.
He and his family have made a huge investment in the capital, Kabul, constructing large self-contained communities complete with mosques, schools and hospitals. The idea is to make people feel safer by creating a tiny city within a city.
The price per apartment starts at $70,000.
"Kabul was mostly destroyed in wars. There is need for construction in Afghanistan and the amount of housing that is needed is not being fulfilled," Caravan said.
The projects have created dozens of jobs for people like Abdul Wahab, who has 13 family members to provide for.
"It's hard to find work and to find good work," Wahab said after using all his body weight and strength to lean on a lever linked to a device that cuts rebar.
If it wasn't for this job, he said, his family would suffer greatly.
Caravan said he wants others to help rebuild instead of storing their cash in already posh Dubai.
"We are Afghans and should build up our own country by any means. We should be proud of our country," he said.
But he said he understands why people have moved out large sums of cash.
There is a looming fear that when NATO forces leave, so will any semblance of security, both physical and economic.
Three NATO soldiers killed
"We are worried about security, that it doesn't get worse. We want a stable system here in Afghanistan after foreign troops' withdrawal. We worry about this and nothing else," Caravan said.
The 10-year war has brought heartache, but also more stability.
Foreign aid is propping up Afghanistan's economy. The question on every potential investor's mind is whether Afghanistan will be able to sustain itself when the war is finally over.

Attacks on NATO by Afghans in uniform expose Taliban influence
by Jawid Omid, Abdul Haleem
KABUL, March 27 (Xinhua) -- A series of deadly attacks by Afghans in army and police uniform on the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan proved in part Taliban penetration into the fledgling Afghan security forces, analysts believe.
In the latest attacks, three soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) fighting Taliban- led insurgency in Afghanistan lost their lives on Monday.
"No doubt, repeated attacks by Afghan soldiers against their partners, the NATO, clearly showed penetration of Taliban militants into Afghan security forces," political observer Fazil Sangcharaki told Xinhua.
A man wearing an Afghan National Army uniform shot dead two ISAF soldiers in southern Afghanistan on Monday, a press release of the alliance said. Both of the victims were Britons and killed in Helmand province where Taliban militants are active, according to media reports.
Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement released to media, saying "an attack was carried out by a Mujahideen (holy warrior) who had infiltrated the Afghan army against foreign troops, at the gate of Helmand provincial capital Lashkargah at 02:00 p.m. local time in which 2 invaders were killed and several others wounded whereas the Mujahideen also embraced martyrdom."
Hours later, a man in Afghan police uniform shot dead a NATO soldier in eastern Paktika province.
Monday's double deadly attacks on NATO-led forces were not the first and will not be the last, analysts said.
The twin attacks have shocked NATO-led forces as the U.S. commander of the 130,000-strong multinational forces General John Allen has warned of more offensives.
The general said that the U.S. and NATO troops will continue to face the threat of attacks from their Afghan counterparts for the duration of their mission, saying "it is a characteristic of counterinsurgencies that we've experienced before."
So far this year, 16 foreign soldiers have been killed in attacks carried out by Afghans in uniform and the deadliest attack occurred on Jan. 20 when an Afghan soldier opened fire at a military base in Kapisa province leaving four French soldiers dead and 15 others injured.
"Such attacks would continue if necessary reform is not brought to the army and police recruitment," said Sangcharaki, adding such offensive would seriously damage the credibility of Afghan security forces in the eyes of both Afghans and the international community supporting Afghanistan.

Obama: Pakistan Review of Ties Should Respect US Security Needs
VOA News March 27, 2012
U.S. President Barack Obama says Pakistan's review of its ties with the United States should not only respect Pakistan's sovereignty but also U.S. security needs.
Mr. Obama spoke to reporters Tuesday moments before private talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday. The two leaders met on the sidelines of an international nuclear summit in Seoul.
The meeting came amid a breakdown in relations between Pakistan and the United States following the U.S. military raid that killed Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil last May and the mistaken killing of 24 Pakistani troops during a cross-border NATO strike last November.
The deadly strike prompted Pakistan to shut its ground supply lines to NATO forces in Afghanistan and re-evaluate its ties with the United States.
President Obama said Tuesday “there have been times — I think we should be frank – in the last several months where those relations have experienced strains.” He welcomed Pakistan's parliamentary review of ties with the U.S., saying “I think it's important for us to get it right.”
Mr. Obama said he would like the see Pakistani lawmakers respect U.S. national security interests in their review of relations, including its need to battle terrorists who have targeted Americans.
Prime Minister Gilani says both he and President Obama want a stable and secure Afghanistan.
A White deputy national security advisor said Tuesday's meeting “made important progress in both sides being able to hear directly from one another about what their views are.”
The Pakistani parliamentary committee tasked with laying out new terms of engagement with the United States and NATO last week demanded an end to U.S. drone strikes and an apology from Washington for the NATO strike that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops.
The U.S. has expressed regret for the loss of life and accepted partial responsibility for the airstrike, but has so far refused to apologize, saying NATO forces acted in self-defense.
Pakistani lawmakers are expected to eventually approve the panel's recommendations. But, ultimately, Pakistan's government and powerful army have the final say in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship.

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