Nov 18, 2010

former Taliban

Marines and Afghan troops who fought through the centre of Marjah linked up Saturday with American soldiers on the northern edge of the former Taliban stronghold, clearing the town's last major pocket of resistance.
The joint force encountered almost no hostile fire, indicating that the militants have either fled or blended in with the local population - perhaps to stage attacks later if the Afghan government fails to hold the town. Some Taliban operatives are believed to remain west of Marjah

Establishing a credible local government is a key component of NATO's strategy for the two-week-old offensive on the Taliban's longtime logistical hub and heroin-smuggling centre. Earlier in the week, the government installed a new town administrator, and several hundred Afghan police have begun to patrol the newly cleared areas of the town in the southern province of Helmand.
After a gruelling four-day march, Marines and Afghan troops succeeded Saturday in linking up with a US Army Stryker battalion on Marjah's northern outskirts.
"Basically, you can say that Marjah has been cleared," said Capt. Joshua Winfrey, commander of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines Regiment.
As helicopters and unmanned drones circled overhead, NATO troops saw little resistance except from homemade explosives buried in the ground.
Kabul attacks
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called India's prime minister on Saturday to express regret over the deaths of at least six Indians in a Taliban suicide attack in Kabul, as New Delhi sent an air force jet to repatriate the bodies.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conveyed India's "outrage" over Friday's assault that killed at least 16 people in all, and requested Karzai "ensure full security for Indian nationals in Afghanistan", a statement from Singh's office said.
It said Karzai promised a full investigation into the attack, which targeted an area of residential hotels in the Afghan capital rented by Indian embassy workers and other foreigners. An Italian diplomat and a French filmmaker also died.
It follows attacks on India's embassy in Kabul in July 2008 and October 2009.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for Friday's attack. He did not specifically name India as the target, but the Islamist has long opposed India's involvement in the country and its ties to the Northern Alliance that helped the US oust the Taliban regime in 2001.
"This attack specifically targeted Indian cooperation experts and workers, those who are serving the Afghan people and earning goodwill for India," Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Jayant Prasad said. "It's clearly the handiwork of those who oppose our presence in Afghanistan." He said India sent an air force jet Saturday to repatriate the bodies of the dead Indians.
Prasad refused to point the finger specifically at archrival Pakistan or say whether it would damage Pakistan-India talks which resumed Thursday after a 15-month hiatus.
India accused a Pakistani spy agency of involvement in the July 2008 embassy attack, and Pakistani militants waged the November 2008 attacks in India's financial hub, Mumbai, that had prompted India to pull out of the peace dialogue.
"That's too much to speculate," Prasad said of the possibility that Friday's attack could derail talks. "It depends on where the precise provenance of the attack is.

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