Bombs kill 2 NATO soldiers in Afghanistan; rocket strikes main allied base

KABUL — Bomb strikes killed two NATO soldiers — a Briton and a Norwegian — while a rocket attack at the major international military base in southern Afghanistan wounded eight other international troops, officials said Monday. Bulgaria's defense minister was at the base but was not injured.

The violence came three days before a London conference on Afghanistan that is expected to focus on a government plan to reintegrate Taliban militants willing to lay down their arms.

Representatives from nearly 70 nations, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, will attend.

Britain and Japan have agreed to head an international fund, expected to total up to $500 million over the next five years, as part of a broad plan to help lure Taliban fighters away from the insurgency with the promise of jobs, protection against retaliation and the removal of their names from lists of U.S. and NATO targets, according to the Washington Post.

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, said the Taliban could be part of a peace agreement if an influx of 37,000 foreign troops succeeds in bringing stability to the country.

"As a soldier, my personal feeling is that there's been enough fighting, and that what we need to do, all of us, is to do the fighting necessary to shape conditions where people can get on with their lives," he said in an interview published Monday in the Financial Times. "I think any Afghans can play a role if they focus on the future, and not the past."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said those Taliban who are not part of al-Qaida or other terrorist groups "are welcome to come back to their country, lay down arms and resume life."

He said international support would help the new plan work even though past efforts have failed.

"This current effort, this renewed effort, has the backing of our partners, in particular the United States and Europe," he told reporters during a visit to Turkey.

He also said a government effort to remove some Taliban figures from a U.N. sanctions list is gaining momentum.

"We have been pursuing the removal of that list for quite some time now. There has been some resistance to it" by some members of the U.N., he said. However, Karzai said: "There is more willingness that this can be reconsidered."

The Norwegian soldier died Monday when his vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Faryab province in the north, the country's military said. An explosion Sunday in the southern province of Helmand killed a British soldier, according to the British Defense Ministry.

The latest deaths bring the total of NATO forces killed in Afghanistan this month to 37, to 23 in January 2009.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the rocket attack that struck the Kandahar Air Field late Sunday, injuring four Bulgarians and at least two Romanians. He said the target was Bulgaria's defense minister, Nikolai Mladenov, who was visiting troops at the base but was unharmed.

taliban leader key to end of war

The United States must negotiate a political settlement to the Afghanistan war directly with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar because any bid to split the insurgency through defections will fail, said the former Pakistani intelligence officer who trained the insurgent chief. Omar is open to such talks, said retired Brigadier Sultan Amir Tarar, a former operative of Pakistan's premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. "If a sincere message comes from the Americans, these people (the Taliban) are very big-hearted. They will listen. But if you try to divide the Taliban, you'll fail. Anyone who leaves Mullah Omar is no more Taliban. Such people are just trying to deceive," said Tarar in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers.

Bombs kill 2 NATO soldiers in Afghanistan; rocket strikes main allied base 01/25/10 [Last modified: Monday, January 25, 2010 11:17pm]

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