WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration is quietly working to lower expectations for this weekend’s parliamentary election in Afghanistan, worried that a messy outcome will fuel U.S. public doubt over the nine-year war.
The elections will be a measure of whether fragile Afghan institutions have improved since last year’s fraud-marred presidential poll, and if President Barack Obama’s revised war strategy is making the country more stable so American troops can start to withdraw as planned from July 2011.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon said on Friday it would double the number of U.S. helicopters to help with relief efforts in Pakistan after epic floods that have overwhelmed the fragile government there.
An additional 18 helicopters would arrive in mid-September as part of an expanded U.S. contribution to deal with the floods, the Pentagon said. These would be in addition to 15 helicopters and three C-130 aircraft already there.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has seen evidence that Pakistani militants and affiliated charities are deepening their involvement in flood relief in an effort to win popular support, a senior U.S. official said.
The disclosure follows State Department warnings that insurgents may also be targeting foreign aid workers responding to the floods, and raises the stakes in relief efforts that critics say are moving too slowly.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States expects the Taliban to increase attacks in next month’s parliamentary elections, including in Afghanistan’s north where insurgents have made inroads, a senior U.S. defense official said on Thursday.
The parliamentary poll will be a litmus test for stability in Afghanistan as well as the credibility of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was roundly criticized over the handling of last year’s fraud-marred presidential elections.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s July 2011 date to start withdrawing troops from Afghanistan has given a morale boost to Taliban insurgents, who believe they can wait out NATO forces, the top U.S. Marine said Tuesday.
But General James Conway, who is retiring this fall as commandant of the Marine Corps, said he believed Marines would not be in a position to withdraw from the fight in southern Afghanistan for years.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – High drop-out and illiteracy rates mean it will take until late October 2011 to build up Afghanistan’s police and military so they can take the lead in more areas, a senior U.S. commander said on Monday.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via video link-up from Afghanistan, Lieutenant-General William Caldwell said at the current pace of training, the Afghan army and police could take the lead only in “isolated pockets” of the country and with support from foreign forces.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Influential U.S. Senator John Kerry returned abruptly to Afghanistan on Thursday to see President Hamid Karzai, seeking to press him over a four-month deadline for private security contractors to be disbanded.
In Washington, Kerry’s office confirmed that instead of returning to Washington, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had flown back to Kabul from neighboring Pakistan, where he surveyed damage from epic floods.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. military will conduct an anti-submarine warfare exercise with South Korea early next month, sending a message to the North that Washington is committed to defending its ally, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the joint exercise, which is likely to annoy regional power China, would be conducted off the western coast of the Korean Peninsula and was aimed at defending against “sub-surface” attacks, particularly following the sinking of one of the south’s warships in March.
WASHINGTON, Aug 16 (Reuters) – China is expanding its
military edge over Taiwan, increasing the lethality of its
short-range ballistic missiles while raising the risk of
“misunderstanding and miscalculation,” the Pentagon said on
“Many uncertainties remain regarding how China will use its
expanding military capabilities,” according to the annual U.S.
Defense Department report to Congress on China’s military.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a driving force behind both the Afghan war plan and in overhauling the Pentagon’s finances, said in an interview published on Monday he aims to retire next year.
But his press secretary Geoff Morrell shot down suggestions that Gates announced his retirement to Foreign Policy magazine, saying it was nothing more than “musings” over a wish to quit, which the U.S. defense chief has done before.