Reconciliation talks in Afghanistan between the government and Taliban insurgents are less formal than full-fledged peace negotiations, U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke said in an interview broadcast Sunday.
In comments to CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" program, Holbrooke said the contacts so far involve "an increasing number of Taliban at high levels" who have approached President Hamid Karzai's government to talk about possible reconciliation. FULL POST
The Obama administration announced a $2 billion,
multiyear security assistance package Friday to help Pakistan fight extremists
taking refuge in safe havens along its border with Afghanistan.
The five-year package would pay for military hardware and equipment
Pakistan needs for the counterinsurgency fight, Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton said. It is subject to congressional approval, and complements the $7.5
billion in civilian projects approved by Congress last year.
Bombings rippled through northwestern Pakistan Friday, killing six soldiers in the tribal region and three people outside a mosque in Peshawar, authorities said.
Military officials said an explosive detonated near a military convoy close to a village in Orakzai - one of seven districts in Pakistan's tribal region along the Afghan border.
A government official in eastern Afghanistan was killed in an IED attack Friday, officials said.
NATO's International Security Assistance said the district governor of Dur Baba in Nangarhar province was among the three people killed when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.
The official is Khorshad Khan Khogianiwal.
Some U.S.-funded development organizations,
fearing a worst-case scenario as a result of the Afghan government's ban on private security guards, are beginning to implement contingency plans that could result in those organizations' pulling out of the country, U.S. officials
The Afghan government decree set a December 17 deadline for unregistered companies to shut down.
Faced with increasing casualties from roadside bombs in Afghanistan, the U.S. military will experiment with remote-controlled, unmanned helicopters to deliver supplies to remote outposts, according to a report Thursday.
The U.S. Navy is seeking a contractor to operate the program, scheduled for 2011, the report in Stars and Stripes said.
“This is a rapid deployment effort being led by the Navy in response to an urgent needs requirement for a Cargo UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) capability in support of Marine Corps forces engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom,” Eric Pratson, leader of the Navy team behind the project, told Stripes.
As the Obama administration begins three days of talks with Pakistani leaders, the two sides will seek to ease tensions over the muscular new U.S. strategy in the region.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the Pakistani army, are leading the their nation's delegation for meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cameron Munter, the next U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, also will join the talks.
On the morning of September 26, Linda Norgrove was in an unmarked Toyota Corolla traveling from Asadabad to Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, a spectacular route with towering mountains to the right and a broad river to the left. Spectacular but also very dangerous - ambush country in a part of Afghanistan where many different groups, including criminal gangs, the Taliban and al Qaeda - have a presence.
Norgrove, who was British, worked for Development Alternatives Inc. (DAI), a U.S. company that handles a number of substantial contracts for the USAID in Afghanistan. An experienced development worker who understood the risks of being in this volatile part of Afghanistan, she was wearing a burqa to better blend in and was traveling in a two-car convoy with local staff. But gunmen abducted her that day, on the very same stretch of road where two months earlier a U.S. military convoy had been ambushed.
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Even as NATO military officials try to minimize public attention on their role in assisting the Afghan government's meetings with Taliban and insurgent leaders, there are growing indications the program is now part of official NATO and U.S. policy.
There is extreme reluctance to spell out exactly how troops are helping.
A top International Security Assistance Force military officer told CNN
Wednesday "this issue has gotten too much over-emphasis of our role."
The goal now is to draw a picture showing an Afghan government-led peace
process as the only hope for the Taliban and insurgent fighters looking for a
way to escape further bloodshed at the hands of the coalition.