December 31st, 2009
02:25 PM ET

Around the Web: CIA suffers loss of 7 employees

A suicide bombing in Afghanistan Wednesday killed seven CIA employees and wounded six others. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing.

"Those who fell yesterday were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that must be done to protect our country from terrorism," CIA Director Leon Panetta said Thursday in a written statement.

"We owe them our deepest gratitude, and we pledge to them and their families that we will never cease fighting for the cause to which they dedicated their lives - a safer America."

The statement added that “neither the names of those killed nor the details of their work” would be released because of the sensitivity of their mission.

A Wall Street Journal report called it “the largest single-day loss for the spy agency since the Beirut embassy bombing in 1983.”

Time magazine’s Bobby Ghosh writes that the casualties “will cast a pall over the agency.”


December 31st, 2009
12:41 PM ET

Canadian reaction to deaths of four troops, journalist

Update: 1:17p.m.: The names of the four Canadian soldiers killed Wednesday have been released.
– Sgt. George Miok, a member of 41 Combat Engineer Regiment, based in Edmonton, Alberta
– Sgt. Kirk Taylor, a member of 84 Independent Field Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery, based in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia
– Cpl. Zachery McCormack,  a member of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, 4th Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton, Alberta
– Pvt. Garrett William Chidley, a member of the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, based in Shilo, Manitoba

The Canadian press Thursday is focused on the violence yesterday in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Four Canadian soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb struck their armored vehicle in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar. The soldiers' names have not been released.

 Michelle Lang, a journalist for Canwest and the Calgary Herald, was also killed.

“The attack took place near Dand district, which is home to the village of Deh-e-Bagh, held up as a ‘model’ of Canada's counterinsurgency strategy at work: Constant patrols and development projects were supposed to have won the trust of Afghans in the region, and driven down the insurgency,” reported Sonia Verma of the Globe and Mail.

“Villagers interviewed by The Globe, however, said the Taliban had been gaining strength in recent months, posting ‘night letters’ - written warnings and edicts - on homes and mosques in the area.”

Brig.-Gen. Daniel Ménard “declared that Dand remained a ‘safe area’ and expressed confidence that this was an isolated incident,” the CBC reported


December 31st, 2009
11:28 AM ET

Journalists kidnapped, official says

KABUL, Afghanistan  –Two French journalists and an Afghan translator have been kidnapped by "enemies of the government" in Afghanistan, a military official said Thursday. Brig. Gen. Izmerai Paykan of the Afghan National Army told CNN that the three were kidnapped on their way from Soorobi district in Kabul province to Tagab district in Kapisa province.

France 3, a CNN affiliate, said that two of its journalists have been missing in Afghanistan since Wednesday.  The journalists' families have been notified, and the French Foreign Ministry is assisting in the matter, it said. France 3 is a part of France Televisions group. 

However, a statement from the French Foreign Ministry indicated there was more than one Afghan with the journalists. A reason for the discrepancy was not immediately available.  FULL POST

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Filed under: Daily Developments
December 31st, 2009
11:10 AM ET

Canadian journalist killed in Afghanistan, remembered on blog

(CNN) - A day before her death, journalist Michelle Lang posted a blog entry about a woman from Canada who, like herself, had voluntarily signed up to work alongside the soldiers in Afghanistan.

Lang, 34, died Wednesday along with four Canadian soldiers when a roadside bomb struck their armored vehicle in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar. The soldiers' names were released Thursday: Sgt. George Miok, Sgt. Kirk Taylor, Cpl. Zachery McCormack and Pvt. Garrett William Chidley. Read more on the Canadian reaction

Watch's interview with Calgary Herald reporter Colette Derworiz as she remembers her friend and colleague

Lang's "combat barber" blog post for The Calgary Herald elicited dozens of entries expressing shock and sadness over her sudden death.


December 30th, 2009
03:21 PM ET

Taliban claims responsibility for bombing

Update 12/31/2009: The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing Wednesday that killed eight Americans believed to be CIA employees.  In a message posted on its Web site, the Taliban said an Afghan National Army soldier detonated his explosives-packed vest, killing 20 people and injuring 25 others. A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force's (ISAF) Joint Command would not comment on the claim that a soldier was involved, saying the force was still gathering information. More details

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) - Eight Americans were killed in a suicide bombing Wednesday at a military base in eastern Afghanistan, according to a U.S. military official and a U.S. Embassy official.

A suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest attacked Forward Operating Base Chapman near the district of Khost in Khost province, said a third official, who asked not to be named. The military official said the eight people were not from the military.

There were conflicting reports as to whether the bomber walked into the dining facility or the gym at the base.

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Filed under: CIA bombing deaths • Daily Developments
December 30th, 2009
03:19 PM ET

Around the Web: Focus on Waziristan

The Economist has a feature on Waziristan, an area between Pakistan and Afghanistan that the magazine calls the “headquarters of Islamist terror.”

 “Waziristan, home to 800,000 tribal Pushtuns, is a complicated place. It is the hinge that joins Pakistan and Afghanistan, geographically and strategically,” the Economist writes.

"Split into two administrative units, North and South Waziristan, it is largely run by the Taliban, with foreign jihadists among them. If Islamist terror has a headquarters, it is probably Waziristan.” FULL POST

December 30th, 2009
11:43 AM ET

Inside a journey from Kabul to Kandahar

A CNN cameraman details some of his experiences since arriving in Afghanistan in December. Read Part 1 on arriving in Kabul, Part 2 on decorating a Christmas tree in Afghanistan and Part 3 for a behind-the-scenes look at a presidential press conference.

An early wake-up call. At 5am it is still dark outside. First priority: a morning coffee. I boil a whole kettle of water, enough to fill my thermos.

Today, we are traveling to Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. (See more photos of Kandahar) Before departure I check e-mail, my Facebook page and watch the news. No breakfast. I'm still stuffed from yesterday's Christmas dinner. We had turkey, baked potatoes, various veggies. All topped with gravy. Mashed potatoes were on the menu, but at the last minute they ended up on the kitchen floor. An accidental drop while taking a hot plate out of the oven. A bit of a disappointment but the rest is more than enough to feed us and a few guests.

We depart early. At this time of the day the traffic is light. The air is crisp. A smog hangs over the streets. Before the sun comes out, it's cold. We arrive at the airport and load our bags onto a trolley manned by a grubby-looking porter. Our driver negotiates the fee. FULL POST

December 30th, 2009
10:50 AM ET

In year-end message, Taliban calls 2009 'successful'

KABUL, Afghanistan - In a written statement, the Taliban calls 2009 "a successful year for mujahedeen" and says it is determined to drive coalition forces out of Afghanistan in 2010.

"Last year the guerrilla warfare, frontline war, attacks and road mines against the invaders increased as the enemy began to cry out for reconciliation," said the statement, obtained by CNN on Wednesday.

"The enemy does not have a constant policy," the unsigned statement said. "Sometimes they talk about sending more soldiers and other times they speak of an early withdrawal. Their thinking is irrational."

This is the latest example that the Taliban has stepped up its propaganda efforts in recent months. The group launched a Web site in Pashto, Dari and English. It also released a 37-minute documentary in English on Christmas,  purportedly showing a captured American soldier in Afghanistan. FULL POST

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December 30th, 2009
10:20 AM ET

Afghan panel: U.S. attack killed civilians

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) - An Afghan presidential team looking into claims of civilian deaths in a weekend U.S.-led operation said Wednesday that it has confirmed 10 deaths - all of them civilians and eight of them schoolchildren.

The result of the investigation contradicts a statement by a U.S. military official that nine people were killed in the raid in eastern Afghanistan and that they were all members of an insurgent network.

The attack took place in the Narang district of Kunar province. Asadullah Wafa, a senior adviser to President Hamid Karzai, said he talked to village elders, family members of the victims and the principal of a school in Narang. Among the victims were eight middle school and high school students, he said. FULL POST

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Filed under: Daily Developments
December 30th, 2009
09:58 AM ET

'Several' insurgents, 2 Afghan forces killed in fighting

KABUL, Afghanistan  - Afghan and international forces killed "several insurgents" in a northeastern province after militants attacked Afghan soldiers and police, the NATO-led command said Wednesday. The incident occurred on Wednesday in the Baghlan Jadid district of Baghlan province. The insurgent ambush left left two Afghan service members dead and others wounded, but there were no civilians or international force casualties. 

U.S., British and other international troops have teamed up with Afghan security forces throughout the country to fight Taliban militants, especially in the south and the east. But violence hasn't been as widespread in Baghlan and the country's other northern provinces. 

Also on Tuesday, a U.S. service member died in western Afghanistan after a shooting, military authorities said. The service member is under NATO's International Security Assistance Force command.

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