Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Brother Abroad

As I previously posted two weeks ago, local Taliban commanders threatened Thursday to kill a captured American soldier unless the U.S. military stops operations in two districts of southeastern Afghanistan.

The Taliban claimed last week to be holding the American soldier, whom the U.S. military earlier described as possibly being in enemy hands.

Abdullah Jalali, a spokesman for Taliban commander Mawlavi Sangin, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday that the soldier was healthy.

He said the soldier would be killed unless the U.S. stops airstrikes in Ghazni province's Giro district and Paktika province's Khoshamand district. Jalali did not explain why the Taliban chose those areas, noting only that Giro has been heavily bombed.

Spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias declined to comment on the demands but did say recent operations in Giro district this month did not involve bombings.

Neither district is in Helmand province, where Marines are conducting the largest U.S. military operation in Afghanistan since the Taliban were toppled from power in 2001.

Jalali said the final decision about the soldier's fate will be made by Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
The U.S. military has said the soldier was noticed missing during a routine check of the unit on June 30 and was "believed captured."

The soldier's body armor and weapon were found on the base, and U.S. defense sources say he "just walked off" post with three Afghans after work. They say they have no explanation for why he left the base.

The military has not identified the soldier but say his family has been notified that he is missing. He is serving in an Army infantry unit assigned to a combat outpost, one of a number of smaller bases set up by foreign forces in Afghanistan.

U.S. commanders had been expecting higher casualties since President Barack Obama ordered 21,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan this year to curb a resurgent Taliban that threatens not only the U.S.-backed Kabul government but also Afghanistan's nuclear-armed neighbor, Pakistan.

About 57,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, and the number is expected to rise to at least 68,000 by the end of 2009.

This is Day 168.

No comments: