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Afghan war talk turns optimistic

WASHINGTON — A day after President Barack Obama's senior defense advisers huddled in Europe to discuss the future of the war in Afghanistan, the State Department on Monday talked optimistically about the conflict that top generals have called a stalemate.

"We believe that this is a struggle that we are now, you know . . . we have turned a tide," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. "We're seeing success in Afghanistan, difficult as it is."

Crowley's remark came in response to a question about al-Qaida, the terror network whose shelter in Afghanistan prompted the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Crowley said later he is "not trying to minimize the complexity" of eventual success in Afghanistan.

"We feel that we have taken the initiative. We are adding resources into Afghanistan, we are moving into places where we have not had sufficient military forces or civilians before," he said, noting also that the country is preparing to organize elections on its own.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, flew Saturday to an U.S. air base in Chievres, Belgium, and met Sunday with several advisers, including Gen. David Petraeus, who has overall responsibility for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Gates and Mullen were given an interim report on security in Afghanistan.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal is putting together an assessment of the war that may include a request for additional U.S. forces and resources.

Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell would not detail the discussion, including whether McChrystal is contemplating the politically troublesome request to add more American soldiers. McChrystal's study is due this month.

Rockets hit Kabul

Five rockets slammed into Kabul at daybreak today, one of them falling near the U.S. Embassy in a rare attack on the Afghan capital, police and residents said. The impact of one of the rockets could be seen about 200 yards from the U.S. Embassy in central Kabul. The rockets appeared to have hit various neighborhoods in the Afghan capital. At least one child was wounded, said Said Abdul Ghafar, the Kabul criminal police chief. There were no immediate reports on other casualties or damage.

Zawahri scolds: In a video posted on an Islamic militant Web site Monday, Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, said the al-Qaida leader's 2004 offer of a truce with the United States and Europe remains, though he ridiculed President Barack Obama as "the new face of the same old crimes." Zawahri scorned Obama over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Afghan war talk turns optimistic 08/03/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 3, 2009 11:15pm]
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