Afghanistan: 20,000 troops to remain?

Gen. John R. Allen, outgoing US commander in Afghanistan, submitted military options to the Pentagon that would keep 6,000 to 20,000 troops in the country after 2014, defense officials said Jan. 2. Gen. Allen offered Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta three plans with different troop levels: 6,000, 10,000 and 20,000, an anonymous official told the New York Times. The 6,000 troops would mostly consist of Special Operations commandos who would hunt down insurgents. With 10,000 troops, the US would expand training of Afghan security forces. With 20,000, the US would add conventional Army forces to patrol in areas of the country.

Under an agreement between NATO and the Afghan government, the foreign combat mission in the country is to end on Dec. 31, 2014. But in recent months the Obama administration has been debating the size and mission of a residual US force to remain after 2014. (NYT, Jan. 2)

On Jan. 3, a presumed US drone strikes today killed a senior Pakistani militant commander in Pakistan's tribal region of South Waziristan. Mullah Nazir, a leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban, was a target for US forces despite having agreed a ceasefire deal with Islamabad. He was believed to still be aiding Taliban forces across the border in Afghanistan. Also known as Maulvi Nazir, he survived a number of attempts on his life—most recently in November, when a suicide bomber attacked his vehicle in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan. No group claimed responsibility for that attack, but soon afterwards Mullah Nazir began ejecting members of the Mehsud tribe from his area of control. (The IndependentBBC News, Jan. 3)


US bombs Pakistan ...again

A US drone strike killed at least 10 people suspected to be Taliban fighters in Pakistan's northern tribal areas, intelligence sources said. The attack on three Taliban compounds in Babar Pehari, South Waziristan, reportedly killed between 10 and 12 people. Said to be among rhe dead was Wali Muhammed, AKA Toofin, who is believed to have overseen suicide bomb squads for the Pakistani Taliban. (Reuters, Jan. 6)

US bombs Pakistan ...again

At least eight people have been killed in two US drone strikes in Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas Jan. 8. Both attacks took place in the Mir Ali area of the North Waziristan. In Khiderkhel village, eight missiles were fired at a compound, killing at least four people, security sources told Al Jazeera. In Essakhel, meanwhile, two missiles were fired, killing at least three people. (Al Jazeera, Jan. 8)

US forces in Central Asia beyond 2014

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, on a tour of the region, told reporters in Kazakhstan: "We will definitely remain in Afghanistan and the Central Asian region beyond 2014 and will do our best to preserve stability and peace not only in Afghanistan, but in the entire region." He clarified that President Obama has not made a decision as to the size of the contingent remaining in Afghanistan after 2014. "Since no such decision has been made yet, it is not clear what military forces and transit centres will be kept in the Central Asian region," he added. (New Europe, April 27)

US busts Pakistani Taliban big in Afghanistan

US forces captured a senior Pakistan Taliban commander, Latif Mehsud, the State Department said Oct. 12. The US gave no details of the operation, but Afghan officials said he was seized in eastern Afghanistan and taken to the Bagram base near Kabul. He was reportedly returning from talks over a mooted prisoner-swap deal, and the capture is said to have angered Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The Pakistani Taliban has also been blamed by the US for the attempted Times Square bombing in 2010. (BBC News)