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    Friday, 20 July 2018

    Suspected Nato air strike kills 14 civilians in Afghanistan

    Four­teen civilians were killed in an explosion in northern Afghanistan although it isn’t immediately clear whether the deaths were caused by a ground assault or an air strike.
    Nematullah Temory, the provincial governor’s spokesman, said the explosion occurred on Thursday in the Charhar Dara district of Kunduz and women and children were among the dead.
    The Taliban in a statement to news outlets said 27 people were killed in the area on Thursday and spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid blamed the dead on US air strikes.
    The US did carry out air strikes in the area “in support of Afghan-led ground operations,” according to Nato spokesman Lt. Colonel Martin O’Donnell.
    “On-the-ground assessment of those strikes reveals no indications they caused civilian casualties,” he said in an e-mail.
    No big shifts expected from US assessment of Afghan war
    The United States is unlikely to make any big shift in military strategy as a result of an ongoing assessment of the war effort in Afghanistan, the top US general overseeing forces in the region said on Thursday.
    It was reported on July 10 that the United States was preparing to undertake a strategy review, a year after President Donald Trump begrudgingly agreed to extend America’s involvement in the conflict.
    US Army General Joseph Votel portrayed it more as a regular assessment than a wholesale review and suggested that he expected it would confirm progress, however uneven, in the nearly 17-year-old war.
    “I don’t envision something ... that would likely lead to a major change in the overall strategy, which I believe is showing progress,” Votel told a news briefing.
    Officials said Trump has shown signs of frustration over the lack of progress since he unveiled a strategy last August that committed to an open-ended deployment of US military advisers, trainers and special forces and increased air support for Afghan security forces. The stated US goal is to push the Taliban militants to work toward a peace agreement with the Kabul government.
    Trump was opposed to remaining in America’s longest war, but was convinced by his advisers to press ahead. He authorised last year the deployment of an additional 3,000 US troops, bringing the total to around 15,000.
    Trump has also piled pressure on neighbouring Pakistan to crack down on militant safe havens on its side of the Afghan-Pakistan border.
    Votel said he had seen positive signs from Islamabad but stressed that he wanted to see Pakistan put more pressure on Pakistan-based militants fighting in Afghanistan, including by arresting, expelling or targeting them.
    He also noted the key role Washington wants Islamabad to play in promoting dialogue in Afghanistan.
    “We also need to see them continue to make efforts to compel the Taliban to come to the table and take advantage of these opportunities,” Votel said.

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