Sunday, January 25, 2009

OEF Summary, Jan. 25, 2009: Troops in Afghanistan Kill 15 Taliban Fighters

Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front:

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 25, 2009 -- Coalition forces in Afghanistan killed 15 Taliban militants and detained one suspect during an operation in Laghman province Jan. 23, military officials reported.

The operation targeted a wanted Taliban commander and took place in the province’s Mehtar Lam district, northeast of Kabul. As coalition forces approached the militant leader’s compound, several armed insurgents emerged, and a firefight ensued. Nine militants were killed by coalition troops’ fire during the gun battle and four other Taliban fighters were dispatched by coalition air-to-ground support.

Shortly afterward, the coalition force again was engaged by armed militants firing from inside some buildings. Coalition forces killed two more militants in the firefight. A search of the area yielded AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, RPG rounds, a hand grenade, ammunition and other military equipment.

In balance, mainstream media outlets reported that President Hamid Karzai condemned a U.S. operation he said killed 16 Afghan civilians, while hundreds of villagers denounced the American military during an angry demonstration Sunday.

Karzai said the killing of innocent Afghans during U.S. military operations "is strengthening the terrorists."

Karzai also announced that his Ministry of Defense sent Washington a draft technical agreement that seeks to give Afghanistan more oversight over U.S. military operations. The same letter has also been sent to NATO headquarters.

In recent weeks Karzai has increasingly lashed out at his Western backers over the issue of civilian casualties, even as U.S. politicians and a top NATO official have publicly criticized Karzai for the slow pace of progress here.

The back-and-forth comes as the new administration of President Barack Obama must decide whether to support Karzai as he seeks re-election later this year as part of the United States' overall Afghan strategy.

Karzai's latest criticism follows a Saturday raid in Laghman province that the U.S. says killed 15 armed militants, including a woman with an RPG, but that Afghan officials say killed civilians.

(From a U.S. Forces Afghanistan news release and a commercial media report.)

Related source: Afghan president: US forces killed 16 civilians

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