A soldier walks down a slippery trail near the village of Mongow Khel, in the Logar privince of Afghanistan. The soldier, a member of the 118th Military Police Company out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was on patrol with officers of the Afghan national police to speak with village elders in an effort to build a good relationship with the local population.
U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who leads U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said on Thursday that though the situation in that nation is still “serious,” he no longer thinks that it is “deteriorating.”
“I think I said that last summer, and I believed that that was correct,” he said while speaking to the press in Istanbul. “I feel differently now. I am not prepared to say that we’ve turned the corner so I’m saying that the situation is serious.”
“But I think we have made significant progress in setting the conditions in 2009 … and that we’ll make some real progress in 2010."
LONDON, England - British troops have launched air and ground operations in preparation for a "major offensive" in southern Afghanistan, the Defence Ministry said Thursday.
Royal Welsh Guards, Grenadier Guards and Scots Guards were involved in the operations to the south of Nad Ali district in Afghanistan's Helmand province, the ministry said.
The operation is being conducted with Afghan security forces and is part of the preparation for a NATO-led offensive called "Operation Moshtarak."
The U.S. Marines have been cranking up plans for a major operation against the insurgency in Taliban-controlled Marjah, a town with 80,000 to 100,000 people, also in the Nad Ali district. That push is focused on a swath of territory considered the last major stronghold of the Taliban in Helmand province.
The insurgency there has influence stretching to Pakistan and the bordering provinces of Nimruz and Farah.
- CNN's Matiullah Mati contributed to this report
At least two people died and at least 12 others were wounded Thursday when a suicide car bomber launched an assault in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.
Kandahar Police Chief Serdar Mohammed Zadai said the attack took place around 7:30 p.m. on one of Kandahar's main roads. The bomber apparently intended to target a local police headquarters or NATO-led forces but failed to detonate the explosive at the right time, Zadai said.
The explosive went off in front of a "local guest house" and all of the casualties were civilians, he said.
Kandahar province, in southern Afghanistan, is one of the Afghan war's main battlegrounds, and is a militant stronghold.
In December, at least eight people died when an explosive on a horse cart detonated, and a Canadian and Afghan soldier were killed during a foot patrol. In August, more than 40 people died when a tanker truck full of explosives went off in front of a Japanese construction company in Kandahar.
Thirty-two Taliban insurgents and three Afghan soldiers were killed in fighting between security forces and militants in southern Afghanistan, a local government official told CNN Thursday.
The violence took place on Wednesday in the Khushal Khan village of Nad Ali district in Helmand province, said the provincial governor's spokesman, Dawood Ahmadi.
The district is where the U.S. Marines are cranking up plans for a major operation against the insurgency, a push targeting a swath of territory considered the last major stronghold of the Taliban in Helmand province.
The Wednesday flareup in Khushal Khan occurred during an Afghan-NATO-led joint operation. Along with the deaths, three Afghan soldiers and a soldier from NATO's International Security Assistance Force were injured. FULL POST
Islamabad, Pakistan - Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud is alive and remains in hiding, a spokesman for the group told CNN Thursday. "Hakimullah Mehsud is alive and he is our chief," said spokesman Azim Tariq. "All the reports regarding his death are propaganda."
Tariq said Mehsud remains in hiding because he is being targeted by U.S. drone attacks but "is still in command of the mujahedeen." Authorities have been looking into reports that Mehsud died after being wounded last month in a drone attack.
One news report, citing local sources and a correspondent, said he died and was buried. But Pakistani and U.S. officials said they have not been able to confirm Mehsud's status. Tariq provided no proof to CNN that Mehsud is alive.
The U.S. military routinely offers no comment on reported attacks by the pilotless aircraft, but it's the only country operating in the region known to have the ability to launch missiles from the remote-controlled aircraft.