Security will be a key challenge to Afghanistan's parliamentary
elections next month, warns the top United Nations envoy in the country.
"We all know that security challenges will be a significant obstacle and we must ensure that poor security in parts of the country is not used to manipulate the votes of the people," said a statement from Staffan de Mistura, the secretary general's special representative for Afghanistan.
The founder of WikiLeaks says the whistle-blower website is preparing to release another roughly 15,000 documents about the war in Afghanistan.
"We are about halfway through them," Julian Assange told reporters in London, England, on Thursday. "This is a very expensive process."
The Netherlands became the first NATO ally to pull combat troops out of Afghanistan on Sunday as it handed over its mission in southern Afghanistan's Uruzgan province to U.S. and Australian forces.
At the peak of their commitment, the Dutch had nearly 2,000 troops in Afghanistan. Some staff units remain in Afghanistan, according to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, but the Dutch government said the last of its troops will return by December.
Fight the Taliban "relentlessly." Don't tolerate corruption. Drink "lots of tea" with the locals.
Those admonitions are among the two dozen guidelines for counterinsurgency warfare that Gen. David Petraeus issued to U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan on Sunday. In his first major public pronouncement since taking command in early July, Petraeus urged American troops and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to learn and adapt to the culture of Afghanistan while battling the Taliban insurgents and their allies.
"The decisive terrain is the human terrain," Petraeus wrote. "The people are the center of gravity. Only by providing them security and earning their trust and confidence can the Afghan government and ISAF prevail."
Truckers moving vital supplies along the roads of war-torn Afghanistan have faced shakedowns by both the Taliban and Afghan authorities, with Taliban fighters charging up to $500 for safe passage, leaked U.S. military reports show.
A trucking company working in Afghanistan told American forces "that they were approached by Taliban personnel to talk about payment for the safe passage of convoys through their area," one 2007 report states. "The current price for passage is $500 US per truck from Kandahar to Herat, $50 US per truck from Kabul to Ghazni, $100 US per truck from Ghazni to Orgun-E, and $200-300 US per truck from Orgun-E to Wazi Kwah."
The recently released cache of U.S. reports from Afghanistan provides fleeting glimpses into the possible whereabouts of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the years since his escape from American forces at Tora Bora.
Documents released by the whistle-blower website Wikileaks and published in the British newspaper The Guardian quoted intelligence sources as saying bin Laden wanted al Qaeda operatives disguised as journalists to attack Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a news conference in 2004. In 2005, his financial adviser and an Afghan insurgent leader reportedly were dispatched to obtain rockets from North Korea to use against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
A suicide bombing on May 18 in Kabul, Afghanistan, killed at least 18 people.
The blast killed at least a dozen civilians, five U.S. troops and a Canadian service member, officials said. It occurred on a busy road near a NATO-led military convoy and a registration center for the Afghan Army.
Here are profiles of the five U.S. service members killed in the attack.