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NATO 'killed Afghan women' on black weekend
by Staff Writers
Kabul (AFP) Sept 16, 2012

Afghan insider attacks are 'last gasp effort' by Taliban: US
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 17, 2012 - US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Monday said insider attacks on NATO forces in Afghanistan were a "last gasp" tactic by Taliban insurgents who had been unable to make up lost territory.

His comments came after a weekend in which six NATO troops were killed in apparent green-on-blue attacks, and appear to contradict commanders on the ground, who say most of the assaults are the result of cultural conflicts.

"This is an approach that the Taliban is resorting to, similar to the use of IEDs (improvised explosive devices)," Panetta said during a visit to Tokyo.

He said "frankly it is a kind of last-gasp effort to be able to not only target our forces but to try to create chaos."

The Islamist insurgency has to resort to such tactics as "they've been unable to regain any of the territory that they have lost."

The US military was taking the threat seriously and looking at further steps to protect troops in Afghanistan, he said during a joint press conference with his Japanese opposite number.

However, Panetta insisted the turncoat attacks would not force a change in war strategy, which calls for advising Afghan forces until they take over security for the whole country by the end of 2014 -- paving the way for the withdrawal of NATO combat troops.

"We will do all we can to minimize those risks, but we will not lose sight of the fundamental mission here," he said.

"We're going to stick to that mission."

The deaths at the weekend of four US troops and two Britons took to 51 the number of Western soldiers killed by Afghan colleagues in 36 incidents so far this year.

NATO is gradually withdrawing its 112,600 remaining troops. The Pentagon said last week that there are currently 77,000 US troops in Afghanistan.

Panetta was in Tokyo on the first leg of a tour that will also take him to Beijing and to Auckland.

During his visit he addressed around 350 members of the US armed forces stationed at Yokota near the Japanese capital, a fraction of the 47,000 who live and work in the country.

NATO was accused of killing eight women Sunday, capping a weekend which saw six soldiers shot dead by presumed Afghan colleagues and a Taliban assault cause unprecedented losses on one of the biggest military bases in the country.

The US-led International Security Assistance Force initially said an air strike targeted about 45 insurgents, but later extended its "deepest regrets and sympathies" over "civilians who died or were injured" in Laghman province.

Such incidents have strained ties between the United States and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. In June, ISAF ordered an end to air strikes on homes, except as a last resort.

Sunday's attack came shortly before dawn, in Alingar district in the province east of Kabul, as women set off to collect fire wood, said a local official.

"In this raid, eight women are killed and another eight women are wounded," provincial spokesman Sarhadi Zwak told AFP.

Tribesmen carried bodies to the provincial capital Mihtarlam, shouting "death to America, death to the Jews" outside the governor's office, an AFP reporter said.

Karzai condemned the killing of the women. Seven other women were wounded and a delegation had been ordered to travel to the remote area to investigate, his office said.

ISAF said that "a number of Afghan civilians were unintentionally killed or injured" in the strike done "solely with the intent of countering known insurgents".

In Zabul province, part of the south where the 10-year Taliban insurgency is traditionally strongest, four US soldiers were shot dead and two wounded after being scrambled to help police repel an insurgent attack, officials said.

Details of the incident were murky.

ISAF spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Hagen Messer said the shooting happened at around 1:00 am (2030 GMT Saturday) but that it was still unclear whether the attacker "was an individual wearing a police uniform or definitely a policeman".

"Three to four other policemen have disappeared. At the moment, we don't know where they have gone. We don't know if they fled fearing arrest or if they are linked to the Taliban," a provincial official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi denied that the militia planned the attack.

Sunday's deaths took to 51 the number of Western soldiers killed by Afghan colleagues in 36 incidents so far this year, in a growing trend that jeopardises NATO plans to train local forces to take over when they leave in 2014.

Two British soldiers were killed on Saturday in the southern province of Helmand by a man wearing the uniform of the Afghan Local Police (ALP).

US special forces have suspended training for about 1,000 recruits to the controversial ALP, which has been accused of corruption and violence towards civilians.

The killings came as NATO detailed unprecedented damage costing well into tens of millions of dollars in a sophisticated, well-coordinated attack on Camp Bastion, in Helmand, where Britain's Prince Harry is deployed.

Two US Marines were killed and several others wounded late Friday, when 15 attackers dressed as US soldiers, armed with guns, rockets and suicide vests stormed the airfield.

Six US AV-8B Harrier fighter jets were destroyed and two significantly damaged. Three coalition refuelling stations were also destroyed and six aircraft hangars damaged.

The militia claimed the assault was to avenge a US-made film deemed insulting to Islam that has sparked deadly riots across the Middle East and North Africa.

The British royal was never in danger, officials said. Although the Taliban have vowed to kill him, it told AFP the attack was to avenge the insult to the Prophet Mohammed.

"Prince Harry is there and if we'd caught him, we would have killed him but this attack was solidly in retaliation to the film," Ahmadi reiterated Sunday.

But the assault raises major questions about how insurgents managed to penetrate such a massive logistics hub in the desert, home to 28,000 soldiers.

Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, a Western security official said it underscored how well trained, precise and coordinated the insurgents had become.

"It's a clear success for them. They managed to destroy a lot of aircraft in one of the most secure bases of the country," the official said.

NATO is gradually withdrawing its 112,600 remaining troops. The Pentagon said last week that there are currently 77,000 US troops in Afghanistan.


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Two killed at US base where Prince Harry deployed
Kabul (AFP) Sept 15, 2012
Insurgents armed with guns and rockets stormed a heavily fortified air field in Afghanistan, killing two US Marines and damaging aircraft in a major security breach at the camp where Prince Harry is deployed. The Taliban, which is leading a 10-year insurgency against 117,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack to avenge a US-made film deemed insulting to Islam t ... read more

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