5 Troops Killed in Afghanistan; US in Jalrez Valley

A US soldier from Wisconsin was announced killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday (he died on Tuesday).

Three British soldiers were killed Wednesday by a roadside bomb in the southern Pushtun Helmand Province, and another died in hospital from wounds earlier received in Helman. The death bring the toll among the multi-national forces since Friday to 11. Last Friday, guerrillas killed 3 US soldiers in Uruzgan Province with a roadside bomb.

Thom Shanker notes:

‘the Joint IED Defeat Organization, tallied 3,611 incidents of improvised explosives in Afghanistan in 2008, a 50 percent increase from 2007. The number of U.S. and allied deaths from roadside bombs more than doubled, to 176 in 2008 from 75 in 2007. Even more Afghan civilians were killed.

In Iraq, there were more than 9,000 IED attacks last year, but that was far below 2006, when they reached 2,500 a month. Today, insurgents in Iraq are planting fewer IEDs, and only one in nine produces an American casualty.

In Afghanistan, where as many as one in three bombs kills or wounds someone, American officers say they hope a combination of technology, intelligence, armor and training can help them drive down the casualty rate.’

The British are involved in a ‘bizarre mini-civil war’ insofar as some of the guerrillas being fought by the British army are UK citizens who speak with “west Midlands” accents. The British Muslim community is extremely upset about the British military role in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are about a million and a half Muslims in the UK, in a population of about 61 million.

200 US troops and 200 Afghan troops (along with their French trainers) pushed into the Jalrez Valley south of the capital of Kabul on Wednesday, seeking Taliban strongholds. They don’t appear actually to have found anything, and only succeeded in annoying the local population. Locals did say that their view of the US would improve if Washington spent money on civilian development such as roads.

On Tuesday, some 30 persons died in political violence in Afghanistan.

Erica Gaston, who recently spent a year in Afghanistan, explains that US accidental killing of civilians has created a huge public relations problem.

Uzbekistan will allow NATO to ship non-military supplies for its troops in Afghanistan through Uzbek territory. (The supply chain will start at Lithuania and bring goods by train down to near the Friendship Bridge linking Uzbekistan to Afghanistan). But since the Khyber Pass route in Pakistan is increasingly problematic, I wonder how the US and NATO will ship in the military supplies.

Aljazeera English reports on the diverse groups that are grouped in the US mind under the rubric ‘Taliban.’

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