Surge troops see combat in Afghanistan

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“It is unlikely the United States and NATO [on their own] will defeat the Taliban and other insurgent groups in Afghanistan,” said the paper, which was released Tuesday.

Logar Gov. Atiqullah Ludin said at a news conference alongside Col. Haight that U.S. troops will need to improve both security and the economic situation.

“There is a gap between the people and the government,” Mr. Ludin said. “Assistance in Logar is very weak, and the life of the common man has not improved.”

Mr. Ludin also urged that U.S. forces be careful and not act on bad intelligence to launch night raids on Afghans who turn out to be innocent.

It is a common complaint from Afghan leaders. President Hamid Karzai has long pleaded with U.S. forces not to kill innocent Afghans during military operations and said he hopes to see night raids curtailed.

Pointing to the value of such operations, the U.S. military said Monday that a raid in northwestern Badghis province killed a feared militant leader named Ghulam Dastagir and eight other fighters.

Other raids, though, have killed innocent Afghans who were defending their village against a nighttime incursion by forces they didn’t know, officials said.

“We need to step back and look at those carefully, because the danger they carry is exponential,” Mr. Ludin said.

Col. Haight cautioned last week that civilian casualties could increase with the presence of his 2,700 soldiers.

“We understand the probability of increased civilian casualties is there because of increased U.S. forces,” said the colonel, who has also commanded special operations task forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Our plan is to do no operations without [the Afghan army and Afghan police], to help us be more precise.”

The U.S. military and Afghan Defense Ministry announced last week that Afghan officers and soldiers would take on a greater role in military operations, including in specialized night raids, with the aim of decreasing civilian deaths.

The presence of U.S. troops in Wardak and Logar is the first time such a large contingent of U.S. power has been so close to Kabul, fueling concerns that militants could be massing for a push at the capital. Col. Haight dismissed those fears.

“Our provinces butt up against the southern boundary of Kabul and therefore there is the perception that Kabul could be surrounded,” Col. Haight said. “But the enemy cannot threaten Kabul. He’s not big enough, he’s not strong enough, he doesn’t have the technology. He can conduct attacks but he can’t completely disrupt the governance in Kabul.”

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