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US blocks $4 billion in Afghan aid as Petraeus takes over

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A US House of Representatives panel voted Wednesday to cut off almost four billion dollars (3.25 billion euros) in aid to Afghanistan, pending an investigation into corruption there. Meanwhile, US General David Petraeus is headed to the country to take command of the tattered military campaign there, after meeting on Thursday with allies at Nato headquarters in Brussels.

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US President Barack Obama chose Petraeus to replace disgraced General Stanley McChrystal, who was fired last week after a Rolling Stone profile revealed his contempt

June saw the highest death toll for foreign forces in the nine-year Afghan war:

  • 102 troops were killed;
  • That figure is three times the number of US and Nato soldiers lost in May;
  • General David Petraeus says that his forces are up against an “industrial-strength insurgency” and suggests fighting will intensify in coming months;
  • No statistics are available for Afghan casualties.

for civilian administration officials.

Petraeus's Brussels trip came the day after the US Senate unanimously voted him into the top military post, in the hope he can turn the war in Afghanistan around - as Washington has credited him with doing in Iraq. He is due to arrive in Kabul within days to take control of the 140,000 troops there.

"The Senate's quick action and General Petraeus's unrivaled experience will ensure we do not miss a beat in our stategy to break the Taliban's momentum and build Afghan capacity," Obama said after the general's confirmation.

But the House vote would indicate that Afghans are going to have to find new sources for funding that capacity. Wednesday's bipartisan move by the foreign aid appropriations subcommittee will block next year's entire Afghan aid budget.

The vote came about after the Washingon Post reported that top officials in President Hamid Karzai's government were blocking corruption probes and moving huge amounts of foreign aid out of the country. The subcommittee's chairwoman, New York Democrat Nita Lowey, said that, if true, the allegations were "outrageous".

"We have an obligation to every American to ensure their hard-earned tax dollars are not squandered through corruption and graft," she said.

The US has already spent 300 billion dollars (244 billion euros) on the nine-year war, which began in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

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