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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Afghans won't tolerate more civilian deaths in raids
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military conceded it was not winning the battle against an increasingly deadly insurgency in Afghanistan and said on Wednesday it would revise its strategy for the region to include militant safe havens in neighbouring Pakistan.
"I'm not convinced we are winning it in Afghanistan. I am convinced we can," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in sobering testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee nearly seven years after U.S.-led forces toppled Afghanistan's former Taliban regime following the September 11 attacks.
Mullen said he was already "looking at a new, more comprehensive strategy for the region" that would cover both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
"In my view, these two nations are inextricably linked in a common insurgency that crosses the border between them," he told lawmakers.
"We can hunt down and kill extremists as they cross over the border from Pakistan ... but until we work more closely with the Pakistani government to eliminate the safe havens from which they operate, the enemy will only keep coming."
Mullen was speaking after the United States stepped up its campaign of attacks against militant targets inside Pakistan with a series of missile strikes from unmanned drones and a raid by helicopter-borne U.S. commandos.
The increase in U.S. attacks has sparked an outcry from Pakistani leaders and potentially complicated the challenges facing newly elected Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.
The admiral said U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan blamed militant safe havens in Pakistan for launching bolder, more sophisticated attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan.
"Add to this a poor and struggling Afghan economy, a still-healthy narcotics trade there and a significant political uncertainty in Pakistan, and you have all the makings of a complex, difficult struggle that will take time," he said.
He also warned that time was running out on the ability of the West to provide Afghanistan with vital nonmilitary assistance for Afghanistan including roads, schools, alternative crops for farmers and the rule of law.
"These are the keys to success in Afghanistan. We cannot kill our way to victory and no armed force anywhere, no matter how good, can deliver these keys alone," Mullen said.
(Editing by Kristin Roberts)

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