Civilians killed as Obama orders more troops to Afghanistan

Obama has ordered more troops to Afghanistan where US forces killed civilians including at least one child in an air strike.

Civilians killed as Obama orders more troops to Afghanistan

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan, the White House said on Tuesday.

The new forces will include a Marine expeditionary brigade of some 8,000 troops and an Army brigade of 4,000 soldiers equipped with Stryker armored vehicles, the Pentagon said.

The extra 17,000 troops will increase the U.S. military in Afghanistan by more than 40 percent.

But in an interview with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Obama also said military means alone would not solve the problem.

U.S. officials have said Washington and its allies are not winning in Afghanistan, more than seven years after toppling the Taliban.

"This increase is necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires," Obama said in a statement.

But in an interview with CBC Telvision ahead of a visit to Canada, Obama said: "I'm absolutely convinced that "you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the spread of extremism in that region, solely through military means".

"We're going to have use diplomacy, we're going to have to use development."

"The decision was communicated to the Pentagon yesterday. The orders were signed today," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters traveling with Obama in Denver.

The extra forces will go to southern Afghanistan, where U.S. and NATO troops have tried to hold territory against an increasing Taliban insurgency.

US troop build-up in Afghanistan could reach up to 60,000 troops from current levels of 38,000 in the coming months.

The announcement comes while the White House is still conducting a broad review of U.S. policy on Afghanistan.

The deployment provides two of three extra combat brigades requested by the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Army General David McKiernan.

The units had originally been scheduled to go to Iraq.

"New page"

The office of Hamid Karzai announced that Obama spoke to the Afghan president of Tuesday - the first time since the US presidential inauguration last month.

The two leaders spoke on the telephone about security issues and the Afghan presidential elections, Karzai's office said on Wednesday.

Obama spoke to Afghan President Hamid Karzai overnight for the first time since the U.S. president took office nearly a month ago.

Ties between Kabul and Washington have been strained since Obama's inauguration, with the new administration questioning Karzai's ability to govern effectively and the Afghan president hitting back at the killing of civilians by foreign troops.

But after a telephone conversation overnight, Karzai's spokesman said: "We have opened a new page."

Karzai is to go to Pakistan in the coming days, his spokesman said, in an attempt to consolidate improving relations between the two neighbours.

Obama appointed Richard Holbrooke as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan to try to bring the two sides together and US wants Pakistan sees Taliban "its biggest threat", not nuclear armed-India.

"Boy killed"

Meanwhile, U.S. forces killed at least one child, video footage obtained by Reuters on Wednesday showed, in an air strike in western Afghanistan that Afghan police say killed 12 civilians as US forces denies.

Videos taken in the Gozara district of Herat province in the aftermath of the attack on Monday showed mangled, unrecognisable clumps of flesh - all that remained of several people and dozens of animals killed in a tented nomad encampment. One body that was recognisable was that of a young boy.

"The information we have is 12 civilians, including six women, four men and two children have been killed in the bombardment," General Ikramuddin Yawar, chief of police in western Afghanistan told Reuters.

More than 2,100 civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year, 40 percent more than 2007, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

News of the attack comes as U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday ordered 17,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

Karim Khan, one of the survivors in the Monday air raid said aircraft started bombing the area at four in the morning. "Thirteen people from the tents and three other visitors were killed."

The regional police chief said both civilians and militants were among those killed.

"There were militants among the dead, but we don't know how many yet as we are investigating the case," Yawar added.

He added that some 60 animals and 18 tents in the encampment of 100 families were also destroyed in the air raid.


Agencies

Last Mod: 18 Şubat 2009, 12:16
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