Afghanistan ‘worse than ever’

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Security in Afghanistan has deteriorated to a seven-year low, Canada admitted yesterday, as President Hamid Karzai continued to vent frustration at the slow pace of progress and accidental civilian deaths caused by Western forces.

“Numbers of insurgent incidents and casualty rates among civilians and soldiers reached levels higher than in any year since the Taliban regime was overthrown in 2001,” concluded the assessment tabled by the government. “Security conditions in this quarter were worse than in the previous quarter, and worse than a year ago.”

International Trade Minister Stockwell Day, chairperson of the cabinet committee on Afghanistan, acknowledged, “there’s been a deterioration” but insisted – just as the government’s progress report stated – that Canada could still reach a series of benchmarks such as training enough Afghan army and police personnel before the Canadian Forces leave Kandahar in 2011.

Day predicted that the expected surge of U.S. troops and the onset of winter could quell the violence.

U.S. president-elect Barack Obama has pledged as many as 20,000 new troops for Afghanistan, many of which are expected to augment the 2,500 Canadians and 16,000 other NATO allies in the south, where the insurgency remains strongest.

Source: The Gazette (Montreal) 2008

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