NATO-Afghan Operation Kills 15 Insurgents in South

The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan and NATO forces targeted suspected insurgent strongholds in a joint operation in southern Kandahar province, killing 15 and capturing 13, an

Sgt. Freddia Cavasos, of Visalia, Calif., jumps over Lance Cpl. Andreas Padilla, of Los Angeles, both with India Company, 3rd Battalion 5th Marines, First Marine Division, as shots are fired at their patrol, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010 in Sangin, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Afghan official said Monday.

NATO and Afghan forces have been trying to seize control of the Taliban heartland in southern Afghanistan since July. They have established some pockets of security but the ultimate success of the operation will depend on the Afghan government’s ability to secure the area with its own forces and provide services to the population.

U.S. officials have said that the war against the insurgency is slowly beginning to turn around and that some of the 100,000 American troops will begin withdrawing by next summer. They have not said how many troops will remain but are confident that Afghanistan should be ready to handle its own security by the year 2014.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen said in Australia on Monday that NATO should endorse a 2014 timeline proposed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai when the alliance holds its annual summit in Portugal on Nov. 19. President Barack Obama and other NATO allies will consider plans for transition of security control at that summit.

“As a target at this point that makes sense, so I am comfortable with it,” Mullen said.

The top NATO civilian in Afghanistan, Mark Sedwill, has said the 2014 deadline is feasible for all but a residual allied force including special forces and trainers.

The head of Britain’s armed forces has said that at least 1,000 British troops will be needed in a support role in Afghanistan after the government’s 2015 deadline to withdraw from combat fighting.

Gen. David Richards told The Sun newspaper in an interview published Monday that Britain would not “cut and run” in 2015, and will continue to train Afghan security forces. Richards said Britain’s current force of 10,000 troops, mainly based in restive southern Helmand province, will likely face intense combat for at least another year.

In Kandahar, the 14-hour joint operation began before dawn on Sunday and lasted until early evening in Arghistan and Maruf districts, provincial spokesman Zelmai Ayubi said.

In a separate incident in the south, a rocket exploded in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, killing one civilian and wounding four, said Kamaluddin Khan, the provincial deputy police chief.

In the east, NATO said a service member was killed by a bomb on Monday but did not provide any other details. The latest death brings to 621 the number of NATO soldiers killed this year.

Separately, the Afghan Ministry of Education condemned the burning of a school in Laghman province east of Kabul. The ministry said gunmen set fire to the girls’ middle school Sunday night, burning the structure and its contents, including 850 copies of the Quran, the ministry said.