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THE STANS
US airstrike kills several civilians in Afghanistan; Trump says new strategy 'very close'
by Staff Writers
Jalalabad, Afghanistan (AFP) Aug 11, 2017


Trump says decision on Afghanistan strategy 'very close'
Washington (AFP) Aug 10, 2017 - President Donald Trump said Thursday he was "very close" to revealing his keenly awaited decision on the number of US troops he plans to keep in Afghanistan.

The White House has launched a review of the US plan for Afghanistan after 16 years of war, and reports suggest that Trump's national security team is divided on whether to send more troops or to pull out.

"We're getting close. We're getting very close. It's a very big decision for me. I took over a mess, and we're going to make it a lot less messy," Trump said from his golf club retreat in New Jersey.

Trump's generals have called the Afghan conflict a "stalemate" and even after years of intensive help from the US and other NATO nations, Afghanistan's security forces are still struggling to hold back an emboldened Taliban.

In an early move to address the situation, Trump gave his Pentagon chief, former general Jim Mattis, broad powers to set troop numbers. But several months later the level remains stuck at about 8,400 US and about 5,000 NATO troops.

Mattis wants to wait until the White House has come up with a coherent strategy for not just Afghanistan but the broader region, notably Pakistan and how it deals with terror groups, before he commits to adjustments.

But reports have suggested that other Trump advisers, including his influential strategy chief Steve Bannon, favor cutting American losses by pulling out or sending private military contractors to replace troops.

Military Times last week cited an Afghan government official as saying that Eric Prince, who was the former head of a controversial private military firm once known as Blackwater, had even offered to supply a private air force.

Meanwhile the situation in Afghanistan is as deadly as ever, with more than 2,500 Afghan police and troops killed in from January 1 to May 8.

US forces -- who are supposed to be in a non-combat role -- are still dying too, with nine killed in action so far this year, including two in Kandahar on last week. The tally for 2017 is now the same as for all of 2016.

Several civilians have been killed in an US airstrike in eastern Afghanistan, local officials said Friday, the latest setback in efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country.

Saaz Wali Shinwari, the district governor of Haska Mina in Nangarhar province, said the raid was carried out by US troops although there was no official confirmation from NATO.

"On Thursday afternoon, the American forces bombarded a civilian private vehicle... when they were travelling inside the district," he told AFP.

"Unfortunately, in the airstrike we have casualties. Eleven people were killed and one wounded. All the victims, which included women and children, were civilians and they were from one family.

"The victims were beyond recognition, and they were placed inside the sacks and were buried late last night," he added.

Of the roughly 13,000 foreign forces in Afghanistan only the United States carries out airstrikes.

They have been regularly targeting Islamic State insurgents who control several districts in restive Nangarhar.

Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for Afghanistan's defence ministry, said the strike was carried out by foreign forces in coordination with Afghan officials.

"In the strike, five insurgents were killed and two others were wounded.

"We do not have any news about civilian casualties. But, we have appointed a delegation to investigate if civilians are killed," he told AFP.

NATO said they were unable to provide any information when contacted by AFP.

Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor, said an unknown number of civilians had died but was unable to say who carried out the strike.

"I can confirm an airstrike in Haska Mina district of Nangarhar province and it led to civilian casualties. For the time being, we do not have a precise figure about the casualties," he told AFP.

Last month a US airstrike killed 16 policemen in Helmand province. It came after a US airstrike in Sangin killed at least 18 civilians, mostly women and children, in February.

Civilian deaths are at an all-time high in Afghanistan. In the first half of the year, 1,662 civilians were killed and more than 3,500 injured, according to the United Nations.

THE STANS
Afghanistan contractors accused of misusing money on luxury cars, salaries
Washington (UPI) Aug 9, 2017
A contractor responsible for training intelligence officers in Afghanistan has been accused of spending money on luxury cars and six figure salaries for employees' significant others, according to a government audit. The findings came out of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction quarterly report on the Legacy East intelligence program and have drawn the attention ... read more

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