Obama consults on Afghanistan as casualties mount

As fighting intensifies in Afghanistan, US President Barack Obama is meeting members of Congress to help define future strategy in the conflict.

Insurgent violence has already reached its highest level since the Taliban was ousted from power in late 2001.

euronews channel-Two foreign troops were wounded today in a bomb blast against a coalition convoy in Wardak province, west of Kabul. And the British Defency Ministry announced that a soldier from the UK has
been killed on a foot patrol in southern Helmand province.

NATO forces said today that they had killed more than 100 fighters in a fierce battle in eastern Afghanistan at the weekend in which eight Americans died. It was the deadliest firefight for US troops in more than a year.

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Bodies of troops killed in Afghanistan arrive home

The bodies of six Italian soldiers killed in one of the deadliest suicide attacks targeting NATO troops in Afghanistan arrived in Italy Sunday in an emotional homecoming at Rome’s Ciampino airport.

Family of the dead, President Giorgio Napolitano and other political leaders were present as the C-130 military plane carrying the tricolour-draped coffins with their remains touched down at 0730 GMT.

The six coffins were blessed by a priest before a military ceremony that was also attended by Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa and the leaders of the upper and lower houses of parliament, Renato Schifani and Gianfranco Fini.

Earlier a special flight brought home four Italians who had been wounded in the attack that cost the lives of their comrades.

The four who are not critically wounded were taken by ambulance to a military hospital in Rome.

The Italian government declared days of national mourning for Sunday and Monday, when the six will be given a state funeral in the Italian capital’s Saint Paul Outside the Walls basilica around noon.

The six paratroopers will then be taken to their respective home towns where they will be buried.

On Saturday the six coffins draped in the Italian flag and topped with small cushions carrying the regimental purple berets of the fallen soldiers had been displayed at the main NATO base near Kabul airport where soldiers from 40 countries paid silent homage.

An Italian priest recited prayers after which the national anthem was sung.

Saverio Cucinotta, a spokesman for the contingent based in Kabul, said the six fallen soldiers had arrived in May.

In Thursday’s attack the suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into the paratroopers’ two-vehicle convoy in central Kabul not far from the US embassy on the busy airport road, killing and wounding the soldiers and 10 Afghan civilians.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said after the attack that Rome  now wants to trim its deployment in Afghanistan but only with agreement from NATO partners.

“We are keen to bring our boys home as soon as possible,” Berlusconi said.

Italy is the sixth biggest contributor to more than 100,000 NATO and US-led forces fighting in Afghanistan, deploying about 3,250 troops.

The bombing, claimed by the Taliban, was the third in Kabul in a month, in an apparent spike of attacks on international military installations and personnel in the capital.

Foreign military deaths in Afghanistan are at record levels — 357 this year according to icasualties.org — and the mounting number of body bags coming home has sent support for the war plummeting in Europe and the United States.

Emotional farewell for Italian troops slain in Afghanistan

The Italian military Saturday held an emotional religious ceremony in Kabul for six soldiers killed in one of the deadliest suicide attacks targeting NATO troops before flying their remains back to Rome.

Six coffins draped in the Italian tricolour and topped with small cushions carrying the regimental purple berets of the fallen soldiers were displayed at the main NATO base near Kabul airport where soldiers from 40 countries paid silent homage.

An Italian priest recited prayers after which the national anthem was sung. The coffins were then transported to a Transall carrier.

Many Italian soldiers were in tears.

“They arrived in May,” said Saverio Cucinotta, a spokesman for the contingent based in Kabul.

The soldiers’ funerals will be held on Monday in Italy, which has announced a day of national mourning.

A suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a two-vehicle convoy of Italian paratroopers in central Kabul not far from the US embassy on the busy airport road on Thursday, killing the soldiers and 10 Afghan civilians.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said after the attack that Rome  now wants to trim its deployment in Afghanistan but only with agreement from NATO partners.

“We are keen to bring our boys home as soon as possible,” Berlusconi said.

Italy is the sixth biggest contributor to more than 100,000 NATO and US-led forces fighting in Afghanistan, deploying about 3,250 troops.

The bombing, claimed by the Taliban, was the third in Kabul in a month, in an apparent spike of attacks on international military installations and personnel in the capital.

Foreign military deaths in Afghanistan are at record levels — 357 this year according to icasualties.org — and the mounting number body bags coming home has sent support for the war plummeting in Europe and the United States.

Dozens dead as NATO hits Afghan fuel trucks

Up to 90 people are feared dead and many others badly injured, after a NATO airstrike on two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

NATO forces confirmed they carried out the air strike, saying their targets were insurgents. But reports speak of a large number of civilian casualties. Villagers in northern Kunduz province were apparently trying to collect fuel when NATO blew up the tankers.

Civilian casualties during Western military operations in Afghanistan are hugely sensitive and a major source of tension with the government there.

NATO chief calls for closer Greek/Turkish ties

NATO chief, Denmark’s Anders Fogh Rasmussen, has held talks with Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

Rasmussen called on Greece to improve its relations with Turkey in order to smooth NATO missions in which both countries serve, particularly in Afghanistan.

Both men believe something must be done to tighten up NATO/EU missions on the ground.

“ We have not been able to conclude a security agreement between NATO and the EU. At the end of the day the lack of a security agreement might put our personnel on the ground at risk,” Rasmussen said.

The EU, along with Canada and New Zealand, contributes to a police force of 157 officers whose main role is training local Afghan security forces. The EU also provides billions of euros in aid for reconstruction.

From Greece Rasmussen travels to Turkey, which fought hard to keep him out of the NATO hot seat following the perceived Danish cartoon insult to Islam.