Afghan War Enters Year 10 as Air Strike Kills 8

In this Nov. 2, 2001 file picture, Taliban fighters, one carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, foreground, and one carrying a heavy machine gun, walk through the ruins of a mud house near Kandahar, Afghanistan. AP Photo

An air strike and a raid by ground troops killed eight insurgents, including a senior Taliban leader who spearheaded attacks against Afghan security forces, NATO said Thursday as the war in Afghanistan entered its 10th year.

Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai was hosting the inaugural session of a new Afghan peace council set up to guide efforts to reconcile with the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

Speaking Thursday, Karzai said the Afghan people have high hopes that the council will find a path toward peace and stability.

Contacts between the Afghan government and insurgents are increasing, but no formal negotiations are under way.

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The Taliban have repeatedly denied any such contacts, saying they will not talk peace so long as U.S. and NATO troops remain in the country.

Karzai called on insurgents to view the formation of the 70-member council as an opportunity to lay down their arms and join the government.

Maulawi Jawadullah - accused of organizing deadly ambushes, roadside bomb attacks, and abductions of Afghan police and soldiers in northern Afghanistan - was killed in the air strike Wednesday in Takhar province, an alliance statement said.

Jawadullah was linked to the recent deaths of 10 Afghan National Police officers during an attack on a police station in neighboring Kunduz province, the statement said.

Seven other Taliban also died in the assault, including three who opened fire from a forest when coalition forces moved in following the air strike, NATO said.

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Thursday was the nine-year anniversary of the American invasion of Afghanistan, a frustrating benchmark for those who expected a quick exit after small targeted forces toppled the Taliban from power in 2001.

"NATO is here and they say they are fighting terrorism, and this is the 10th year and there is no result yet," Karzai said in an emotional speech last week. "Our sons cannot go to school because of bombs and suicide attacks."

Even as NATO touts success at routing the insurgency, there are signs that it is losing the trust of the Afghan people.

In a report released Thursday, the Open Society Foundations - a think tank backed by liberal billionaire George Soros - said that Afghans are increasingly angry and resentful about the international presence in Afghanistan and do not believe figures showing that insurgents are to blame for most attacks and civilian deaths.

"While statistics show that insurgents are responsible for most civilian casualties, many we interviewed accused international forces of directly stoking the conflict and causing as many, if not more, civilian casualties than the insurgents," the researchers say in the report.

The report was based on interviews in late 2009 and 2010 of more than 250 Afghans in seven provinces, along with discussions with community leaders in other parts of the country.

It suggests that NATO's message either is not getting out or is disregarded by Afghans, despite stepped-up press releases about their successes in protecting civilians and development projects over the past year.

The report argues that NATO has failed to fight back against the disinformation because the military coalition dismisses the percents as based on rumors, conspiracy theories, propaganda, or bad analysis.

"However, many of these perceptions seemed based as much on actual policies, albeit often due to indirect effects, as on propaganda or lack of information," the report says. "Many Afghan communities drew these conclusions only after they suffered from civilian casualties, night raids, detention operations, and saw few signs of progress in their country."

Meanwhile, NATO reported the death of a service member in a roadside bombing in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, without providing the nationality or specifying the location of the attack. The death was at least the 14th sustained by the NATO force so far in October, according to a count by The Associated Press.

In other violence, assailants threw a hand grenade at a wedding party, wounding four people in eastern Wardak province, Afghan's Interior Ministry said Thursday. A ministry statement did not specify when the attack occurred.

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