U.S. troops among dead in fighting
Two American troops died in fighting in Afghanistan on Thursday, while NATO and local officials said coalition and Afghan forces killed dozens of insurgents in a series of ground and air engagements.
NATO also said it had killed or wounded as many as 12 insurgents, including two commanders, in an airstrike Thursday on a car traveling along back roads in northwestern Takhar province's Rustaq district.
However, the office of President Karzai, who has repeatedly warned that civilian casualties undermine anti-insurgency efforts, issued a statement condemning the attack, saying 10 campaign workers for a candidate in this month's parliamentary elections had instead been killed and two wounded.
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghans on Thursday rushed to withdraw their savings from troubled Kabul Bank despite attempts by officials to reassure nervous depositors that their money was safe.
But the scramble, which followed U.S. news reports that Afghanistan's largest private bank faced liquidity problems, had not yet risen to the level of a bank run.
Negative news about the bank could have a wide effect on the country, given that about 250,000 bureaucrats and army and police officers are paid their salaries through the institution.
At the bank's main branch in Kabul, hundreds of frustrated customers crowded the counters, many shouting or elbowing for a number to get served, with many in front of the "$10,000 or more" withdrawal desk.
"I waited for six hours, but they didn't let me withdraw the amount I wanted," said Rafi, 24, who uses only one name. "People are in panic. They want to retrieve their money because they lost trust."
The rush followed the resignation of two of the bank's top executives this week amid allegations of mismanagement and questionable real estate loans. The New York Times reported Tuesday that the bank's losses could exceed $300 million, more than its assets.
Karzai denounces arrest of his aide
Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke out angrily Thursday against the arrest of one of his closest aides last month on corruption charges, saying that the detention was conducted in a manner "exactly reminiscent of the Soviet presence in Afghanistan" and that the investigation was illegally run by "foreign elements."
The president's remarks, delivered at a news conference in the capital, are likely to fuel criticism that he is unwilling to crack down on the pervasive corruption within his own administration. But Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who appeared with Karzai on Thursday, did not publicly challenge him on either the corruption issue or the Afghan president's contention that the arrest represented an abuse of human rights.
"I think that the key here is that the fight against corruption needs to be Afghan-led," Gates said. "This is a sovereign country."
Karzai ordered the release of his aide, Mohammad Zia Salehi, last month, shortly after Salehi was detained on charges of soliciting bribes.
Drug trade losses are hurting Taliban
The Taliban is confronting a serious "cash flow" problem after losing half of its annual drug trade money to a farming blight and government eradication efforts, a Marine two-star general said Thursday.
The assessment by Maj. Gen. Richard Mills is a bright spot in an otherwise difficult war involving some 100,000 U.S. troops. American forces for several months have been bogged down in a fight with insurgents in the farming hamlets of Marjah, an area in southern Afghanistan considered at the heart of Afghanistan's drug trade.
Mills said the insurgency in Marjah is a shadow of what it once was and that the Taliban's loss in revenue has made it difficult to resupply fighters.
Information from the Associated Press, Washington Post and McClatchy Newspapers was used in this report.