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Afghan Security Forces Gaining Capability, Spokesman Says

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 25, 2006 – While the enemy will continue to resist the will of the government and more violence is expected, the Afghan National Army and National Police are gaining capability by the day, a Combined Forces Command Afghanistan spokesman said today.

At a news conference in the Afghan capital of Kabul, Army Col. Thomas Collins said Afghan and coalition forces are working with the local government and international aid organizations. The combined forces "continue their efforts to enable the Afghan people with opportunities for a brighter future despite the enemy's futile attempts to stop the march of progress," he said.

A coalition soldier was killed yesterday when his patrol, responding to an attack on a village in Kunar province, received small arms fire from a group of extremists, Collins said.

A skirmish ensued between coalition forces and about 45 extremists yesterday when the enemy fighters, who had been massing in Paktika province, tried to flee from the soldiers. Coalition forces pursued them, and the extremists re-engaged with small arms and rocket-propelled-grenade fire. Seven extremists were killed, and one coalition soldier suffered minor wounds. "But the enemy's evil intentions for last night were disrupted," Collins said.

Afghan and coalition forces detained two men who were trying to emplace a roadside bomb yesterday near a bus station in Jalalabad, Collins said.

"Those responsible for these violent acts are conducting a simultaneous assault on Afghan security forces, the coalition, all symbols of governance and development, and the Afghan people," the colonel told reporters. "In fact, the majority of victims of these attacks are innocent Afghan bystanders."

Progress continues unrelentingly despite the enemy's efforts to thwart progress in Afghanistan, Collins said.

"Although the enemy's aim is to disrupt progress and good governance, they are not succeeding," he said. "Every day, more and more police officers are trained, and the Afghanistan National Army continues to grow. Every day, the coalition and international community builds new roads, schools and infrastructure for the Afghan people.

"Our message is progress," he continued. "The only message the terrorists and extremists can use is violence. The extremists look to harm those people who have committed themselves to providing relief and aid to the people of Afghanistan."

Thirty aid workers, most of them Afghans, have been murdered in violent attacks this year, Collins said. The latest incident occurred July 23, when a pharmacist and his driver were attacked and murdered as they returned from a medical supply mission in a poor region in western Ghor province, the colonel told reporters.

But in the face of the violence, the Afghan government, the international community, the coalition and NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan won't be deterred, Collins said.

"In fact, these acts only re-affirm our commitment to the Afghan people," he said. "Just this week, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced it is contributing $20 million, and Japan provided $3 million in food aid to the World Food Program to assist the Afghan people in drought-affected areas throughout the country. These contributions will provide food and nourishment to tens of thousands of Afghans."

In other news from Afghanistan, an Afghan girl was killed today in Kabul when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives. Three other Afghan civilians were wounded in the attack.

"This is truly a despicable act. A family has been ruined, and the dreams of an innocent little girl are lost forever," Collins said.

Elsewhere, a coalition soldier was killed yesterday while conducting combat operations against enemy extremists in Kunar province. The soldier was a member of a coalition patrol responding to an attack by insurgents near Dag Village. The unit attacked the extremists with small arms, mortar and joint fires from coalition aircraft.

Enemy extremist activity has been significantly disrupted in Kunar province as a result of Operation Mountain Lion, which began in April in the Pech, Korangal and Chawkay valleys, military officials said. Enemy fighters have been pushed out of their safe havens as the Afghan National Army established a permanent presence in the Korangal Valley, providing the Afghan people with greater security, officials said.

(Combined Forces Command Afghanistan news releases were used in this report.)

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