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Afghan mission 'tougher' than Iraq

February 09, 2009|Times Wire Services

MUNICH, GERMANY — Bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan will be much tougher than in Iraq, the newly appointed U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan said Sun- day.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Richard Holbrooke said he had never in his political career seen any situation as difficult as that of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"In my view, it's going to be much tougher than Iraq," said Holbrooke, who will travel to the region this week.

Holbrooke was in Munich as part of a high-level U.S. delegation that included Vice President Joe Biden to discuss conflicts such as Iraq, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

European allies have been wary of possible requests from the new U.S. administration for more troops to help reverse a growing insurgency in Afghanistan, at its worst levels since 2001 when a U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban.

At the Munich conference, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that in an effort to stabilize his country and halt the insurgency, his government would push for reconciliation with Taliban elements not linked to Al Qaeda.

"The forthcoming elections in Afghanistan . . . will be valuable opportunities to give a new impetus to the reconciliation agenda," Karzai said.

In Kabul, Afghanistan, two U.S. soldiers died when a roadside bomb they were trying to defuse exploded, a U.S. spokeswoman said. An Afghan interpreter and a policeman also died in the blast.

A group of American soldiers and Afghan officials had been traveling Sunday through the world's largest opium poppy producing region, the southern province of Helmand, when they discovered the roadside bomb, said Kamal Uddin, Helmand's deputy provincial police chief.

Helmand is a stronghold of Taliban militants; the U.S. is expected to send thousands of troops there this year.

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