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Pakistan Key To Afghanistan; While Iran Looks On

British soldier killed in Afghanistan firefight
A British soldier was killed in a firefight in southern Afghanistan on Friday, the Ministry of Defence here said. The soldier, from 1st Battalion (The Rifles), died from injuries sustained during an exchange of fire north of Musa Qala town, in the troubled Helmand Province, a spokesman said. The soldier was on a joint British and Afghan National Army patrol at the time. "The pain and sense of loss at the death of this brave soldier will be deeply felt by his family, friends and all those who served with him," said Task Force Helmand spokeswoman Commander Paula Rowe. "Our thoughts and prayers are with them all at this difficult time." Britain has around 8,300 troops in Afghanistan, largely battling Taliban insurgents in Helmand. The death brings to 143 the total number of British service personnel killed in Afghanistan since 2001, when US-led forces ousted the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington. Of these, at least 113 were killed as a result of hostile action. The British soldier is the sixth to die in Afghanistan this year. His next of kin have been informed. Canadian soldier killed Afghanistan
A Canadian soldier was killed Saturday by an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan, bringing to 108 the number of Canadian military losses, the commander of the country's base in Kandahar said. Combat engineer Sean David Greenfield, 25, was killed when a roadside bomb exploded under his armored vehicle in Zhari district, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Kandahar, commander Denis Thompson told a press conference broadcast on Canadian television. None of the other soldiers in the vehicle was hurt in the incident, Thompson said. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement offering his condolences over Greenfield's death. "The Canadian mission in Afghanistan is a difficult one, but the Canadian forces are making a difference in the lives of the Afghan people by maintaining security and stability that will allow the country to rebuild and look to the future," Harper said. Eleven Canadian soldiers have been killed since December by such explosive devices, which are the leading cause of casualties for the 2,700 Canadian troops that have been deployed in and around Kandahar since their country's mission in Afghanistan began in 2002. A diplomat and two humanitarian workers have also been killed in Afghanistan.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Feb 1, 2009
Peace will only come to Afghanistan if Pakistan can sort out the militants on its side of the border, where US strikes are not helping, the head of Britain's armed forces told The Sunday Times newspaper.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup said only politics, long term, could bring peace on both sides of the frontier.

The chief of the defence staff said that weaknesses in Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government were causing difficulties for the 8,300 British troops battling Taliban insurgents in the troubled south of the country.

"The weakness of governance in Afghanistan worries me considerably," Stirrup told the weekly broadsheet.

"But governance is not just about what goes on in Kabul. We have to look at the wider picture.

"The Taliban movement -- and Taliban is now a catch-all phrase for ideologues, criminals, people with tribal grudges, people who are quite simply guns for hire to keep bread on the table -- is on both sides of the border.

"It makes no distinction between one side or the other. Some people move across. Some are based almost exclusively in Pakistan. Some are based exclusively in Afghanistan.

"It's impossible to distinguish between those two and actually, in my view, not necessary. The border is not relevant."

Stirrup sympathised with the difficulties faced by the Pakistani military, admitting that its success so far had been "limited".

"The Pakistan army has a series of very considerable problems," he said, adding it had realised that "the growing insurgency within its own borders is an existential problem for Pakistan."

General Ashfaq Kayani, the head of Pakistan's army, "is absolutely clear on the size of the challenge that he faces.

"The Pakistan army has become much more sophisticated and much more flexible and adaptable in terms of its approach.

"So we have to do all we can to support the military in that shift, but we have to recognise that they can't do it overnight.

"Just as in Afghanistan, that kind of insurgency cannot be defeated by conventional military means. It can only be dealt with, in the long term, through politics."

He said it was "very important" for the Islamabad government to start changing public sentiment that all would be well if western troops were not in Afghanistan.

"While they shouldn't be driven by public opinion, they can't operate in the face of it. The Predator strikes don't help in that regard," he said, referring to US air strikes on the Pakistani side of the border.

earlier related report
Iran watching US policies in Afghanistan: foreign minister
Iran is monitoring US foreign policy in countries such as Afghanistan to see if improved ties under President Barack Obama might be possible, its foreign minister told Japanese media.

Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran welcomed Obama's emphasis on dialogue but added that his government would need more detail on US intentions abroad before reviewing Tehran's relationship with Washington.

"Now we are studying what (are) the practical policies of the United States, towards Afghanistan, for example," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in an interview with Japan's public broadcaster NHK, aired on Saturday.

"What (are) they going to do? Is it a military-based approach?" asked Mottaki, who was in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.

Mottaki said Iran would negotiate on its nuclear programme under the correct circumstances, NHK reported, without showing the relevant footage.

The comments come after White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Thursday Obama preferred to use diplomacy in dealings with Iran and its controversial nuclear programme but kept "all his options" open.

Asked if the military option was still on the table, Gibbs said: "The president hasn't changed his viewpoint that he should preserve all his options."

In an interview on Monday with Al-Arabiya television, Obama said: "It is very important for us to make sure that we are using all the tools of US power, including diplomacy, in our relationship with Iran."

"As I said in my inauguration speech, if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us," the president said.

Senior diplomats from six world powers trying to convince Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions will gather next week in Germany for their first meeting since Obama took office on January 20, a German official said Friday.

Political directors from the UN Security Council permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany will meet Wednesday near the western city of Frankfurt, German foreign ministry spokesman Jens Ploetner told a news conference.

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Extra 3,000 US soldiers deploy near Kabul
Kabul (AFP) Jan 27, 2009
Nearly 3,000 extra US soldiers have taken up position in strategic provinces near Kabul as part of a major boost in troops to Afghanistan this year, military officials said Tuesday.

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