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News Wrap: U.S. Troops Ready to Take Kandahar From Taliban

March 8, 2010 at 12:00 AM EST
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In other news Monday, U.S. troops are preparing to wrest control of Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city, from Taliban control with a gradual buildup. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in an unannounced visit to the country.

TRANSCRIPT

HARI SREENIVASAN: The NATO commander in Afghanistan promised today to retake the Taliban’s symbolic home in Kandahar. U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal said the coming campaign will be different from last month’s assault on the smaller city of Marjah. Instead, he said the Kandahar operation will build gradually over several months.

GENERAL STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, U.S. commander in Afghanistan: We have already put additional forces in the districts around Kandahar, but we will be able to reinforce that significantly over time. So, there won’t be a D-Day that — that is climactic. It will be a rising tide of security as it comes.

HARI SREENIVASAN: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Kabul today to review plans for the Kandahar operation. He also met with President Hamid Karzai, who announced a three-day peace conference in late April.

At least 13 people have died in a suicide car bombing in Eastern Pakistan. The attack came in Lahore. It targeted a building where police interrogate high-value terror suspects. The offices were shattered, and more than 60 people were wounded. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

Meanwhile, in Northwest Pakistan, intelligence officials said a suspected U.S. missile strike killed three people near the Afghan border.

Northrop Grumman announced today it’s quitting the competition to build a new tanker plane for the U.S. Air Force. The contract would be worth $35 billion, but Northrop said the Pentagon’s new set of guidelines — quote — “clearly favors Boeing.” The long-running fight over the tanker project will now effectively become a no-bid contract. It’s expected to be awarded in September.

Security was tight across central Nigeria today, after a new wave of Muslim-Christian violence. As many as 500 people were killed near the city of Jos.

We have a report narrated by Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.

A warning: Some of the images may be disturbing.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Grief and fear after attacks which left several hundred dead. Eyewitnesses say the victims are mainly Christians attacked by Muslim men. They allegedly shot in the air to frighten people out of their homes, and then killed them with machetes.

The massacre was allegedly in retaliation for the killings of Muslims in January, but the violence is also a conflict between indigenes, those who have always lived in Jos, and settlers whose ancestors came from elsewhere in Nigeria. The acting president has sent in more troops, but Africa’s biggest country is lurching into crisis, with no strong central government to take control.

Last month, President Yar’Adua’s plane touched down in the Nigerian capital without warning at the dead of night, after a three-month stay in hospital in Saudi Arabia. He was whisked away by ambulance, and that was the last Nigerians saw of him. The acting president, Goodluck Jonathan, has been obstructed by Yar’Adua’s allies. He doesn’t have the authority to act decisively in Jos or anywhere else. There’s a power vacuum.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In Turkey, a predawn earthquake killed at least 51 people and left dozens more injured. The epicenter was in a remote area 340 miles east of the capital city, Ankara. The magnitude-6 tremor reduced mudbrick buildings to dust, crushing people and livestock. Rescuers used shovels and bare hands to dig out their buried neighbors. More than 100 aftershocks continued through the day, measuring up to 5.5.

Three thousand more U.S. troops will be leaving Haiti in the next few days, after aiding the recovery from a devastating earthquake in January. On Sunday, more than 700 soldiers loaded up and prepared for flights back home. Their mission had been to help provide emergency water and rations and prevent violence among survivors. Some 8,000 U.S. troops remain in Haiti, down from a peak of 20,000. The task of security is now largely in the hands of U.N. peacekeepers.

Meanwhile, in Chile, 80 percent of the nation’s schoolchildren returned to their classrooms today, nine days after the massive quake there.

On Wall Street, the stock market was mostly flat. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 13 points to close at 10552. The Nasdaq rose more than five points to close at 2332.

Those are some of the day’s main stories. I will be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you will find tonight on the “NewsHour”‘s Web site — but, for now, back to Judy

.