By Mike Mount
Reducing the number of Afghan security forces could lead to an increase in Taliban violence inside that country as U.S. forces prepare to leave by the end of 2014, Army Gen. Lloyd Austin said Thursday.
Austin was testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing to confirm him as the next top U.S. commander to oversee military operations in the Middle East. Austin said keeping a larger Afghan force would allow the Afghan government to mature under a bigger security umbrella.
Currently, the U.S.-led NATO operation has plans to reduce the number of Afghan forces from about 352,000 to around 230,000 after U.S. troops leave in 2014.
Afghan security forces were beefed up to improve security in tandem with the surge of U.S. troops in 2009. The larger number of Afghan troops would be too expensive to maintain and would eventually have to be reduced as security improved around the country, according to the NATO plan.
By Max Foster and Peter Wilkinson
Britain's Prince Harry has acknowledged that he killed Taliban insurgents on his latest tour of duty in Afghanistan as a crew member of an Apache attack helicopter.
Harry has been serving for four months as a co-pilot gunner (CPG) in southern Helmand province - considered a Taliban heartland - and flew on scores of missions with the trigger to rockets, missiles and a 30mm cannon at his fingertips.FULL STORY
By Shaan Khan
Two suspected U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan's volatile tribal region left 15 people dead on Thursday, Pakistani intelligence officials said.
Among the 11 killed in one strike in the province of South Waziristan was a Taliban commander named Mullah Nazir, also known as Maulvi Nazir Wazir, the officials said.
The drone fired two missiles in the Sarkanda area of Birmil, killing Nazir, the officials said.FULL STORY
By Masoud Popalzai
A car bomber hit outside a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing three people and leaving civilians injured, authorities said.
The blast killed a security guard and two truck drivers delivering supplies, according to Abdul Qayoom Baqizoy, the provincial police chief.
Six civilians suffered injuries, he said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred after a minibus stopped at the gate for a security check.FULL STORY
By Pam Benson
The CIA joined on Friday the chorus of those challenging the accuracy of a new movie on the Osama bin Laden raid that suggests that harsh interrogation techniques used on suspected terrorists helped the agency find the man considered behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
In an unusual move, the acting director of the CIA , Michael Morell, issued a statement to employees on Friday that emphasized that "Zero Dark Thirty" is not a historically accurate film.
Of particular concern are the harrowing scenes at the beginning of the movie that depict a suspected terrorist being interrogated at a secret CIA prison overseas with waterboarding and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques. The suggestion in the movie is that those coercive techniques aided in identifying the courier who eventually led to the compound in Pakistan where bin Laden was living.
By Ben Brumfield
Four men from the greater Los Angeles area were allegedly on their way to train with the Taliban in Afghanistan and were plotting to kill American soldiers and bomb government installations, according to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles.
They were charged Monday in a federal court in California, where three of them appeared for the first time. The fourth man was already in Afghanistan, where he was also apprehended, said U.S. attorney André Birotte Jr. and assistant director Bill Lewis from the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office in a joint statement.
Sohiel Omar Kabir, Ralph Deleon, Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales and Arifeen David Gojali face charges of supporting terrorists who conspired to kill, kidnap or harm U.S. officers and other U.S. citizens, as well as bomb public places and government facilities.
The Joint Terrorism Task Force in Riverside, California, arrested Deleon, 23, Santana, 21, and Gojali, 21 on Friday. Kabir, 34, spent over six months in Germany before arriving in Afghanistan in July, and is in custody there, according to the statement.
By Jamie Crawford
The U.S. government sanctioned a senior Taliban official on Thursday for his alleged role in the narcotics trade in Afghanistan and across the region, saying illicit drugs are used to finance violence.
Mullah Naim Barich, who operates as the "shadow governor" of the Taliban movement in Helmand Province, was singled out by the Treasury Department for his alleged role in the production and trafficking of heroin and opium.
The action freezes any of Barich's assets held under U.S. jurisdiction and bars anyone in the United States from conducting any financial or commercial transactions with him.
"Today's action exposes the direct involvement of senior Taliban leadership in the production, manufacturing, and trafficking of narcotics in Afghanistan and underlines the Taliban's reliance on the drug trade to finance their acts of terror and violence," David Cohen, Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.
By Jamie Crawford
The United States imposed sanctions on three men who allegedly facilitated Taliban operations and helped another group deemed a terrorist organization, the Treasury Department said on Wednesday.
One of the men was linked to the failed car bomb attack on New York's Times Square in 2010, Treasury said.
The three, all based in Pakistan, were each were targeted for allegedly providing material, logistical, or financial support to a separate group: the Taliban in Afghanistan, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
"Today's actions are intended to disrupt the activities of three individuals working to carry out violent attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan that threaten the lives of civilians and military forces," Davis Cohen, Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.
By Masoud Popalzai
A suicide attack in eastern Afghanistan Monday killed 12 people, including three NATO service members and four Afghan police, and wounded around 50 others, a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry said.
The bomber targeted a joint patrol of ISAF forces and Afghan police, using an explosives-packed motorcycle, according to Sediq Seddiqi, a spokesman for the ministry.FULL STORY
By Wesley Bruer
The killing and capture of Taliban leaders and facilitators indicates Afghan and coalition troops are aggressively targeting those insurgents involved in "green on blue" attacks, which have accounted for more than 50 coalition deaths this year.
In addition to taking extreme measures to ensure safety while effectively training their Afghan counterparts, coalition forces have made it a priority to share and utilize intelligence to kill or capture anyone responsible for the insider attacks.
On Monday, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed the death of a Taliban member believed to be behind a May 11 insider attack. The casualty report stated that "an individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform has turned his weapon against coalition service members," which left one service member dead.
The insurgent, identified as "Mahmood," was killed in a precision airstrike in Kunar Province on September 15 in what the assistance force said was "the result of Afghan and coalition efforts to track down and find insurgents involved with insider attacks."