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Published: Saturday, 10/8/2011

Fresh attacks mark 10th year of Afghan war

BLADE NEWS SERVICES

WASHINGTON -- Marking the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan war, President Obama said yesterday the United States is safer thanks to the sacrifices of troops, diplomats, and intelligence analysts, even as fresh attacks rocked the country.

Mr. Obama noted the anniversary in a quiet style, offering a written statement and holding no public events.

The President saluted the more than 1,700 U.S. troops who have died in the war, along with the coalition and Afghan forces killed. He said that because of the effort, "our citizens are safer and our nation is more secure."

Near the border with Pakistan yesterday, insurgents attacked four U.S. outposts simultaneously with multiple rockets and, at one base, a suicide bomber exploded his vehicle near one of the base's walls.

The coordinated attack, apparently timed to mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the Afghan war, caused minimal damage and wounded one U.S. soldier, whose injuries, officers said, were not life-threatening.

But it underscored the complexities of a war entering its second decade.

Most of the 107-millimeter rockets striking the outposts were fired from just inside Afghanistan, suggesting the attack had been prepared and launched from Pakistan, and the rocket crews withdrew there as the Americans fired back.

It also highlighted the relative weakness of Afghan soldiers and police officers working at U.S.-built bases.

As the attacks escalated in the morning, only the U.S. military possessed the firepower, communications, and skills to fight back in what developed into a long-range, artillery-and-rocket duel.

While the U.S. soldiers organized and coordinated their part of the battle on the outpost here, the Afghan soldiers did not participate. Some simply sat and watched.

The United States and its allies began the war on Oct. 7, 2001, to topple the Taliban government sheltering the al-Qaeda leadership responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Mr. Obama also said al-Qaeda is on the ropes, but "enormous challenges" remain to rebuild Afghanistan.

"In delivering justice to Osama bin Laden and many other al-Qaeda leaders, we are closer than ever to defeating al-Qaeda and its murderous network," Mr. Obama said.

He acknowledged "enormous challenges that remain in Afghanistan" -- alluding to assassinations of government figures and deep corruption -- but still he claimed progress.

"We've pushed the Taliban out of its key strongholds, Afghan security forces are growing stronger, and the Afghan people have a new chance to forge their own future," he said.

In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai claimed the Taliban are being propped up by Pakistan.

The war will end only when something is done to rout insurgents from sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan, Mr. Karzai said.

"Definitely, the Taliban will not be able to move a finger without Pakistani support," Mr. Karzai said. "The fact is the Taliban were and are stationed, in terms of their political headquarters and operational headquarters, in Pakistan. We all know that. The Pakistanis know that. We know that."

Militant sanctuaries in Pakistan won't go away unless Pakistan's government cooperates with Afghanistan and the international community finds an effective way to remove the hideouts, he said.

"We're not saying this in a manner of accusation and reprimand," he added, trying not to inflame strained relations between the two nations. "We are saying this in a manner of a statement intended towards a solution of the problem."

Pakistan maintains it cut off ties to the Taliban and other militants after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, but Washington and Kabul say otherwise.

Mr. Karzai said the Afghan government and international allies have failed to provide security for the Afghan people.

He also said his government wants to talk to the Taliban, but doesn't know where to contact legitimate representatives of the insurgency.

Meanwhile, the Taliban vowed to keep fighting until all foreign forces have left Afghanistan.

The group's fight in the last decade, "even with scarce weapons and equipment … forced the occupiers, who intended to stay forever, to rethink their position," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

"With the passing of the 10-year proud Jihad by the Afghan people against the invaders, we must remind it that divine victory is with us," the emailed statement from Mujahid said.



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