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U.S. Offers $2B To Equip Afghan Army

The United States said Monday it was giving $2 billion worth of military weapons and vehicles to modernize Afghanistan's national army as the fledgling force contends with a resurgent Taliban resistance.

In a deadly reminder, militants ambushed and shot dead five Afghan laborers and wounded another Monday as they brought supplies to a U.S. military base in Kunar province, police said.

Abdul Jalal Jalal, the provincial police chief, suspected the laborers were targeted because they worked at the base.

A suicide attacker also hit a checkpoint in southern Kandahar city, killing himself and a policeman and injuring six others. The blast occurred at a checkpoint near the governor's guesthouse, said police commander Agha Lala.

The attacker walked up to the checkpoint before blowing himself up, said Lala. Among the injured were three policemen and three bystanders.

More than 10,000 Afghan and coalition troops have been deployed in the south to hunt them down in a massive military campaign billed as the largest since the Taliban regime were ousted in 2001.

At the ceremony in Kabul, Maj. Gen. Robert Durbin said the military donation was in addition to the more than $2 billion the United States has already committed for military equipment and facilities to Afghanistan.

"The equipment on display today represents an additional $2 billion that the U.S. alone will provide ... to continue with the equipping and building of the proper facilities and (to) continue to enhance the Afghan National Army to build toward the 70,000 force," he said.

Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said about 200 Humvees and 2,000 assault rifles — the first part of the donation — will be arriving by year's end. The $2 billion also covers the building of a national military command center.

A total of 2,500 Humvees and tens of thousands of M-16 assault rifles will be coming. About 20,000 sets of bulletproof helmet and flak jackets will also be given.

"Without the support of the international community, we cannot modernize the army," Wardak said. "NATO and the U.S. have promised to help us and we are very happy. Thanks to the United States for the rebuilding of the Afghan national army."

There are 38,000 men in Afghanistan's army, according to the Defense Ministry.

The U.S.-led coalition has been heavily involved in training the Afghans and the end result will be an army "that will be able to stand on its own two feet," Durbin said.

Afghan and coalition have been dealing with a surge in violence in recent weeks, particularly across southern Afghanistan, where the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, is preparing to take over security from the U.S.-led coalition.

Since May, more than 600 Afghans, mostly militants, have been reported killed in Afghanistan, according to an Associated Press tally based on coalition and Afghan figures.

In western Afghanistan, an explosion killed a teacher and wounded seven female students in an English class at Herat University Monday.

Police were investigating who planted the explosive in a trash can, said Nasar Ahmed Piakar, director of the criminal department of Herat police. He said he suspected people who "are against peace and stability. And they don't want education for women."

Taliban extremists oppose women receiving education and have bombed many schools and universities that they attend.

In a separate development, 30 Afghans were released Monday from detention at the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan, said Syed Sharif Yousafi, spokesman for the national reconciliation commission. The men had been held for a minimum of one year, he said.

"From the beginning, we tried to get all Afghans released from American jails," he said.

Most of them were from provinces in the southern and eastern parts of the country, including Kandahar, Uruzgan, Helmand, and Paktia provinces, he said.

Several hundred Afghans remain at the detention facility at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.

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