February 26th, 2012
03:06 PM ET

Ending Quran violence is a waiting game

The intense violence following the burning of religious materials by NATO forces will be quelled as Karzai's latest appeal for calm will hopefully quell the violence, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan told CNN's Candy Crowley in an exclusive interview that aired Sunday on State of the Union.

"At a certain point it tapers off," Crocker said.

Crocker said the violence, and the Afghan government's seeming inability to stop it, cannot be seen as a reason for the U.S. to pull out of Afghanistan.  (Read also about concerns about Afghan military violence against NATO and U.S. troops) FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Al Qaeda • Kabul • Karzai • Military • Ryan Crocker • US Ambassador
Rising concern about killing of NATO troops by Afghan military
February 26th, 2012
09:13 AM ET

Rising concern about killing of NATO troops by Afghan military

By Adam Levine, with reporting from Nick Paton Walsh, Masoud Popalzai, Larry Shaughnessy, Moni Basu, Chris Lawrence and Tim Lister

The gunman who shot two U.S. military officers on Saturday in the highly secured Afghan Ministry of Interior was a junior intelligence officer with ties to a Pakistani religious school, an Afghan counter-terrorism official said.

It's just the latest incident of "green on blue" attacks which have been a rising problem for the U.S. and NATO. A recent Congressional hearing looked at the issue and found that while some were influenced by Taliban ideology, some of the motives were more personal.

It adds another layer of difficulty to tamping down the anger and mistrust that has arisen from the admission by NATO that troops burned some religious documents seized from prisoners. FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • ISAF • Kabul • Karzai • Military • Pakistan
February 21st, 2012
06:17 AM ET

Kabul protest and apology over Quran disposal

By Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, Masoud Popalzai in Kabul and Sarah Jones in Atlanta

Qurans and other Islamic religious materials gathered for disposal from a detention facility at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan were inadvertently given to troops for burning, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force said Tuesday.

"This was not a decision that was made because they were religious materials," Gen. John Allen said. "It was not a decision that was made with respect to the faith of Islam. It was a mistake. It was an error. The moment we found out about it, we immediately stopped and we intervened."

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the airfield Tuesday, furious over reports of the burning. FULL POST

February 14th, 2012
10:51 AM ET

EXCLUSIVE: Taliban won't talk peace with Afghans

By Nick Paton Walsh

The Taliban have met with U.S. officials to discuss possible peace talks, but do not want to negotiate with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government, a Taliban spokesman said Tuesday.

The spokesman's comments, rejecting a key American condition, could potentially derail American efforts for Afghans to reach a negotiated end to the decade-long war.

In an e-mail response to questions from CNN, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid denied previous reports that the Taliban had been invited to meet with the Karzai government in Saudi Arabia, saying that talks with what he called a "puppet" government were pointless.

Read more of Nick's reporting here

Filed under: Afghanistan • FIRST ON CNN/EXCLUSIVE • ISAF • Kabul • Karzai • Taliban • US Central Command
February 2nd, 2012
10:59 AM ET

Reality behind the changing Afghan mission

By Nic Robertson

While there are undoubtedly strong political (and financial) reasons for U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to set a firmer timetable for a change in mission of US forces in Afghanistan, they are probably not the whole story behind NATO’s evolving “end-game.”

French President Nicholas Sarkozy has already announced that his country's 3,600 troops deployed in Afghanistan will leave by the end of 2013 - a year early. That may have something to do with the fact that he is trailing badly in the polls ahead of presidential elections in April. But he is not alone. In Washington, London and Paris, Afghanistan is an unpopular war.

Panetta's suggestion that Afghan security forces can be capped now at just over 300,000 rather than the 350,000 target originally set is another indication of the prevailing mood. Money and popular support for the Afghan mission are in short supply. There's also an air of exasperation with Afghan President Hamid Karzai creeping in.

Sarkozy expressed it when he announced his sudden decision to get French troops out early – following the killing by an Afghan soldier of four French servicemen two weeks ago. The United States, too, has plenty of frustrations with Karzai, not least his recent attempts to stifle Washington's efforts to engage the Taliban in talks.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Analysis • Diplomacy • ISAF • Kabul • Karzai • Military • NATO • Panetta • Taliban
December 16th, 2011
02:05 PM ET

Karzai: War is not won yet

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai tells CNN's Fareed Zakaria that while there is general stability in Afghanistan, "we have not been able – the United States, NATO and Afghanistan government together – to provide the Afghan people with their individual personal security. That is yet to come."

Karzai made the comments during an exclusive interview that will air on GPS this Sunday at 10a.m. and 1p.m. EST. He was responding to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's recent assertion that "we're winning this very tough conflict in Afghanistan."

Panetta backtracked on that optimism a few days later saying, "we have not won, we have not completed this mission, but I do believe we are in the process of making significant progress here, we have seen reduced violence, we have seen our ability to weaken the Taliban significantly to the point that they have not conducted a successful attack to regain territory."

Karzai also talks with Fareed Zakaria about why he can no longer talk to the Taliban and tells GPS how he intervened in the case of a woman who was imprisoned after she was raped by a close relative.

