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Taliban attacks sound alarm before Kandahar

KABUL, Afghanistan — Over the past week, the Taliban in Afghanistan have bared their teeth and launched a series of attacks designed to show that their threat of a summer offensive is much more than empty words. The headline-grabbing assaults on two of NATO’s most heavily fortified bases, Bagram and Kandahar, cost the Taliban dearly, while leaving the international military forces relatively unscathed.

Taliban's assault on NATO base suggests shift in tactics

KABUL, Afghanistan — A brazen assault today by up to 20 Taliban fighters on the largest NATO base in Afghanistan was the second attack in as many days on U.S. military targets here, suggesting to some observers that the Taliban appears intent on switching tactics from solo suicide bombings to more coordinated missions. The attacks also raise the possibility that the insurgents are trying to bring the fight into the capital even as the U.S. and NATO allies prepare for a mounting offensive this summer in the southern province of Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold.

NATO contemplates a broader mission

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Eleven years ago, few people other than south-Asia watchers had any idea what the Taliban was, much less could have imagined why more than 100,000 soldiers would be needed to fight it. At that time, the world’s premier military alliance, NATO, had never fought a ground war, operated outside of Europe, or invoked its Article 5 collective-defense clause.  But Sept. 11, 2001 changed everything for the alliance. Well, almost everything.

In Iraq, Americans have one foot out the door

BAGHDAD, Iraq — The hot dry wind kicks up the dust around the plywood table and broken chair that pass for a police checkpoint in east Baghdad. The lone policeman is unusually nervous. For once, the police are afraid of us rather than the other way around. After a series of shootings at checkpoints by gunmen with silencers, even a reporter and an Iraqi bodyguard getting out of the car could be potential assassins.

Karzai's US visit yields cold comfort

KABUL, Afghanistan — The glittering receptions, the warm smiles, the high-level talks — all the diplomatic accoutrements of President Hamid Karzai’s visit to Washington pointed to a renewed relationship between firm friends, albeit ones who have had a bit of a dust-up. But underneath the bonhomie, tensions simmered as fiercely as ever. Nothing in the four-day political show could conceal the very real cracks in the U.S.-Afghan “partnership,” which increasingly seems to be based more on codependency than on any shared vision or common purpose.

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan? Who cares, exactly?

When President Barack Obama told his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, that the United States was fully committed to reducing civilian casualties, he had obviously not consulted his rank-and-file. With all due respect to the Commander in Chief, he is not the one pulling the trigger.

Opinion: Censorship drives Afghan talent into exile

LOS ANGELES — In March 2001, when the Taliban blew up the Buddha statues of Bamian, the world became acutely aware of the threat to arts and culture in Afghanistan. The Taliban were sharply criticized by the international press for their intellectual poverty. Hostility toward literature, visual arts and music had deprived the nation of much-needed spiritual consolation, reports said. Nearly a decade later, little has changed. Censorship is still rampant, and Afghan talent would rather flee than suffer its oppression.

Peace Jirga hangs in balance of Karzai-Obama visit

KABUL, Afghanistan — As Afghan President Hamid Karzai goes off to Washington for what promises to be a cordial meeting with his U.S. counterpart, he will be closely watched by his countrymen, who are expecting him to bring home major American concessions.

“If only someone would say ‘sorry’”

The Victims’ Jirga, a daylong event held in Kabul on Sunday, soon degenerated into one long howl of pain. What was striking about the stories of the dozens of victims present was how remarkably similar they were. Through 30 years of war, through multiple changes of government, the torture, mutilation and death continued. Victims and perpetrators may have switched places; names and faces may have changed, but tactics varied little.

"War criminals" gather to gloat

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan capital was rocked with explosions and gunfire on Wednesday, but for once it wasn't the insurgency looking for attention. This time, it was the military — celebrating Mujahideen Victory Day, the date in 1992 when the combined forces that, with the generous help of the United States, had earlier chased out the Soviets finally toppled the Communist-backed regime of Mohammad Najibullah.
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