Tuesday, October 6, 2009

100 Taliban killed in fierce Afghan clashes

KABUL: Ten Afghan army soldiers were killed and more than 100 Taliban militants died or were wounded in clashes in southern and eastern Afghanistan, according to the Defence Ministry.

"Ten members of the Afghan army were martyred and more than 100 enemies were killed and wounded in the south and east of the country in the past 24 hours," a statement said.

Ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said the casualties were from two operations, in Helmand and Nuristan provinces. NATO and Afghan troops launched an operation in Nuristan to flush out insurgents who killed eight US soldiers at the weekend - the coalition's heaviest toll in a single incident in more than a year.

The push comes amid reports the British government turned down a request for more troops for Afghanistan this year. General Richard Dannatt, who retired as head of the British army last month, said he was "disappointed" with ministers.

He said a call for 2000 extra soldiers had been declined and the forces had to fight on with "at least part of one arm" tied behind their back, he told The Sun. "If the military says we need more troops and we can supply them, then frankly they should take that advice and deploy up to the level we recommend," he said.

US President Barack Obama is considering a request from US commander General Stanley McChrystal for more troops and considering future strategy.

Responding to General Dannatt's comments, the Ministry of Defence said it would review troop numbers in the wake of Afghanistan's presidential elections in August.

Another British soldier took on his government over the weekend in Afghanistan.

Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth and Home Secretary Alan Johnson spent Sunday day meeting British troops and local officials in southern Afghanistan.

The first visit by a British Home Secretary to the troops in Afghanistan was designed to boost troop morale. But Mr Ainsworth was soon put on the back foot by soldiers who echoed calls from General David Richards, the new head of the British Army, for more reinforcements.

The Defence Secretary asked Staff Sergeant Kim Hughes, 30, a bomb disposal specialist, what he needed most. "More troops on the ground," Staff Sergeant Hughes quickly replied. He said later: "We have lost two guys. More troops are needed on the ground but the same could be said for equipment."

Mr Ainsworth was forced to admit it would take time - and help from other NATO allies - to provide the extra troops called for by General McChrystal. "We can't meet General McChrystal's effort on our own. It has got to be a coalition effort," he said.

British military officials warned last week of the risks of sending more troops without the equipment required to protect them.

General Richards is known to have drawn up plans to deploy up to 1000 more soldiers to Helmand, and Mr Brown has indicated that he has an open mind about reinforcements. But the government, and the rest of NATO, is waiting to see what Mr Obama decides over the US general's request for 40,000 more troops.

Source: The Australian

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