See a preview on the GPS blog

Filed under: 10 years of war • Afghanistan • ISAF • Kabul • Karzai
December 15th, 2011
01:53 PM ET

Crashed drone was looking at Iran nuclear sites

By Tim Lister, with reporting by Kathleen Johnston and Pam Benson

The Sentinel drone that crashed in Iran last week was on a surveillance mission of suspected nuclear sites in the country, U.S. military officials tell CNN.

Previously, U.S. and NATO officials had said the drone was on a mission to patrol the Afghan-Iran border and had veered off course.

The officials say the Afghan government was unaware of the use of its territory to fly surveillance drones over Iran, and that the CIA had not informed the Defense Department of the drone's mission when reports first emerged that it had crashed.  One official told CNN that the U.S. military "did not have a good understanding of what was going on because it was a CIA mission."

In Kabul Wednesday U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta refused to comment directly on the specifics of the drone's mission but did not deny that it had been spying on Iran and said the drone program carried out "important intelligence operations which we will continue to pursue."

The RQ-170 Sentinel is one of the United States' most sophisticated drones and flies at up to 50,000 feet.  It is designed to evade sophisticated air defenses.  One former intelligence official told CNN that it's "impossible to see" and discounted Iranian claims that it had been brought down by some form of electronic counter-measures.

"It simply fell into their laps," he said - after satellite communication was lost. FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Central Intelligence Agency • drones • Intelligence • Iran • Kabul • Nuclear
Karzai: Leave us out of your Iran mess
December 14th, 2011
12:33 PM ET

Karzai: Leave us out of your Iran mess

By Adam Levine

When it comes to the fight between the United States and Iran over the downed U.S. drone, keep Afghanistan out of it.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Wednesday that his country, which shares a border and, as he put it, "deep cultural, linguistic and religious links" with Iran, does not want to be put in the middle of the dispute.  The unmanned stealth aircraft that crashed in Iran recently flew from a base in Afghanistan. The drone was on a CIA mission when operators lost control of it.

Karzai, speaking along with U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at a news conference after the two met in Kabul, claimed ignorance about the mission.

"Afghanistan was not aware that the drone had gone or malfunctioned in Iran," Karzai said, responding to a question from a reporter.

He said the Iranians sent a note about the incident to the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is following up with the U.S. government. But, Karzai said politely, keep us out of it.

"So Afghanistan would not want to be involved in any - how should I put it, not antagonism, adversarial relations between Iran and the United States. Afghanistan wishes that they be friends and Afghanistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity and soil is not used one against the other," Karzai said.

Panetta, while refusing to discuss the drone mission, suggested that missions into Iran were necessary and will continue.

"Part and parcel of the effort to not only protect Afghanistan but protect the United States is to obtain important intelligence that allows us to protect our people and protect ours," Panetta said.

On Tuesday, in an interview with Fox News, Panetta said Karzai had not complained that the revelation of the spy mission put Afghanistan in an awkward position

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Central Intelligence Agency • CIA • Diplomacy • drones • Intelligence • Iran • Kabul • Karzai
Pakistan showing signs of returning to cooperation
Gen. John Allen talks with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker in Kabul on Tuesday.
December 13th, 2011
06:15 PM ET

Pakistan showing signs of returning to cooperation

By Adam Levine

There are signs of a thaw in a Pakistani freeze on cooperating with the United States and NATO after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed at a border post last month, the most senior American commander in Afghanistan said Tuesday.

Pakistan intends to send its liaison officers back to coordination centers it had staffed along with the Afghans and NATO forces, Gen. John Allen told reporters in Kabul. Allen said he spoke to his counterpart in Pakistan, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Monday.

"I do have a sense of progress," Allen said. He would not go into details of the conversation, but did say, "The outcome was that we stayed at our mutual commitment to address any shortfalls that might have caused this event, but also to ensure that we work closely together, because the border is always going to be there."

In the aftermath of the border attack, Pakistan recalled staff from coordination centers on the border and in Kabul and closed down key shipping routes for NATO supplies in Afghanistan. FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Diplomacy • Gen. Allen • ISAF • Kabul • Military • Pakistan
November 28th, 2011
06:31 AM ET

Pakistan-Afghnanistan-U.S. tension continues

Pakistan's prime minister warned there would be "no more business as usual" with Washington after NATO aircraft killed two dozen Pakistan troops.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Reza Sayah Monday that Pakistan was re-evaluating its relationship with the United States.

He said the South Asian nation wanted to maintain its relationship with the United States as long as there was mutual respect and respect for Pakistani sovereignty.

But Gilani highlighted incidents such as the killing of the Pakistani troops and a U.S. raid into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden as violations of his country's sovereignty.

The prime minister also said Pakistan had not yet decided whether to boycott next month's Bonn conference on the future of Afghanistan.

Afghanistan and Pakistan may be on a course toward military conflict, a top advisor to Afghan President Hamid Karzai told CNN on Monday. Ashraf Ghani told CNN's Nick Paton Walsh in an excluusive interview that the link between Pakistan and the assassination of a former Afghan president had united his country "against interference."

The explosive comments come as tensions in the region are heightened after a weekend NATO strike accidentally killed Pakistani border troops.

Read Reza and Nick's reporting HERE.

Filed under: Afghanistan • Foreign Policy • Gen. Allen • ISAF • Kabul • Karzai • Military • NATO • Pakistan
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