Gen. Petraeus hands over command in Afghanistan

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Last week, the United Nations reported that the number of Afghan civilians killed in war-related violence rose 15 percent in the first half of this year.

The U.N. report attributed 80 percent of the civilian deaths to insurgents and others fighting against the Afghan government — up from 75 percent in the first six months of the year. International troops and other pro-government forces were to blame for 14 percent of the deaths; 6 percent were not attributed to any party to the conflict.

When Petraeus took over a year ago, he brought in more than 30,000 troops in a surge designed to bolster his counterinsurgency plan.

His commanders employed a strategy that brought some success in Iraq — coupling military force with an ambitious, troop-intensive plan to push insurgents from their strongholds so the local government could build a system of services and institutions to win the loyalty of the people.

It hoped to create the necessary groundwork for a process of reconciliation and reintegration to encourage insurgents to re-enter Afghan society.

But vast areas of Afghanistan remain without good schools, reliable electricity and other government services, and the Taliban, which began an offensive in April, shows little sign of wanting to engage Afghan leaders in peace talks.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that although there “is a long way to go,” the fact that “we have achieved a level of success deep enough to begin drawing down our surge forces stands as a testimony to Dave’s leadership and the strength of the strategy itself.”

But the plan has been costly, with the United States now spending about $10 billion a month to fund the effort in Afghanistan. Some of his detractors have argued Petraeus‘ strategy has been lagging and that a more aggressive special operations-centered counterterrorism strategy may be more effective.

In violence Monday, seven Afghan police officers were killed at a checkpoint near the capital of southwestern Helmand, said Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the governor’s office. He did not have any other details about the incident.

A bomb also killed three international service members in the east, and another explosion in the south killed one service member, NATO said in a statement. It did not provide nationalities or further details.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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