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Daily Archives: 06/21/2010

NATO says 4 troops die in Afghan helicopter crash

Six NATO soldiers killed in Afghanistan

US soldiers wait to board helicopters in Kandahar, Afghanistan.



KABUL, Afghanistan – A military helicopter crashed during an early morning operation in southern Afghanistan on Monday, killing three Australian commandoes and an American service member, officials said.

Two other international service members were killed Sunday in separate bombings in the south, NATO announced without specifying nationalities. One of them was an American, according to a U.S. spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks.

The crash was being investigated but there were no indications of enemy involvement, NATO said in a statement.

The Australian government said three of the dead were Australians, and U.S. Lt. Col. Joseph T. Breasseale said the fourth service member killed was American.

Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said seven other Australian soldiers were wounded, two of them badly.

“This is a tragic day for Australia, and for the Australian defense force,” Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in a statement to Parliament. “We know our mission in Afghanistan is hard, but this mission is critical for our common security.”

There were 15 people aboard the helicopter, 10 of them Australians, according to Australian Defense Minister John Faulkner.

The crash comes in a particularly deadly month for NATO forces. With the most recent deaths, at least 59 international troops, including 36 Americans, have died so far in June. That puts June among the deadliest months for international forces in the nearly nine-year war. The deadliest month so far for the military alliance was July 2009 when 75 troops, including 44 Americans, were killed.

The rising death toll underscores the precarious situation for Afghanistan’s international allies as violence has ramped up this summer.

The United Nations plans to pull some of its approximately 1,000 foreign staffers from the country in the next three months, according to a U.N. report issued last week. The world body has been facing recruitment and housing problems since it tightened security for staffers in the wake of an attack on a residential hotel in Kabul in October where U.N. election staffers were staying. Five U.N. employees died in the attack.

The goal, according to the report, is to reduce the number of U.N. staff in Afghanistan as much as possible without compromising the effectiveness of the mission.

Dan McNorton, a U.N. spokesman in Afghanistan, said that only support staff would be relocated. He would not give a figure on how many people will be moved, saying only that it was “a few” or “a small number.”

The helicopter crashed before dawn in southern Kandahar province, and the operation it had been part of was still ongoing, Houston said.

Other coalition helicopters that were part of the same push landed near the downed aircraft and airlifted out the wounded, he said. More details on the operation were not given.

NATO has launched a major operation to secure the biggest southern city, Kandahar, capital of the province where the Taliban were first organized in the 1990s.

Australia has some 1,500 troops in Afghanistan alongside NATO forces. Monday’s deaths take Australia’s military death toll in Afghanistan to 16.

Australia’s 1,550 troops in Afghanistan are based mainly in Uruzgan province, and are mostly involved in training Afghan security forces.

Report: Rahm Emanuel to Quit


June 20, 2010

(THEDAILYBEAST.COM)  Thought it must be taken with a grain of salt, Washington insiders have reportedly told the Daily Telegraph that President Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will very likely quit, and soon.

An anonymous leading Democratic consultant bets Rahm will leave “after the midterms” telling the British paper, “Nobody thinks it’s working but they can’t get rid of him—that would look awful.

He needs the right sort of job to go to but the consensus is he’ll go.” Reasons for Rahm’s departure include his often discordant relationship with Obama and his concern over burning out and missing out on time with his family because of the job’s demands. “Democrats have not stood behind the president in the way Republicans did for George W. Bush,” said the source, “and that was meant to be Rahm’s job.”

David Cameron's tribute to British soldiers in Afghanistan

David Cameron's tribute to British soldiers in Afghanistan

David Cameron recently returned from his first visit as Prime Minister to British troops in Afghanistan
June 21, 2010


(TELEGRAPH.CO.UK)  In a statement, the Prime Minister paid tribute to those who had died but reaffirmed Britain’s commitment to succeed in Afghanistan.

He said: “It is desperately sad news. Another family with such grief and pain and loss.

“Of course the 300th death is no more or less tragic than the 299 that came before.

“But it is a moment, I think, for the whole country to reflect on the incredible service and sacrifice and dedication that our armed services give on our behalf.

“We are paying a high price for keeping our country safe, for making our world a safer place, and we should keep asking why we are there and how long we must be there.

“The truth is that we are there because the Afghans are not yet ready to keep their own country safe and to keep terrorists and terrorist training camps out of their country. That’s why we have to be there.

“But as soon as they are able to take care and take security for their own country, that is when we can leave.”

Komorowski leading Kaczynski in Polish election


Poland’s acting President, speaker of the parliament and presidential candidate from Civic Platform Party (PO), Bronislaw Komorowski (R) and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, presidential candidate of Poland’s Law and Justice Party (PiS), are both seen holding their ballots at polling stations in Warsaw during presidential elections, in this combination of two images taken June 20, 2010.


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WARSAW, Poland – Exit polls in Poland’s presidential election Sunday show that the interim president and parliament speaker Bronislaw Komorowski is leading Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the brother of the president killed in a plane crash in April, but without the 50 percent needed for outright victory.

If the exit polls are confirmed by official results, a runoff vote will have to be held between Komorowski and Kaczynski on July 4.

An exit poll by Millward Brown SMG/KRC showed Komorowski with 45.7 percent of the vote and Kaczynski with 33.2 percent.

A second poll, by OBOP, showed 40.7 percent for Komorowski and 35.8 percent for Kaczynski.

Official results are expected Monday.

Komorowski told his supporters at a campaign night party in Warsaw that he felt “happy and fulfilled” knowing he has the “support and the trust of millions of voters in Poland.”

“In life as in football, overtime is the most difficult. Let’s not forget that and let’s mobilize all our forces for the grand finale on July 4,” he said.

Both exit polls gave third place to the center-left candidate, Grzegorz Napieralski, with either 13.4 or 14 percent of the vote. Seven other candidates were in the running but got only around 2 percent or less of the votes.

The president is elected for a five-year term separately from the prime minister and his government. Although many of the duties are symbolic, the president can veto laws and, as commander in chief, has influence over foreign military missions.

President Lech Kaczynski and his wife were among 96 people killed when their plane crashed while trying to land in heavy fog in Smolensk, Russia, on April 10. The delegation included many high-ranking civilian and military leaders, and their loss provoked deep grief across the nation. Many called it the worst tragedy to strike Poland since World War II.

Komorowski is a pro-European Union, moderate member of the governing Civic Platform party. He has pledged to work closely with the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk to adopt the euro in about five years, end the unpopular military mission in Afghanistan and promote pro-market reforms.

Kaczynski is a social conservative, whose main goals are to fight crime and corruption, scale back market reforms to preserve a strong welfare state and promote Roman Catholic values. He is more skeptical about the European Union and adoption of the euro, saying it’s too early to set a timetable for giving up the Polish currency, the zloty.

Kaczynski is known for his nationalism and his combative tone, but he has struck a more moderate tone since his brother’s death. Many Poles are unsure of whether the change is permanent or a campaign strategy to win over middle-of-the-road voters.