The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 72/No. 31      August 4, 2008

Afghan war sharpens at
border with Pakistan
(front page)
WASHINGTON—A series of major battles in Afghanistan July 23-27 and another missile strike in Pakistan highlighted the increasing operations by U.S.-led NATO forces against the Taliban on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

The stepped-up combat tempo by the NATO forces, known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), has increased the number of Afghan civilian deaths—78 killed so far in July.

There were nearly 53,000 ISAF troops in Afghanistan as of June 10. These include about 23,500 U.S. troops. At least another 9,500 U.S. troops carry out operations in the country under a separate U.S. command.

Afghan authorities said up to 70 Taliban members were killed July 27 in a failed attempt to capture the center of the Spera district some nine miles from the Pakistani border. About 100 Taliban were surrounded by ISAF soldiers and police who then called in air strikes consisting of heavy machine gun fire from helicopters, Agence France-Presse reported.

Another 55 Taliban were killed July 23 when ISAF and Afghan security forces launched an operation to retake the Ajristan district about 125 miles southwest of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul. The district had been occupied by Taliban militia two days earlier.

The Taliban government was overthrown by the U.S. military in 2001 shortly after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The Taliban has since led a guerrilla war against the U.S.-installed government in Kabul. In recent months they have captured several remote districts but have also been easily expelled by ISAF and Afghan army forces.

U.S. and NATO officials say they are investigating three air strikes in July in which Afghan authorities say 78 civilians were killed.

An estimated 698 Afghan civilians have been killed in the war in the first six months of this year, according to the United Nations. That compares with 430 over the same period last year—a 38 percent increase. The United Nations said 255 of the civilians killed this year were slain by NATO troops.

U.S. presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama have called for sending thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

During a visit to Berlin Obama said Germany and other NATO allies needed to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet has already approved a plan to increase the number of German troops in Afghanistan by 1,000, bringing the total to 4,500. Germany has the third largest number of troops in Afghanistan but has prohibited their deployment in the south where NATO casualties have been high.

In a interview with Der Spiegel Obama’s foreign policy advisor Susan Rice said NATO allies should “lift operational restrictions” on their troops.

The pace of U.S. and NATO air strikes against the Taliban inside Pakistan has also increased in recent months. At least six people were killed near Asam Warsak village in Pakistan July 28, when missiles struck a house in a religious school compound.

A Pakistani intelligence officer said that Midhat Musri al-Sayid Umar, an Egyptian and alleged al-Qaeda chemical weapons expert was the target of the strike, according to press reports. Pakistani authorities could not confirm that Musri al-Sayid Umar, who has a $5 million bounty on his head, was in fact killed. Claims that he had been killed in another air strike in 2006 turned out to be false.

Several residents in the area said they heard the sound of drone aircraft engines, suggesting the missiles were fired by Predator drones operated by the CIA. NATO and ISAF spokesmen have denied involvement in any cross-border strikes in Pakistan, but said they could not speak for the CIA, reported Reuters.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, Pakistan’s military spokesman, said he had little information about the air strike. “Some incident did take place but what kind of strike it was, whether is was a missile or rocket attack or bomb explosion, we don’t know.” He added that ISAF doesn’t share information about any strike with the Pakistani military prior to an attack.

Despite repeated protests by the Pakistani government, several drone missile attacks have been carried out this year by U.S. forces against Taliban and al-Qaeda-backed militias alleged to have been attempting to enter Afghanistan or retreating from there into Pakistan.
Related articles:
Capitalist politicians debate ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home