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THE STANS
16 Afghan policemen killed in US strike
By Mamoon Durrani
Kandahar, Afghanistan (AFP) July 22, 2017


Pentagon blocks some Pakistan military payments
Washington (AFP) July 21, 2017 - The US Defense Department has withheld $50 million in Pakistan military payments after Pentagon chief Jim Mattis determined Islamabad is not doing enough to counter the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, an official said Friday.

"Secretary Mattis has informed congressional defense committees that he was not able to certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient actions against the Haqqani network to permit full reimbursement of Fiscal Year 2016 Coalition Support Funds," Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said.

The United States had allotted $900 million in military aid to Pakistan through the special fund.

The country has already received $550 million of that, but Mattis's decision means $50 million will be withheld. The remaining $300 million was rescinded by Congress as part of a broader appropriations act.

"This decision does not reduce the significance of the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertaken over previous years," Stump said.

"Pakistan still has time to take action against the Haqqani network in order to influence the secretary's certification decision in FY17," he added.

The Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, based in the border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan, has long been thought to have ties to Pakistan's shadowy military establishment.

Led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also the Taliban's deputy leader, they have carried out numerous operations deep in the heart of Kabul, and have been blamed by Afghanistan for a devastating truck bombing that killed more than 150 people in the capital in May.

A US airstrike has killed 16 policemen in Afghanistan, officials said Saturday, the latest setback to Washington's efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country.

The incident took place in Helmand province on Friday as Afghan security forces attempted to clear a village of Taliban militants, Salam Afghan, a police spokesman, told AFP.

"In the strike, 16 Afghan policemen were killed including two commanders. Two other policemen were wounded," he said.

The strike hit a compound in Gereshk district in Helmand, large parts of which are under Taliban control.

"A US-supported (Afghan security) operation...resulted in the deaths of... friendly Afghan forces who were gathered in a compound," NATO's mission in Afghanistan said in a statement.

"We would like to express our deepest condolences to the families affected by this unfortunate incident," the statement said, adding there would be a probe into what happened.

An interior ministry spokesman, Najeeb Danish, said a ministry delegation had been sent to the area to investigate and help families of the victims.

Helmand for years was the centrepiece of the US and British military intervention in Afghanistan.

But the Taliban now effectively controls or contests 10 of Helmand's 14 districts, blighted by a huge opium harvest that helps fund the insurgency.

In April, some 300 US Marines returned to the province as embattled Afghan security forces struggle to beat back the resurgent Taliban.

The surge helped Afghan security forces, backed by US air strikes, recapture Nawa district in Helmand six months ago.

The operation came as Pentagon chief Jim Mattis finalised plans to present a new Afghanistan strategy to President Donald Trump in a bid to reverse what US generals call a "stalemate" at best.

In February, a US airstrike in Sangin killed at least 18 civilians, mostly women and children.

Last November 32 Afghan civilians were killed in a US airstrike in the northeastern province of Kunduz.

In October 2015, a US air strike hit a hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontieres, killing 42 people and sparking international outrage.

THE STANS
Afghan forces retake district in Helmand from Taliban: US
Washington (AFP) July 17, 2017
Afghan security forces supported by US air power have retaken the center of volatile Nawa district from the Taliban in southern Helmand province, US officials said Monday. Backed by strikes from F-16 fighters and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, Afghan troops began the two-day operation Saturday near the city of Lashkar Gar, which is the capital of Helmand. Officials said the operation t ... read more

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