Gen. David McKiernan says the mission in Afghanistan is likely to fail if militants continue to gain power in Pakistan. During a press briefing, the commander of the US forces in Afghanistan said, “Can you get to the right end-state in Afghanistan if you have a deteriorating or failed state in Pakistan? The answer is probably no.”
More than 60,000 US troops will be stationed in Afghanistan by the fall, when the nation is to hold elections. McKiernan made his comments as President, Barack Obama met with the Afghan and Pakistani leaders in Washington to discuss security plans for both nations. The meeting was however marred by reports of fresh US air strikes in the Afghan province of Farah that killed at least 150 civilians. (Press TV, May 7)
Preliminary results of a joint US-Afghan investigation into the incident indicate US air-strikes killed the Afghan civilians, including women and children. A US official said the targets bombed were buildings and compounds that the military had identified as areas from which insurgent fighters were firing on Afghan and coalition forces. He said the US military believes the insurgents were holding people there as a means of causing civilian casualties. (CNN, May 7)
Afghanistan war funding surpasses the outlay for Iraq for the first time in next year’s proposed Pentagon budget. The $130 billion in war funds that are part of the fiscal 2010 budget request includes $65 billion for Afghanistan operations and $61 billion for Iraq. For 2009, $87 billion was requested for Iraq and $47 billion for Afghanistan.
The budget covers the deployment of 21,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan this year, raising the total to 68,000. More funds would be required if President Obama decides to meet the request of US commanders for 10,000 more troops next year. The budget also includes $700 million for training and equipment for Pakistan’s military, a major increase over the $400 million sought for this year. The Pentagon’s $534 billion base budget is $21 billion larger than last year’s. (Washington Post, May 8)
A suicide bomber killed 12 people in southern Afghanistan on May 7, while the police opened fire at rock-throwing protesters, enraged at the civilian deaths in Farah province. The suicide bomber, riding a motorbike, set off explosives near a coalition forces vehicle in a Gereshk district market area in Helmand province. The explosion killed 12 people and wounded at least 32. (AP, May 8)
Meanwhile, thousands of terrified Pakistanis have fled fighting between the army and Taliban insurgents in the Swat Valley, streaming into refugee camps and crowding hospitals. According to the UN, tens of thousands have fled their homes in recent days. The exodus adds to more than 500,000 already displaced by fighting elsewhere in Pakistan’s borderlands. (AP, May 7)