War on Terrorism

Monday, July 24, 2006

Afghan Development Continues Amid Violent, Indiscriminate Attacks

WASHINGTON, July 23, 2006 – Coalition forces continue to aid and develop Afghanistan, even as they fight back terrorist extremists who are determined to stop progress, U.S. military officials reported today. Aid and reconstruction efforts include a rebuilt mosque in the Paktya province and medial and humanitarian aid to hundreds of Afghan villagers in the Kandahar province, said Combined Forces Command spokesman Army Col. Thomas Collins.

The refurbished mosque, he noted, was a joint effort by the Afghan government and coalition forces; it took three months and $16,000 to complete. The project had been identified by the people of the Zormat district as "something they needed for their people," Collins said. A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the mosque's completion on July 20.

Also last week, a cooperative medical assistance team provided preventive health care to more than 230 Afghan villagers and some 450 children in the Kandahar province. All children under the age of 5, Collins said, were given de-worming medication. A second medical assistance team, he added, is en route to villages in the Uruzgan province. But for every two steps forward that the Afghan people make, terrorist extremists launch attacks designed to bring the country one step backward.

For example, two suicide bombers in Kandahar City yesterday killed five local Afghan civilians and two coalition soldiers. Thirty-two civilians and eight coalition soldiers were wounded in the attacks. Another coalition soldiers was killed July 21 in the Sharana district of Paktika province, when rocket and mortar rounds landed inside a coalition base.

"The killed and wounded were coalition soldiers who were here in Kandahar, away from their homes and families, to work with the Afghan people to help them have the opportunity for a safe and secure way of life," Collins said. "They were honorable, caring soldiers who were here to help build schools, give out shoes and wheat seed to villagers. They were soldiers who were here to free Afghanistan of extremists, who thrive on intimidation and spread fear among the people. They were soldiers who only wanted to help."

Collins said the Afghan villagers who were killed in the attacks also were innocent. They "only wanted to take care of their families and give their children the chance for a healthier, happier life," he said. They "wanted progress and peace." Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76, said the soldiers killed by the suicide bombers were Canadians.

"We grieve for our lost Canadian soldiers who served so willingly," Freakley said. "They were superb teammates, and we will always remember their selfless sacrifice. We are honored to have served with them." Coalition forces, he added, are not now and will not ever be dissuaded from their mission of building a free, secure, and independent Afghanistan. Otherwise, the terrorist extremists will have won and the myriad sacrifices of U.S., Afghan and coalition forces will have been in vain, the general said.

"Out of respect and admiration for (their) courage and commitment, we will continue the fight until extremism is defeated in this country," Freakley said. Coalition forces continue to root out the terrorist extremists, and "Afghan National Security Forces continue to build in strength and capacity to root out enemy fighters and to take the lead in these critical missions," Collins said.

For example, the Afghan Air Corps recently opened a flight operations facility at Kabul International Airport. The new center will allow aircrews from the various ministries to coordinate flight plans and check routes before flying, Collins said. The Afghan Air Corps has a fleet of helicopters and fixed wing planes, and plans call for more aircraft. With these new capabilities, Collins said, the air corps can take on more missions and provide greater security to the Afghan people.

Afghan and coalition forces, meanwhile, remain on the offensive by continuing to attack Taliban safe havens and interdicting their movements to further extend the authority of the Afghan government throughout the region. Yesterday, Combined Forces Command Afghanistan transferred custody of terrorist Amir Gul Hassanyar to a representative of the national director of security at the Kabul International Airport.

The 2nd Kandak, 1st Brigade, 209th Afghan National Army Corps, and coalition forces detained him, during a search of a compound south of Kunduz near the village of Baghlan on July 16. "Gul is responsible for numerous attacks using improvised explosive devices, trafficking in illegal weapons and drugs, and engaging in other anti-coalition and anti-government-of-Afghanistan activities," Collins said. "Amir Gul Hassanyar remains a security threat, and coalition forces believe that returning him to the custody of the government is in the best interest of the Afghan people"

Moreover, in the past few days, coalition forces discovered a suicide vest in Uruzgan province and unexploded ordnance near an intersection in the Urugan district in Paktika province. The unexploded ordinance may have been planted as a possible IED; coalition forces disabled it, Collins said. In Wardak province, the Nerkh police station defended itself against a group of enemy fighters. Some Afghan National Police were wounded, but the police station held its own and repelled the extremists, Collins said.

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