As the U.S. military pursues charges against the Army sergeant accused of killing Afghan civilians in what commanders say was a freelance rampage, there continues to be a discrepancy between the official count of those killed and the murder count Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is charged with.
The word of 17 murders first leaked Thursday evening. Earlier that same day the commander of all U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan made no mention of the number being higher.
"Just as tragic, we're now investigating what appears to be the murder of 16 innocent Afghan civilians at the hand of a U.S. servicemember," Gen. John Allen told the Senate Armed Services Committee. FULL POST
By Adam Levine and Chris Lawrence
The top commander for American and NATO forces in Afghanistan said Thursday he would like to maintain the post-surge U.S. troop level of 68,000 into 2013.
It was the most overt admission by Gen. John Allen of his view of the force level that he has maintained will be decided after what he described earlier this week as a "strategic conversation" with the White House. Though Allen said that was his opinion, he said he has not made an official recommendation and did not plan on doing so until later this year.
His statement will make it difficult for the Obama administration to try to withdraw more troops this year without looking like it is being done in defiance of commander's view of what is strategically needed. FULL POST
By Larry Shaughnessy, with reporting from Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon
The top commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan insisted Tuesday that the war strategy remains "on track" even with recent setbacks that have sparked violence and Afghan anger toward the United States, such as the burning of Qurans and the killing of 16 Afghans, allegedly by a U.S. soldier.
"I wish I could tell you that this war was simple, and that progress could be easily measured. But that's not the way of counterinsurgencies. They are fraught with success and setbacks, which can exist in the same space and time, but each must be seen in the larger context of the overall campaign," Gen. John Allen told the House Armed Services committee. "I believe that the campaign is on track. We are making a difference. I know this, and our troops know this."
But perhaps the most moving part of the hearing came early on as Allen read a letter to the House Armed Service Committee from a Marine who died recently in Afghanistan.
The U.S. soldier alleged to have killed 16 Afghans in a weekend shooting rampage has been flown to Kuwait, a defense official tells Barbara Starr.
Earlier, Chris Lawrence reported that one reason the soldier was flown out of Afghanistan was because U.S. military did not have the proper facility to hold the soldier for "longer than he is being held."
Kuwait has the military legal infrastructure and personnel to deal with the soldier, Barbara Starr reports.
By Sara Sidner and Chris Lawrence
The U.S. soldier accused of killing 16 civilians in a weekend rampage has been transferred out of Afghanistan, the NATO command in Kabul said Wednesday.
Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said the decision by General Allen to move the suspect out of the country was based on "legal recommendation by advisers." In addition, the U.S. military did not have a "proper facility" in Afghanistan to hold the soldier for "longer than he is being held," Kirby explained. FULL POST
The soldier at the center of the Afghanistan shootings has been moved from the outpost where he served to detention in a larger U.S. base in Afghanistan, a military official tells Barbara Starr.
More details are emerging about the soldier, an Army staff sergeant, who acted alone and turned himself in after opening fire on civilians, according to officials from NATO's International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF. He is in U.S. custody as investigators try to establish what motivated him. FULL POST
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
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
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.
By CNN's Tim Lister
The United States appears to be shifting tactics as it tries to chart a course toward a stable and secure Afghanistan, according to diplomats and analysts. It might best be described as the squeeze – a more subtle approach to counteracting the threat of groups like the Haqqani Network, while at the same time suggesting the possibility of dialogue.
The latest hint of such a shift came Wednesday, when the U.S. State Department suggested it could talk with the Haqqanis – even if the group were designated a terrorist organization.
“While we can’t comment directly on a situation that is hypothetical, in general, we would be able to talk with representatives of a Foreign Terrorist Organization, should we deem it appropriate," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed last week there had been a meeting between a U.S. diplomat and Ibrahim Haqqani (the brother of the organization’s veteran leader) in August, as well as contacts with the Afghan Taliban, to "test whether these organizations have any willingness to negotiate in good faith." FULL POST
From Jerome Starkey in Kabul, Afghanistan for CNN
NATO and U.S. forces are seeing a marked increase in infiltration into Afghanistan from Pakistan by the militant Haqqani network, a senior NATO official said Tuesday.
There has been a significant increase in the Haqqani network's activity in Khost, Paktia, Logar and Wardak provinces which are used in that order as an infiltration route from Pakistan, to launch attacks on the capital, the official said. The senior NATO official spoke to reporters in Kabul on the condition no name was used.
Whether or not NATO and the United States will have to provide more assistance to the Afghan security forces, particularly along the border with Pakistan, will depend on "the level of threat coming out of Miramshah" in North Waziristan, the official said. Miramshah is believed to be where the Haqqani network leaders are based.
Haqqani fighters are blamed for killing more than 1,000 coalition and Afghan forces. The official said Haqqani militants were behind a series of "spectacular attacks," this summer, including a 20-hour attack on the American Embassy, last month, and an assault on Kabul's InterContinental Hotel, in June, which left at least a dozen people dead.
NATO officials said there had also been a marked increase in the number of cross border attacks from Pakistan, but the insisted reports of artillery bombardments and heavy casualties were often exaggerated. FULL POST